The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2011

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FROM THE EDITOR Restaurant Ruffians Bullying has become a hot topic in the media lately. It usually involves kids .pdf 3/22/11 11:07:37 AM in school, but sometimes alleged adults indulge in the practice. A recent incident in Los Angeles is a case in point. The esteemed restaurant critic of the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbilia, arrived at a new restaurant in Beverly Hills and was recognized by the owners. Instead of welcoming her like any other guest, as they should have, they saw fit to keep her waiting for 40 minutes before informing her that they would not serve her and her party. Then, in a crass display of sophomoric arrogance, they took her picture and posted it on the internet. Ms. Virbilia prefers to be anonymous when she visits restaurants, and these Neanderthal restaurateurs chose to “unmask” her and humiliate her. They chose to bully her. What did they expect to achieve? Notoriety? Revenge? Publicity? Yes, they got publicity, but probably not the kind they wanted. Most news media have condemned their behavior as cruel, crude and completely uncalled for. In all forms of human activity there are certain unspoken rules of civility and decorum. There is no excuse for rude and thuggish behavior in any field. Instead of embarrassing the critic, these people managed to embarrass themselves. Bullying makes the bully look bad. In the past, the power of restaurant criticism used to rest in very few hands. Newspaper and magazine critics brandished the ability to boost or cripple a restaurant. But times have changed, and every diner with a few minutes and a computer can add his/her two cents through sites such as Yelp!, Eater, Urbanspoon and Zagat. Thus, such a hostile act is useless and only helps to perpetuate the idea that the restaurant owners have something to hide. Maybe the boneheads at this restaurant should kick out anyone who dares to pull out an iPhone and snap a picture of the food. Sure, a restaurateur is well within his or her rights to eject someone who is drunk or disorderly. Otherwise, it is important to remember the mean- ing of the name that describes the industry we work in: hospitality. / the tasting panel / april 201 1 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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