Thursday, September 9, 2010

S’poreans outraged over ‘free meal’ blogger

By yahoosingapore – August 23rd, 2010 Email Facebook Twitter Print

What started out as a mini-maelstrom online has developed into a major talking point for the general Singaporean public.

The issue: Should a food blogger be entitled to free meals?

Over 350 Yahoo! users have commented on the controversy, which began when a young food blogger demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant in the Joo Chiat area on Sunday.

Most criticised the blogger in question, Brad Lau, for being a “freeloader” and for bringing down the name of the local blogging community.

Since this blog post was first published on Monday afternoon, it has been retweeted over 400 times on popular micro-blogging platform, Twitter.

The controversy began when Lau, who owns food blog ladyironchef, and three friends walked into Private Affairs, a small but exclusive eatery in Joo Chiat, for its Sunday champagne brunch promotion that costs S$68++ per person.

The blogger had informed the management on Friday that he would be coming down to review the Sunday Brunch promotion.

On the day itself, Lau and his partner came down at about 130pm, followed by his two other companions, each of whom came down half an hour apart.

According to Private Affairs’ operations director Ross Valentine, the four of them had brunch until 430pm, even when the restaurant’s official brunch hours was from 1130 am to 330pm. Brad and his partner also enjoyed two glasses of champagne each.

When presented with the final bill of $435, Lau initially refused to pay and repeatedly told the restaurant’s chef, “I never pay for food in any restaurant.”

The restaurant eventually offered to waive off the cost of the meal for him and his partner as well as the cost of the champagne out of goodwill, thus lowering the bill to $159.

Still upset but finally relenting to pay, the blogger then threw his credit card onto the bar counter in front of the cashier before storming out.

The main entrance and cashier area of upscale eatery Private Affairs.
Valentine told Yahoo! Singapore, ”This blogger looked very aggressive and was quite arrogant. The fact that he also walked in with his friends at staggered timings created quite a bit of problems for my chef de cuisine, who has to prepare and present his food at just the right times.”

“We decided to waive off the meal and champagne cost for him and his partner out of goodwill. But when we asked him when the review of the meal would be coming out, he said he was not obliged to write anything if the food wasn’t good enough,” he added.

Yahoo! Singapore emailed Brad Lau for his reaction but has yet to receive a reply.

The incident, however, enraged the local food blogging community.

Glenn Lee, who runs popular food blog since late last year, posted an open letter criticising the blogger’s behaviour for “tarnishing the good name of the community.”

Lee, 22, told Yahoo! Singapore, “We are food bloggers and I’m pretty sure the intentions of all of us in the community is to share the love that we have for food and writing.”

“But what this certain blogger has done is highly detrimental to the integrity of the community as a whole and I felt the need to stand up for what I strongly believe in,” he said.

Kaelyn Ong, 22, who posted an entry entitled ”STOP asking for free food” on her food blog, My Food Sirens II, also expressed her disgust.

“I’m surprised. It’s beyond my understanding how someone can actually request for a free meal on the house just because he’s a food blogger,” she told Yahoo! Singapore.

“Anyone can be a food blogger these days, all it takes is a camera and a blog… does that mean restaurants have to sponsor everyone for their meals?” she added.

She also apologised to restaurants on behalf of the food blogging community and said ”not all of us are such bad eggs”.

Cheryl Chia, who owns a food and baking blog, cocoabutterscotch, was also appalled.

“I find it shameful. Demanding for free food on account of your supposed “status” as a person who blogs about food is not acceptable,” the 26-year-old said.

Renowned food expert KF Seetoh, who runs the popular, said the blogger in question lost his integrity by refusing to pay.

“The best position is to be invisible, pay for your own food. When you pay for your own food, you don’t take any prisoners when you write,” he said.

But what if the restaurant offers to give bloggers a free meal?

“Then I won’t write about your restaurant. Even if they offer me 50% off the total bill, and if I write about it, they will take my review with a 50% pinch of salt. Some of them, after eating, they call the chef out and ask him to change this and that on the menu. Some would then say, let me do a consultancy role for you. You do what I say and I write nice things.

“My stand is, be neutral. I pay, I say and then I rate,” he concluded.

Under-fire food blogger: It’s a case of miscommunication

By yahoosingapore – August 24th, 2010 Email Facebook Twitter Print

The local food blogger under fire for demanding a free meal at an upscale restaurant in Joo Chiat says the entire saga has been a “case of miscommunication”.

On Monday, Yahoo! Singapore reported that the local food blogging community was upset that Brad Lau, who owns food blog ladyironchef, initially refused to pay the full cost of his meal and that of his three friends after a visit to Private Affairs for their Sunday Brunch promotion.

But in a post entitled, “The Truth“, written on Tuesday, Lau said, “An eye for an eye makes the world go blind. I would like to not point fingers at anyone – it was simply a case of miscommunication. When I dine out, I pay for my food like any regular consumer.”

Lau said the miscommunication could have resulted from the fact that he was simply following up on a food tasting invitation by the restaurant back in early June.

But because he had a busy schedule, he could only confirm last Friday on 20th August that he would attending their Sunday Brunch promotion, along with his partner and two other friends.

He wrote, “I was invited to a food tasting session by Melanie, PR manager for the restaurant. The first invite came June 2nd. I was unable to make it then and it was not until Friday, August 20th that I scheduled the Sunday brunch. In the invite, I was told to bring a guest.”

Although he did not clarify at the time if he and his partner would be expected to pay, he wrote, ”This was an invitation to a food-tasting session. There is no hard and fast rule stating a plus one for a food tasting. However, having attended previous food tastings before, I assumed that the meal would be, at the very least, on the house for myself and one dining partner.”

In his post that included several screencaps of mobile and email messages, he also went to write ”it was an oversight to assume that no acknowledgement from Melanie about my 3 accompanying guests would mean that their meals would be on the house too.”

While Lau denied saying, “I always get free food wherever I go”, he admitted he was hostile towards the cashier when he was settling the final bill of $160 for his group of four.

“I must admit the hostility while paying (I had tossed my credit card on the table) was uncalled for and I sincerely apologise,” he wrote.

Addressing the issue of his integrity as a food blogger, he clarified that when he “dine(s) out, I pay for my food like any regular consumer. When I am invited for food tasting sessions, it is a mutual understanding between the inviter and myself, that I would be attending as the identity of media for a possible food review.”

Lau concluded by asking all parties to “view this situation objectively. I hope this post clarifies any misunderstanding that this might have caused.”

The restaurant in question, Private Affairs, has also responded to the controversy by issuing a 10-paragraph press statement in which it clarified it had “no intentions to exploit this incident for the fame of any individual/s or property involved as suggested in some comments.”

It also said, “The candid remarks and unacceptable responses from the said blogger were certainly uncalled for. We were not impressed by his behaviour, action and mannerism”.

On the issue surrounding the grey area between food tasting sessions and blogger’s reviews, the statement said, “We have always extended media tasting invitation to avid food bloggers based on recommendations of reliable sources. We embrace food blogging and believe there is a certain extent of social integrity, moral and professionalism inculcated in every blogger.”

“However, we also want to highlight the food blogs about Private Affairs are based on individual blogger’s real experience and is not in any way altered or influenced by Private Affairs. The food bloggers were clear and transparent in stating that their gastronomy adventures were invited sessions.”

The statement goes on to say that the 40-seater restaurant continues to encourage and support the local food blogging community.

“We hope this incident does not discourage the food blogger community to pursue their passion in food blogging. We feel that there is a lot of integrity and clout in this community and… we will continue to support and promote the spirit behind the passion of food writing and sharing with food lovers.”

The statement ended by calling for a ”possible formation of a governing body or an association/society, which cultivates and promotes the appropriate manner of blogging and blogger’s etiquette. There should be some guidelines and policies implemented to avoid any similar incidents from occurring again”.

Thank you for the incredible, amazing response to Yahoo!’s Fit-To-Post blog so far. We continue to welcome your views and comments but please don’t abuse this opportunity. Be nice. Be courteous. Be sensible. Respect the feelings of others and refrain from using any kind of offensive language.