The latest story to do the rounds, if you haven’t already heard, is that of the tweeting chef. Alexis Gauthier, late of the acclaimed Roussillon in London, recently opened his second Soho restaurant, Ducksoup. In a truly weird coincidence, it being a brand new restaurant in the heart of London, two national food critics both booked to have lunch there. On the same day. (What were they thinking?) One was reviewing, one merely having a civilian lunch. Gauthier happened to be in the restaurant too (we sense it’s getting rather crowded), got rather giddy and made the awe-inspiring decision to tweet his opinions on the critics’ behaviour and conversation, ignorant of their individual purposes there. (Equally strangely, neither critic seemed aware of Gauthier’s presence at any point and acknowledged him.)
Well, to put it nicely, it was a crazy thing to do. Not only was he somewhat personal in his comments, he also made the wrong assumption about who was the reviewer (the one who gave his last restaurant a rather lukewarm welcome). He allegedly misinterpreted or misheard conversations and discussions about ingredients and accused one of using her visible newspaper to ‘get noticed’. The critics responded, unusually some might think, with grace and dignity. Gauthier defended himself by saying he ‘couldn’t believe what he was seeing’ and that he was acting as a ‘witness.’ To what we have yet to discover (one wonders what he might have tweeted faced with some Middle-Eastern atrocity), but thank God he did, because we all need a good laugh from time to time.
One of the most incredible things about being a chef is the amount of ego it takes to get there – and that’s not a bad thing. To be the best, or even a reasonably good chef, you need to have pound upon pound of self-belief. That’s why there are always so many contestants on Masterchef: The Professionals. It doesn’t mean they’re any good; it just means they all genuinely believe they’re the best at what they do. And, to be fair, some of them can de-bone a fish. But that amount of ego can also lead you, unwillingly, like a lamb to your own slaughter. Gauthier’s curiously outraged and paranoid act only heightens the ongoing war between chef and critic, be they amateur or professional. You only have to think back to Marcus Wareing’s outburst at the paying couple who reviewed his restaurant last year.
We’ve said this before – and we might as well throw it back out there again. Are chefs getting too big for their aprons? Do they really think they’re the stars, or might it be the economy-hit public who keep on spending in their restaurants? Obviously there are all kinds of internal personal battles between individuals on both sides, but in the end, who loses? The critic who simply informs everyone of his/her experience or the chef, whose tantrums lose them valuable respect and business?