Food Blogger Jailed For Saying Food Was Too Salty

Written by Scott Joseph on .

I’m doomed.

Or at least I would be if I lived in Taiwan, probably for a variety of reasons, but most recently because I’m a restaurant critic who will give a negative review to a restaurant that I feel deserves it.

As reported in the Huffington Post and in an article at CNET as well as the straightforward report from Taipei Times, a food blogger was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years probation for a review that called a restaurant’s food too salty. The blogger, whose name is Liu, was also ordered to pay the equivalent of $6928 US to the owner of the restaurant in Taichung.

The July 2008 review also noted that there were cockroaches visible in the kitchen, a statement that was part of the owner’s complaint. However, inspectors subsequently verified that there were indeed cockroaches in the kitchen, so that part of the complaint was dismissed.

Looking more closely at the case, one sees that the restaurant owner felt wronged because Liu’s review was based on too small a sampling of food. To say that all the food is too salty after tasting one entree is not a responsible conclusion. The best one can say if the beef noodle dish one tastes is too salty is “the beef noodle dish I tasted was too salty.” So while the penalty seems extreme, the charges do not appear to have been unfounded.

Restaurant critics in the U.S. have always had tremendous leeway in their reviews. Restaurants have sued reviewers but the restaurant owner rarely wins. But now, with food blogging on the rise, and many of the reviewers without the legal backing of a major media conglomerate, I would expect to see more legal challenges to online reviews.

Orlando has a number of trusted food bloggers, so let me offer some tips for reviewing. First, always be fair. Give an accurate accounting of your experience, but unless you make multiple trips, don’t draw a blanket conclusion about food, service or sanitation. Be clear that what you are writing is your opinion based on your experience.

These are rules -- among many others -- that I always try to follow. But I think even I would feel a little sheepish these days about writing a negative review if I lived in Taiwan.

I sure as hell wouldn’t call my website a flog.


Study: To Eat Less When Dining Out, Use a Larger Fork; Someone Get a Shovel

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Here's one of those studies that make you go "huh?"

As detailed in this article from the Standard-Examiner in Salt Lake City, a University of Utah study suggests that people who use a larger fork when dining out actually ens up eating less. Why, you ask? Because, asserts the study, conducted by a husband and wife researching team, as you make progress through the food on your plate, your brain tells that you must no longer be hungry when it sees that there is less food on the plate. (I know, a brain can't really see anything, but I'm paraphrasing here.) But if there's less food on the plate, doesn't that mean that more food has been consumed?

I think this one needs more studying. Let's try it in a Chinese restaurant with really large chopsticks.

Your thoughts?


Zach Bell Leaves Cafe Boulud for Country club Gig

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Zach Bell - Photo: PRWeb
If Florida has a list of rising-star chefs, Zach Bell undoubtedly is near the top. As executive chef at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach, Bell earned kudos from Wine Spectator and numerous other publications, and the restaurant garnered four stars from Mobile Travel Guide. And he has been a finalist for best chef in the region by the James Beard Foundation Awards four times. Oh, and looky here: he was recently named Rising Star Chef of the Year for the South by Star Chefs.


So why did he leave Daniel Boulud’s high profile restaurant, and why has he accepted the position of executive chef at a private country club?

I haven’t been able to get any good answers, though there’s plenty of conjecture. Some wonder if Bell and his wife, Jennifer, might be wanting to start a family. The demands of a chef at a conventional restaurant -- especially one located in a hotel, as Cafe Boulud is -- are great. Late nights, weekends and holidays are part of the deal. Taking the job at Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach will undoubtedly give him better home hours.

And, some say, he was finally frustrated with the four tries at the Beard Award without taking home the medallion.

A more likely reason? Word is that Bell stands to make somewhere around $300,000/year cooking at Addison.

(I wonder how many readers I just lost because they left to Google “cooking schools”?)

Cafe Boulud’s new chef, as reported by my friend and fellow flogger Jan Norris, is James Leiken, who was previously at Boulud’s DBGB in New York. He starts his duties July 4.


Dubsdread Comes to Rescue of Jilted Highland Manor Brides

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Highland_ManorSteve Gunter, owner of Tap Room at Dubsdread and Dubsdread Catering, announced this morning that his team has been selected by the City of Apopka to manage the troubled Highland Manor property on an interim basis.

Highland Manor, also remembered by longtime Central Floridians as Townsend’s Plantation, was closed after the city evicted the current owners for nonpayment of rent. As reported yesterday in the Orlando Sentinel, Apopka police arrested Richard Wilhelm Thursday on charges that he schemed to defraud customers by continuing to collect deposits for events at the property after he had received notices of the impending eviction. According to the article, the people who paid the deposits, mostly brides who planned to have weddings and receptions there, likely will not get that money back.

But Gunter told me this morning that the city’s deal with him, which gives him the facilities rent free, will allow him to honor the contracts without requiring an additional deposit. He also stressed that although the city wants another restaurant to operate in the Highland Manor space, he will not be the one to operate it. His Tap Room at Dubsdread is a popular and critically acclaimed restaurant, but he says the Apopka property has limitations that would hinder a duplicate success -- mainly that people approaching the property from the south cannot make a left turn to reach it.

So Dubsdread Catering will handle the weddings for those currently booked and others who wish to hold their receptions there in the future. Dubsdread, another popular wedding and reception location, is booked solid for the year and, according to Gunter, has turned away 100 requests.