One Last Course of Discourse

Monday evening, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA) took part in an engaging, food-filled and new to Dine Out Vancouver Event: 6 Course Discourse hosted by Mijune Pak of Follow Me Foodie and covered by the Westender Newspaper. Missed the event? Try #FMF6course for a recap – the live tweets, quotes, photos, and videos posts will make you feel as though you attended.

The evening brought together six of Vancouver’s most celebrated chefs: John BishopTina FinezaScott JaegerHamid SamilianVikram Vij, and our very own Julian Bond, who aside from serving canapés to the guests, dusted off their chef whites to take centre stage and share a few of their personal passions and life experiences both in the kitchen and from their home lives. This was then followed by a lightning round of panel Q&A from the audience.

Turns out Chef Julian hit the Q&A hot button question of the evening, tackling head-on the power of social media - the good, the bad and the plain ol’ ugly - to a room full food writers, food bloggers, avid tweeters as well as culinary aficionados. Peering up from their mobile devices, Chef Julian weighed in stating, “I want diners to think before they write,” which is not unlike Peartree Restaurant Chef & Owner Scott Jaeger’s request: “Eat it before you tweet it.” Chef Julian then went on to tackle the critical side of social media posts.

Covering the event for the Westender, Martha Perkins quotes Chef Julian as hoping, “…we only talk well about a restaurant. If a restaurant is bad, don’t talk about it and it will go away on its own. Some comments can tear people’s (sic) day apart”. For those of us that know Chef Julian, to “don’t talk about it” add: “onlinePause and talk to us first. After all, it is the hospitality industry we are in.”

As a chef instructor, mentor and former restaurateur with over 2,500 graduates working locally and internationally, Chef Julian is no stranger to accolades as well as professional pitfalls of the industry. These days, he also knows that around every corner is a potential critic: host to an editorial column, food blog or twitter account who sits anonymously tableside. So, as a teaching facility for budding culinary professionals that also welcomes those that are curious of culinary arts, PICA uses and encourages constructive criticism as an important hands-on teaching tool. In fact, feedback is encouraged and even solicited via billfold comment cards.  

Chef Julian hopes people realize that “Long gone are the No soup for you days.  As a teaching facility, constructive and helpful feedback is recognized and appreciated. We turn it into an opportunity to learn from it then and there.” After every service, PICA chef instructors gather together all of the Bistro 101 students for a debriefing, where comments, complaints and issues are discussed for the educational benefit of the students. We also think Chef Julian’s closing comments at Monday’s event, “Some comments can tear peoples’ days apart,” is pretty self-explanatory.

Lastly, Chef Julian hopes you take a moment to read the following article How Chefs Feel About Food Critics and Food Bloggers and, pay particular attention to a specific comment left on the post, by user named ‘rd101’, which we quote, unaltered, below:

As a restaurateur I welcome responsible bloggers but there are too many inexperienced diners in the mix who vent their frustrations and comments via local review sites such as the dreaded trip advisor, time out etc… Fueled by a bad day at the office too much wine and a lack of understanding and appreciation for a restaurants endeavors, guests rant online at the smallest things during the taxi journey home!

If there are genuine points, problems or mistakes in a restaurant – ‘TELL THE STAFF’, at least give them an opportunity to rectify the problem before you pickup (sic) your smart phone and crucify them publicly. I have read online reviews from guests that bear little resemblance to the evening in question, fortunately some review sites allow you to comment against a blog but few allow reviews to be removed.

 The above is hopefully a seldom occurrence but it is the kind of thing a restaurant has to deal with, the general public (non foodies, non regular bloggers), who use reviews to make their decision on where to dine are not always able to decipher the accurate and responsible from the unknowledgeable and disgruntled.

Reviews have more power than you think; their comments hit the mainstream for all to see. In the event of a mishap I ask that guests give us a chance to put things right, if we mess up again then by all means comment, but please be fair… people lose jobs over bad reviews and unfair blogs!

Chef Julian wishes to thank Mijune Pak, Dine-Out Vancouver, all that attended the event and the Westender newspaper for yesterday’s column Vancouver Chefs Turn Table on Online Critics.  

Here’s to hopefully stirring the pot again next year...