Monday, March 28, 2011

Art Imitating Life or Vice Versa? Bloggers Beware . . .

Last night, after preparing and delighting in a sumptuous meal of chicken breasts seasoned with fresh tarragon, garlic and olive oil baked in a white wine sauce, served with crisp squash and zucchini spears enhanced with Mediterranean Sea Salt, I decided to indulge in yet another feast. This particular spread was decadently sinful, wickedly tasty and, like all good meals, left me wanting more.

However, for as scrumptious as it was, this was no meal . . . it was a movie. Bitter Feast, directed by Joe Maggio, was my latest Netflix fix and at times made me gasp at the absurdity, laugh at the absurdity and stare in wonderment at the, you guessed it, absurdity.

A chef on the verge? (Photo courtesy of Clarita)
Before I offer the premise to you, by a show of hands, how many of you know of a chef who is leaning a little too far over into the crazy lane? I’m not talking snarky-crazy like Anthony Bourdain—which, in my book, is wholly tolerable and entertaining at the same time—but bona fide, bats in the belfry, fall to pieces, sit in the corner and go ape shit kinda crazy.

If you do, and you’re a blogger, and you write wholeheartedly about food and restaurants, then to you, dear friend, I offer this admonition: Blogger Beware.

Bitter Feast is the story of two clashing egos. There’s Peter Grey—an arrogantly obnoxious and self-absorbed chef of the celebrity ilk whose obsessive sustainability and organic rants on his television show, “The Feast with Peter Grey,” is a turn off. Then we have JT Franks, an equally obnoxious foodie who writes a 40,000 hit-a-day blog, “Gastropurks,” and whose caustic tongue seems to derive great pleasure in deriding Peter Grey, his television show and his restaurant, also named The Feast.

Throughout the movie, we watch the demise of Peter and his break from reality as he exacts his own brand of culinary revenge on JT Franks. Couple arrogance with anger management issues and its the makings for a nasty morsel. It’s an interesting premise and one that, if occurred in real life, would be truly horrifying.

(Photo courtesy of Chelle)

The focus of this post is not to review Bitter Feast . . . except to say that it was a creepy look at what can happen when a chef becomes unhinged if pushed to the brink by a bad review. And this was not just any bad review, mind you; it was a review by a blogger.

Like some chefs out here in the real world, Peter Grey, beyond the shadow of a doubt, has not a single iota of respect for food bloggers—as demonstrated during this discussion about acrimonious JT Franks and his influential blog—between Peter and Gordon, who is played in a cameo appearance by none other than celebrity chef Mario Batali:

PETER: “F**k Franks!”

GORDON: “F**k Franks?”

PETER: “He creates nothing.”

GORDON: “Dude, he creates public opinion, ergo, he creates everything!”

PETER: “Gordon, he’s a f*****g food blogger!”
If you’ve read my post, Blogger is Not a Four-Letter Word, you know my thoughts on the whole Journalist vs. Blogger debate. However, in the case of this movie, I’m not so sure if, being put in Peter Grey’s position, I too wouldn’t lose a couple of marbles and go on a tirade that leaves death and destruction in my wake. A bit extreme, yes, but JT Franks gives bloggers a bad name.

If you want to know exactly what happens in the story, you really should rent the movie. While there are no Oscar-winning performances, it is entertaining in a macabre sort of way and may cause a blogger or two to rethink their blogging strategies.

But for me, given that some restaurant bloggers like to swim in the power of the pen (or keyboard, in this day and age) and go about their business with reckless abandon, daring not care whose livelihood is damaged as a result of one bad meal, Bitter Feast begs the question, “How far is far enough when it comes to restaurant reviews?”

Pull up a chair and let’s discuss.

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