The other day, a colleague forwarded me an email she had received from a restaurateur who had taken issue with a food review I'd written. The email, which I've edited for brevity, to correct grammar and to remove details that will identify the place, reads, "If we do a photo shoot - hence, free food for the article - I expect a better article. I am really curious to know [what] Susan Jung [knows] about … kimchi, as [ours] are all home-made and we never had negative reviews about that … We work extremely hard to reach a good level of food and service, and we are very disappointed about the article. I feel like we wasted an afternoon to prepare free food for a not detailed and poor article."
My review of the place was actually quite moderate: I listed more pros than cons. The owners obviously haven't seen any of my really negative reviews. The headline (which I didn't write) made the place sound better than it was, and I regret not asking the sub-editors to tone it down.
My friends encouraged me to "name and shame" the restaurant, and I considered it. But I decided to take pity on the owners because they are young and probably haven't realised yet that, sometimes, you can learn from criticism.
Nevertheless, there were two things that bothered me. First, the "free food" bit. They did prepare food for the photoshoot but, for the review, I ate anonymously and paid for the meal.
Second - and far worse - is the sense of entitlement. Do they really think their food is so good it is beyond criticism? Do they really think their kimchi - because it's home-made - is the best ever? Did they really waste an afternoon preparing the four dishes we requested for the photo shoot? (If so, they need to learn to work faster.) Do they really think they are the only hard-working restaurateurs striving "to reach a good level of food and service" to have received criticism from a reviewer?
Very rarely have I experienced the perfect meal, where everything - food, ambience and service - is so wonderful that it couldn't possibly be better. And when that does happen, it's down to restaurateurs, chefs and waiting staff who have far more experience and skill than these guys possess, and who are not so arrogant as to think there is no room for improvement.