Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Insider's Account of Gauthier's Critic Observations

I'm currently interning in the marketing team at Gauthier Soho, a Michelin star restaurant in you guessed it, Soho. On my second day, on a quiet afternoon in the office, I noticed on Twitter that Alexis Gauthier, the owner, was in Duck Soup, a restaurant just down the road and was liveblogging about it through Twitter. One of the things I admire most about my new boss is that he says exactly what he thinks (no holds barred), so I hastily pulled up the Twitter page. 

Something you should probably know about Alexis is that he has, in the past, been unafraid of upsetting Twitter users and bloggers with his controversial Tweets and blogs: he caused a lot of controversy with his comments about his outrage that London Eating, a review site, allows customer reviews to be unethically changed so easily after being posted.

In this instance, however, he was not critiquing the food, but the critics from The Telegraph and The Independent who were also in the restaurant. He started off with subtle observations such as 'There is also another critic from the independent- can't remember her name because nobody reads her column.' (!) and carried on to express his displeasure for the Telegraph: '(Matthew) Norman is a bit loud in such a small restaurant. That's kind of annoying;', whilst overestimating the Independent food critic's age (that was never going to sit well. He was only four years off, though). At this point the Twitterati began to pick up on this and the story gathered momentum - someone was surely going to bite back soon.

He carried on Tweeting, and more and more people were talking about Gauthier at Duck Soup on Twitter (who are yet to comment):
I can tell you as an insider, much to the simultaneous delight and despair of the marketing team at Gauthier, it was all real: Alexis Gauthier was at Duck Soup commenting on the critics' every move. A considerable amount of people also misconstrued where Alexis was - he was not critiquing the critics at his own restaurant. but at Duck Soup. Even he wouldn't do that (well, I wouldn't put it past him, actually).

Then the drama started. Tracey Macleod, the aforementioned Independent critic, got wind of this and Tweeted Gauthier these responses:
It was like a tennis match. Who would pipe up next?! Then Marina O'Loughlin, food critic from The Metro Tweeted: 'So: @GauthierSoho - hero or complete loony?'. Jay Rayner, food critic for The Observer replied 'probably both' (to over 32,000 followers). Which pretty much sums up what everyone said. Later, Jay even conversed further with other bloggers on Twitter and put Alexis in his 'hero column'. 

People were still talking about it on Twitter in the evening, and even this morning. So what went from Alexis making casual observations about two critics in a restaurant he happened to be in, turned into a full-blown Twitter scandal (ok, so it wasn't Ryan Giggs big but it got plenty of people talking) and people were refreshing their feeds every minute to see what happened (I know I was). Gauthier came away from it all relatively unscathed, considering, and we gained about 50 followers in under 2 hours. By this morning, Gauthier had gained over double that in followers. Now that's good PR. It is good to be controversial sometimes - but use with care.

UPDATE: The Independent has been on the phone to Alexis for 15 minutes and they may run an article about his comments tomorrow - keep an eye out in case they do...

Here is The Independent's article - unfortunately, they seem to be under the impression that Alexis owns Duck Soup...


AR Baggs said...

I'm not sure whether that is good PR. Having 50 more followers to your account doesn't equal success. Especially if the account is purely spouting drivel/vitriol/etc.

I followed the whole hoo-ha (it was hardly front page news) and came to the conclusion that Alexis is a bit of a tool. It also put me off going to Gauthier anytime soon, especially after reading Tracy Macleod's re-shared review. I will still follow his account, because tools are sometimes quite funny - apart from screwdrivers - and I like a bit of mirth on my Twitter feed.

As for your internship, good luck! I hope the boss treats you with more respect than he does his customers/his twitter feed/the vegetables he murders for pleasure every day.


PS. Well written blog post ;)

Chris said...

Yes, one the one hand 50 more Twitter followers, on the other hand a few hundred London restaurant goers alerted to the fact you're an oversensitive, paranoid, obsessive, egotistical lunatic.

Very well written post though, really captures the atmosphere of abject terror in the PR office as Alexis "goes off on one" again.

I do have a soft spot for Mr Gauthier actually - he can cook, and his Twitter feed is always entertaining, in a car-crashy way. I can't help noticing, though, the contrast between his wild Twitter persona and the very staid, Michelin-chasing food his kitchen produces. I'd like to see more of his Twitter account in the kitchen.

Laissez Fare said...

I agree with both comments above. Well written post. I will continue to follow his often mind-boggling tweets.

Anthony Silverbrow said...

I think it was a success. Not because of the increased Twitter followers necessarily, rather because you got feel for his character.

No doubt it felt like a PR nightmare at the time, but in the end what harm as done? A chef pissing off a reviewer is nothing new.

It was also quite interesting getting a chefs take on the review process. It seems very unlikely a chef would write-up/tweet a review of their own restaurant, but the closest we can get to that is another chef doing it on their behalf.

Cherie City said...

I thought this was hilarious and have started following Alexis on twitter and his blog.

I like his honest, perceptive way of writing and it's a good change from reading food blogs that compare every London restaurant to bloody Hawksmoor or Polpo!

This makes me want to visit Gauthier even more now, as there is someone with real personality behind it. A bit of humorous straight-talking can do wonders.


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