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Chef Apologises to 'Imbecile' Customer

brown and white checked napkin on a white plate with cutlery to the right side

A top chef has been forced to apologise after describing a customer as an ‘imbecile’.

Adam Handling, who was previously a finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals, left an angry comment on TripAdvisor in response to a review of his restaurant.

Bad Review

The review on TripAdvisor was written by a user by Piotr P. He had visited The Frog, a restaurant in Shoreditch at which Handling is the head chef, and which only opened a few months ago.

Knife and spoon

He left 3 stars attached to his review, though his words were less complimentary. He mentioned that the staff “lost our reservation, but after some time they managed to get a table”. This, however, was no concern to Handling: after all, his remit is only the food.

It was when Piotr described the food as “very average” that Handling grew angry. Piotr went on to say that the “chef is trying hard to make it look fancy and new, but several meals were either bland, or just way too salty”. He concluded by saying that “we think it’s overpriced for what it is and way too overhyped”, giving just 2 stars for the value of money rating.

A Management Response

The response which was left to the review was at first accredited to “Lindsey J, PA at The Frog” – though Handler has since admitted that he wrote it himself. It’s lucky that the former British Culinary Association Chef of the Year was willing to admit his complicity, as food industry jobs can easily be lost over a customer service snafu like this.

“You are the prime example of an imbecile. If you think we are overpriced, you lead a very sad life,” it read. “Food is personal and the little knowledge you have even though food is personal your just stupid [sic]. Please never come back or for that matter stick in McDonald’s – I know it’s a touch out of your price range but try it – you will probably enjoy it.”

The review has since been deleted, but not before it was seen and captured by enough people to cause a stir.

Forced Apology

He has since made a statement of apology, demonstrating how chef jobs should be kept to the kitchen and away from customer service where possible.

“In hindsight I wouldn’t have written this response at all, and I have since apologised for my use of language to the person concerned, but as chefs, particularly ones in the public eye, we open ourselves up to criticism and I’m learning fast that opinion can and will be divided at times,” he said. “When I get amazing reviews, I feel incredible. When I get bad ones, and particularly if they’re unfair in some way, I feel horrible and so does the entire team. I am so passionate about it and so determined to make the hours I put into it result in happy diners in my restaurant [so] when I get a review such as this one, that passion can bubble over.”

This kind of behaviour is utterly inappropriate and will certainly count against Handling in food recruitment situations in the future. On the other hand, the fact that his name is known to the public and that he has received awards in the past may be enough to outweigh it.

The whole story serves to show that emotional responses should be kept out of customer interaction unless they are totally appropriate. With a deep breath and a more measured response, The Frog may have received better press, rather than an entirely negative dose of press attention.