News Column

Boston Cooks, Including Wahlberg, Chime In on Critic's Facebook War

Nov 29, 2012

Joe Dwinell and Sara Gaynes

The Wahlberg family, from left to right: Donnie, Alma, Paul and Mark.
The Wahlberg family, from left to right: Donnie, Alma, Paul and Mark.

Local chefs, rallying around a Hub restaurateur who took to Facebook to scorch a patron for comparing his pumpkin pie to "vomit," say such trash talk is a recipe for disaster in these hard times.

"We're in the business of serving the public and we're open to criticism ... but snarkiness and sarcasm can be hurtful when you're pouring your heart out," said Legal Sea Foods president and CEO Roger Berkowitz.

That's what chefs across the city echoed last night about a patron who compared a slice of pie at Pigalle in the Theatre District to throw-up. Chef and owner Marc Orfaly fought back on Facebook, sparking a viral food fight.

Berkowitz, a regular contributor to the Herald's Fork Lift food blog, said chefs need to keep their cool -- but diners need to remember jobs are at risk, too.

"The livelihoods of 20 to 30 people are on the line," Berkowitz said of over-the-top criticism of the average restaurant. "People can be unqualified and not professional in their criticism on social media."

The pie pugilists have made up and are now Facebook friends, but the online sauteing continues to reverberate.

"It's pretty surprising what people will say," said Paul Wahlberg, chef-owner of Alma Nove in Hingham. "If someone doesn't like something, we'll work harder to be better. It's our art form. Our passion.

"But ya, it hurts. It hurts a lot. It really cuts" when the insults fly, he added.

Wahlberg, who owns the restaurant with his movie star brothers, Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, stressed "people forget we put our lives, effort and time" into the work.

And, he admitted, Orfaly's outburst is understandable. "It's hard not to lose your cool," Wahlberg added.

Chef Brian Poe of Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake and the Tip Tap Room in Boston, and a contributor to Fork Lift, said a slice of pie shouldn't end in such garbage.

"It's gotten a little unfair," he said of online criticism. "There are some rude owners and operators, but 98 percent of Boston chefs will do anything to make your dinner perfect."

Public relations pros in the city said restaurants need to deal with the fact social media is the bread and butter of the business now.

"Regardless of the facts surrounding situations like this, it's important to realize that you're not just speaking with the individuals involved, you're potentially speaking to everyone in their social media networks," said Nicole Morales of Elevate. "The old adage of the customer always being right applies now more than ever."

Source: (c)2012 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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