The delicious irony of chefs who can’t stand the heat of kitchen criticism

Chef Claude Bosi was less than happy when an amateur restaurant critic didn't praise his food - and didn't hold back from telling him so.

Never start a fight with a man who sharpens knives for a living. But what if he starts a fight with you? This week, the two-Michelin-starred chef Claude Bosi took exception to an online review of his restaurant, Hibiscus. Bosi duly tracked down the blogger on Twitter and sent him a curt message. “Like the review on TA [Trip Advisor]… smile to my face, then stab me in the back…!!! Nice one.” The blogger, James Isherwood, responded: “Take it like a man.”

With that, four-letter war broke out. “Please buy yourself a pair of balls and play with them,” rejoined Bosi in one of his more printable insults. Before long, his Michelin-starred pals joined in, like playground heavies with Tojiro knives in their satchels. Two-starred chef Tom Kerridge tweeted about “smashing” Isherwood up and by the end of the night Isherwood had been hounded off Twitter. Couldn’t they all have just spat in his soup?

It should be noted that Isherwood gave Hibiscus a reasonable three stars out of five and that his blog, Dining with James, has just 12 reviews on it which, until now, had probably been read by about 12 people. So while his critique would likely have done little harm to Hibiscus’s reputation, the chef’s absurdly oversensitive reaction will surely have put off a few prospective diners.

Even if Isherwood had the clout of a New York Times critic, Bosi and pals would still be guilty of bullying and of taking a (more or less) professional opinion as a “personal” attack. It’s nothing of the sort. Dining out is a contract and Bosi’s duty is to serve up good food, not Messianic posturing.

The chef seems to have taken most exception to the fact that when he asked Isherwood after dinner if he had enjoyed it, the critic said yes. Who wouldn’t do the same? In the theatre, post-show dissembling is par for the course: that’s why they’re called luvvies. In future, Isherwood might do well to follow the example of one veteran producer who, I’m told, when he doesn’t want to tell a director that his show stinks, simply booms, “You’ve done it again!” Neat, noncommittal – and no one gets hurt.