Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chef Michael Smith Does Not Tweet

In the end, a series of tweets gave up the game.

“You can’t tip enough in Montreal,” came a tweet apparently generated by Canadian celebrity chef and cookbook author Michael Smith. “No matter how much money you drop, you still can’t get a smile out of your sullen, bitter server.”

Earlier the same day: “Montreal means grotesque, tragic food served by hateful staff.”

Understandably, The Montreal Gazette’s food critic, Lesley Chesterman, was not amused. Chesterman writes that “As a proud Montrealer and a long time restaurant critic, the comment: ‘Montreal preys on clueless tourists and pretentious locals. Desperate, dated restaurants abound. It’s not a foodie city,’ left me steaming. I Twittered myself about it, and contacted Smith’s PR people to express my dismay.”

Once Smith and his people got wind of it, things happened very quickly, beginning with a press release from his publicist, Debby de Groot of Toronto’s MDG & Associates:
On the eve of launching his new cookbook The Best of Chef at Home and beginning celebrations for Prince Edward Island’s Fall Flavours festival, Chef Michael Smith has discovered that a complete stranger has stolen his identity on Twitter. The fraud was discovered earlier today when a writer for the Montreal Gazette questioned several negative tweets about the Montreal restaurant scene posted by the impostor.

All of this is a complete surprise to Michael Smith, who does not twitter. A lawyer has been consulted, and not only is Michael trying to get his identity removed from that site but he is calling on Twitter to notify all followers of the feed that they have been deceived. “Frankly I’m overwhelmed. I’m very, very angry. I can’t believe that anyone would say such horrible things about Montreal. Worse yet they’ve been writing about my family, they’ve deceived my fans and stolen what I’ve worked so hard to build,” says Michael. “I don’t fault Twitter but I do expect them to help make this right.”
Smith’s dismay is understandable. As I write this, the fraudulent Twitter feed is still online. As you can see, the material posted feels quite authentic. The poster obviously knows who Smith is and has Tweeted things Smith’s fans might actually care about.

Back in Montreal, Chesterman asks the question: “can chefs ignore new media outlets like Twitter and Facebook and risk having someone stand in for them? Or must they go with the flow and engage fans in every way possible in this increasingly competitive field?”

Meanwhile, the timing is really pretty good. As de Groot reminds us, Smith is one of Food Network Canada’s biggest stars, with two hit series, Chef at Home and Chef Abroad. His fourth cookbook, The Best of Chef at Home, has just been released by Whitecap Books.



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