New Media Publishing must be regretting its decision to have appointed Bruce Palling, controversial Eat Out judge and UK food blogger, to co-judge the Top 19 (originally Top 20) Finalist Restaurants with its editor Abigail Donnelly this year, to improve her credibility after a number of controversial Awards were made by her in her capacity as sole judge last year. Yesterday a Tweet from Bruce Palling announced that he will not be attending the Eat Out Gala Restaurant Awards Dinner at The Westin hotel on 25 November.

From the outset the expectation was that Bruce Palling would attend the Eat Out Gala Restaurant Awards Dinner, and one wonders why the details about the class of flight and his involvement on the night of the awards ceremony had been left to a mere three weeks before the event.  Palling had promised the staff at Belthazar that he would come back to eat at the restaurant on his return to Cape Town at the end of November, so it had certainly been discussed, and a contract signed, one would assume.

Yesterday Palling’s Tweet attracted attention: “Sorry to announce that will not be attending Eat Out Awards ceremony – due to “unforeseen circumstances” New Media won’t provide me a ticket”. New Media Publishing did not Tweet or e-mail a response.  We wrote to Bridget McCarney, MD of New Media Publishing, and called Mango, its PR agency.  Ms McCarney responded last night, indicating that pushy Palling had insisted on a first class ticket from London to Cape Town (costs can vary between about R49000 for a BA or Virgin ticket to R67000 for Emirates, while an economy class ticket would cost about R11000), and that he would not accept an economy class ticket nor a video broadcast with him from London!   She wrote as follows:

“Thanks for your email.

We were looking at whether there were more cost efficient ways of doing this rather than a business class ticket for Bruce to attend the awards. The idea was that we would have a video insert of Bruce talking about the awards or a direct live link.

Bruce declined to do the video and didn’t want to fly economy for such a short trip which of course we completely understand.

So yes, I can confirm that Bruce won’t be attending the awards at this stage

Trust that answers your question

All the best

Bridget”

The Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards 2012 have been marred with controversy, not only because of the appointment of Palling, who only very occasionally has articles published in the Wall Street Journal European edition, and now hidden by a paywall, and whom no one had heard of locally nor in the UK, yet Mrs Donnelly sung his praises and overstated his credentials for her own benefit; for Palling’s embarrassing Tweets slating springbok and politically incorrect references to the race of customers of a restaurant; for his rude and disparaging Tweets about our blogposts about his time in Cape Town and the Winelands, which New Media Publishing refused to take action against; for Palling’s unfair criticism of Belthazar on his last night in Cape Town; for the embarrassing selection of The Pot Luck Club as a Top 20 Restaurant Finalist, when both Mrs Donnelly and Chef Luke Dale-Roberts knew that the restaurant had not been open for a full year, and which judging criterion was not picked up by Palling, which led to the elimination of the restaurant from the Top 20 Finalist list of honour; and now the spat with Palling, which he undiplomatically Tweeted to embarrass his hosts!

Once again we say that Eat Out Editor Abigail Donnelly has served her time, and her bias for and against some of our country’s top restaurants two years running means that she no longer has the credibility to be in charge of the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards!

POSTSCRIPT 6/11: Bruce Palling has responded (surprisingly gently, other than referring to me as a ‘slug‘, and claiming to be the subject with Eat Out of some sort of conspiracy by ourselves) to this blogpost on Twitter, denying the allegation that he demanded a Business Class ticket, as indicated by New Media Publishing: ‘@Gabbles17 Love the idea of me being the embarrassment! Certainly never ‘demanded’ or even mention 1st class fare – beyond that silence’. He also referred to recent surgery, and that he therefore cannot travel ‘steerage with two day turnaround’. He must have removed a disparaging Tweet, as he apologised to @LawHollander :“Well, I went to your country and loved the food – I apologise for earlier Tweet”, but that Tweet is no longer in Palling’s timeline.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage