Restaurant history was made in this country yesterday, when a restaurant ban by Chef Peter Tempelhoff of the newly opened FYN Festaurant, instituted against me two days before the opening of the restaurant just over two weeks ago, was uplifted, in a settlement in which I agreed to make two changes to the Blogpost in which I shared the initial restaurant banning with my Blog readers. The restaurant ban contradicted a welcome to eat at the new restaurant, and a policy of patron non-discrimination, expressed to me by Chef Peter at the Eat Out Awards 2018 just ten days earlier.
The settlement agreement was made an order of the Court yesterday by Judge Salie Hlophe, after the advocates of the two parties negotiated the wording of the changed headline, the amended wording of the introductory sentence of paragraph two, and the wording of the Postscript, which I added to the contested Blogpost yesterday, being the basis of Chef Peter’s court action. Two other Blogposts were written by me about the new FYN Restaurant, one before and another after the contested Blogpost.
I agreed to the requested changes to my contested Blogpost in reaction to the offer from Chef Peter to uplift the FYN restaurant ban against me. As a restaurant reviewer I owe it to my Blog readers to review the newest top echelon of restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands, to guide them in their decision at which restaurants to book and eat. My readers could have been discouraged by a banning action against me, or even worse for FYN, to not be encouraged to eat at the restaurant if I had not reviewed it.
I understand that the banning concession may have been a difficult one for Chef Peter to make, given the pressure that may have been exerted on him by his restaurant industry colleagues in banning me from FYN. Banning me from restaurants is a vitriolic campaign instituted against me by Chef Bertus Basson last year, following my less than complimentary review of his Spek & Bone restaurant on Dorp Street in Stellenbosch. Chef Bertus’ banning campaign has taken his eye off his six restaurants, and it showed in the Eat Out 2018 Awards, his Overture restaurant at Hidden Valley in Stellenbosch dropping dramatically from 9th Best in 2017 to only 18th Best this year. Chef Liam Tomlin of Chefs Warehouse has been part of the banning brigade too, a chef who cannot stomach…pardon the pun … my view that his Bree Street restaurant should not make the Eat Out Top 20 restaurant nomination list, for a number of well-motivated reasons, a view that appears to be shared by Eat Out too, in that they have not included his restaurant in SA’s Top 20 list for the past few years, a karmic reaction which the chefs do not like me pointing out to them! Associating with these less successful restaurants could damage the potential fine reputation of FYN!
Banning a restaurant reviewer in general, and from a new restaurant before it opens specifically, can be seen to be contentious, and lead the followers and readers of a Blog to question the motive of such a decision, including that the restaurant does not have the confidence in it being good enough for my reviewing standards. It would be pretty likely that a reviewer, essentially a writer, would create a story out of such a ban, and therefore no restaurant should be surprised when the writer responds and retaliates, with a potential negative impression created about the banning restaurant by that restaurant itself, through this action. A Twitter follower of this Blog contacted the renowned UK restaurant reviewer Jay Rayner (with more than 220 000 Twitter followers) on Twitter, with the following questions:
‘Have you ever been banned from a restaurant that:
- Hasn’t even opened yet
- Disliked your review, so banned you?’,
these questions clearly referring to me and the retaliatory restaurant review experiences.
His reply was as follows, reinforcing that no chef/owner who bans a reviewer can expect to go unscathed:
‘No, I wish it would happen. It would be terrific copy’.
My international food and restaurant friends are horrified that chefs in our country have such tiny egos to want to ban reviewers who do not boost their egos in their reviews when they write honestly about their eating experiences. This is unheard of in their countries!
The landmark settlement agreement was reached by two mature parties, who recognise the benefits of co-operation rather than aggravation and naming-and-shaming. I was pleasantly surprised to read in which high esteem Chef Peter holds me in the legal documents for this court action, describing me as an ‘… influential food and entertainment critic with a large and active group of online followers that she is able to influence with her blog and Twitter posts’.
I wish to thank Chef Peter for his change of heart, in allowing me to visit his FYN restaurant, and to review it. I look forward to eating at FYN later this week. At no stage have I wished him and his new restaurant any harm, but I had to comunicate the ban to my Blog readers, with an interpretation of what I think it signals, namely that Chef Peter implied that FYN is not fine enough for me to review it favourably, hardly a deduction he would have wanted to evoke. I am known as an honest reviewer, and even as a controversial one, in that I will fight for the right of freedom of speech on and of my Blog, and will not allow anyone to bully or intimidate me, on order to frighten me to change or weaken my point of view. The settlement agreement and the legal action not only makes SA restaurant history, but it also demonstrates the danger of banning customers and reviewers, and the resultant damage that such an action may cause, hardly in the interest of a restaurant, especially a new one.
I thank my lawyer Bridget Ellender of Dunster and Advocate Adam Brink for the miracle they created in taking on this action and preparing the required documents, from midday Friday 14 December until yesterday morning 18 December 2018, despite a public holiday with a resultant long weekend in between, and their long weekend plans having to be cancelled as a result.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA
(WESTERN CAPE DIVISION, CAPE TOWN)
Case No.: 23049/2018
Before the Honourable Mrs Justice G Salie–Hlophe
Cape Town, 18 December 2018
In the matter between:
PETER JASON TEMPELHOFF First Applicant
FYN RESTAURANT (PTY) LTD Second Applicant
CHRISTIANE IRENE FREIIN VON ULMENSTEIN Respondent
By agreement between the parties, this application is fully and finally settled on the following terms:
BY ORDER OF THE COURT
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein