I could not have imagined that my review a week ago of Chef Bertus Basson’s Spek en Bone restaurant in Stellenbosch could have unleashed such vitriol, and become so personal in its attacks, despite my review not having been a personal attack against Chef Bertus. I am grateful for all the messages of support which I have received, reinforcing that I am known as the only honest writer in our country. 

My Spek & Bone Review used a c-word, which I have not ever used in writing, and I am sure that it is not this word that people were up in arms about. It was the cheek that I reviewed Chef Bertus’ restaurant less than favorably, and that I found it to be lacking in many respects, Chef Bertus admitting that it is not perfect. 

Restaurant Review: Spek en Bone has no bacon nor beans, little SA cuisine, crap in most respects

I have been blessed in learning who my true friends are in the past week, and the Full Moon fired me up to evaluate which friends are not supportive and genuine in their friendship, so I did some Facebook Friend culling. I do appreciate the friends who told me honestly how they felt, and some even felt that I should remove the Review. The close friends who know that I am walking a new journey felt the Review did not match this journey, but they did not understand that the honest Chris will never change into any other writer than an honest one. I have never believed in my self-worth and my writing more strongly than now!

I saw that Manley Communications co-owner Lise Manley had some things to say in the  disparaging commentary about my Review, yet has the gall to send me media releases about their clients’ restaurants and wines. I called Ian Manley, and discussed with him in a collegial manner how I should interpret such unethical behavior from Lise, and he explained that she is a good friend of Bertus. It should be said that none of the Bertus Basson restaurants are Manley Communications clients! I called some Communications Consultants to ask their view about the Manley Communications behavior, and they were shocked that Manley Communications got involved in a controversial issue, when a professional Consultancy would have stayed neutral publicly. I have asked Ian to remove me from their media mailing list, as I have no interest in dealing with such an unprofessional PR consultancy. This is a consultancy which gets paid for every Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram post, and Blogpost, yet never has the decency to thank writers for their work in growing the Manley’s income, their fees being astronomical, I am told. Ian suggested I might remain on their media list so that I could stay up to date with their client news! The PR spin this consultancy put into trying to justify The Test Kitchen doing a dramatic Snakes & Ladders slide from 22nd Best World’s 50 Best Restaurant in 2016 to 63rd Best this year was the most laughable I have ever read!

What is ironic is that Chef Bertus is known as a demon in his restaurant kitchens, very literally and hastily using the f-word to his staff, not allowing for the damage this angry and disrespectful action on his part may cause to the young waiters and chefs in his employ in particular. It may explain why Chef Bertus’ restaurants have such a high staff turnover, even amongst his Head Chefs. 

From the feedback I have received in the past seven days, I know that my voice is valued by those chefs and restaurant owners and managers who are serious about continuously improving their businesses, not only for the sake of their restaurants but also for Cape Town and its reputation as one of the world’s top restaurant cities. I do not settle personal scores in reviews, and Chef Bertus and I have been friends since he opened Overture seven years ago, and I wrote a very positive review about Overure: 

Restaurant Review: Overture needs no introduction

I also wrote about Bertus Basson @ Spice Route, and Chef Bertus obviously had no problem with this review of his second restaurant!: 

Bertus Basson at Spice Route : a modern South African restaurant!

I have predicted that Chef Bertus runs the danger of overextending himself with five restaurants, and a TV programme, as well as a menu design consultancy. He may not have liked me writing this, especially when he did not make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list in 2015! I also do not write to be controversial. It is the reaction to the honesty of my reviews which causes the controversy! Readership of my Blog naturally does increase strongly, fueled by the controversy. The Spek & Bone Review is the best read by far on my Blog this year, with over 14000 unique readers in the past eight days. 

Twice in the past six months I have won cases brought to the Western Cape High Court against myself as the editor of the Blog, by Le Chocolatier and the SA Butler Academy, both parties having demanded the removal of the Blogposts by means of interdict applications. In both instances these demands were rejected by the judges concerned! 

My Blog readers are loyal, appreciating and valuing my honesty, and basing their restaurant decisions on my reviews, trying the restaurants which I have given my stamp of approval to. 

So yes, while I am on a journey of reinventing myself, honesty will never be something I can compromise on or shed, as a friend, or as a writer. I am so grateful to my very honest friends, and to my son, who support my right to write what I do, even if they do not always agree with the content. ❤️

POSTSCRIPT 8/8: The Manleys are lashing out in reaction to my Blogpost, Mr M on Instagram, and Mrs M on Facebook! Mrs M’s rant is poorly written, describing me as ‘rabid‘: defined as an animal having rabies, or ‘having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something‘. Neither definitions sound particularly relevant, confirming how poor Mrs M is at writing! I will never forget that I had to correct her public use of the word ‘infamous‘, which she used to describe her clients! It’s a surprise Manley Communications was not fired by each of its clients at the time! 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @chris_ulmenstein