Tag Archives: credibility

Eat Out blah-blah response to the withdrawal of two top restaurants from its Awards reflects panic!

 

It was a rough day for New Media Publishing on Tuesday, when The Test Kitchen announced that it is withdrawing from the Eat Out Awards, just two weeks after Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient had announced the same decision from the Eat Out stage, when Chef Chantel Dartnall collected her 9th-ranked Eat Out statue.   Both restaurants have sounded gracious in stating that their restaurants are stepping back, to allow younger chefs to get onto the Eat Out Top List. Continue reading →

JHP Gourmet Guide announces 2020 top restaurants, but does not release the list until January 2020! Read it here first!

The publishers of the Gourmet Guide 2020 have made it really difficult to write this post, in that it is not revealing its full list of 36 restaurants that received its one, two, or three plate awards on Monday, until January 2020, its website states. One can surmise that it wants the Gourmet Guide 2020 to be bought so that it can generate income. By January these Awards will have long been forgotten! Continue reading →

Food Blogger ‘bun fight’ discredits MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths!

It was via Twitter yesterday that I picked up a link to a blogpost “Not so good today…”, written by respected food and cookbook writer and TV producer Anne Myers on her blog ‘I love Cooking’. In her story, she identified two instances of food bloggers writing irresponsibly in their recipes, not on their own blogs, but on the newly created website for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths, leaving the retailer with egg on its face, with two of its four guest MasterChef SA food bloggers being accused of unprofessional blogging.

To tie in with its MasterChef SA sponsorship, Woolworths created a Woolworths Pantry page on its website, and invited four food bloggers they felt to be at the top of their field to blog for them in return for payment: Alida Ryder writes the blog ‘Simply Delicious‘, and was named the top food blogger at the SA Blog Awards in 2010; Ishay Govender followed in her footsteps in winning the SA Blog Awards 2011 Food Blogger of the Year for her ‘Food and the Fabulous’ blog; Jane-Anne Hobbs is described on the Woolworths website as having ‘pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa’, now blogging on her ‘Scrumptious’ blog, and soon to have a cookbook published, she announced today; and Fritz Brand, who blogs on ‘Real Men can Cook’, is a more recent blogger with no known accolades (interesting is that Woolworths accepts his writing with grammatical errors, and he even misspells the Woolworths brand name on his own blog!).  Once a week the bloggers contribute their recipes according to a set theme, and receive credit for the recipes that are featured.

Strangely, no MasterChef SA branding appears on the Woolworths Pantry pages, only the ‘Cook like a Chef’ box appearing on the recipe pages, an adaptation of the in-store banners ‘Cook like a MasterChef’. The bloggers do not comment on the MasterChef SA programme at all, even though the initial Tweets of some of these bloggers led one to believe that they would be commentators for Woolworths about the reality TV cooking programme.

Ms Myers was very kind to the two Woolworths Pantry bloggers, in not mentioning their names in her blogpost, perhaps a weakness, as their names were revealed later in the day anyway. The bloggers concerned commendably showed integrity by declaring their discredited recipes in the Comments section of Ms Myers’ blogpost, and their responses are interesting.

Fritz Brand claimed ownership of the criticised Nutella Crêpes recipe, which called for five teaspoons of salt, four of which were to be coarse salt, according to the Woolworths Pantry recipe, which Ms Myers wrote was difficult to rub through the sieve, as required in the recipe.  Brand defends his recipe in the Comment on Ms Myers’ blog, stating that his recipe only called for one teaspoon of salt, and that Woolworths must have got it wrong in posting the recipe on its site! He also writes that he posted the same recipe on his own blog, without the four extra spoonfuls of salt.  The four mystery spoonfuls of salt were removed from the recipe on the Woolworths Pantry website after Ms Myers’ blogpost appeared!

Interestingly, a second Tweet about food blogger ethics circulated later in the day, with a link to Ms Govender’s blog, and her blogpost ‘Food Bloggers – The Cauldrons are boiling’.  Not knowing that she was under attack in Ms Myers’ blogpost, it sounded as if Ms Govender was having a general go at ‘bully’ food bloggers who do not have a ‘spirit of community’, who discredit others, who wave ‘their blog stats and self-importance around’, one not realising that she was in fact reacting to Ms Myers’ blogpost.  She called for an (undefined) ‘formal qualification system’ in the ‘food blogging business’ that builds ‘sensibility and comaraderie’ (sic), implying that only qualified persons may comment about other bloggers, one suspects she was trying to say.  Only on re-reading Ms Myers’ blogpost last night was it clear that Ms Govender’s blogpost was a response to Ms Myers’ very serious allegation that Ms Govender’s recipe for ‘Dark Chocolate Souffles’ had been plagiarised (an ‘almost word-for-word replica of the recipe’) from the website www.bonappetit.com. Ms Govender writes in her blogpost about ‘bully’ bloggers’ ‘crucifixion mentality’, without ‘calmly gathering facts and asking the involved people for their opinions’, clearly (but unfairly, in our opinion) accusing Ms Myers of this behaviour. On Ms Myers’ blogpost Ms Govender defends herself in writing that some standard recipes would appear very similar to others, that she has a background in intellectual property law and could never consider taking ideas from others, that she gets involved in community projects benefiting others, and is an example of the ‘spirit of community’. Ms Myers was harsh in her reply to Ms Govender, clearly not moved by it at all: ‘Ishay, defending yourself and pointing out your qualities and good deeds for the lesser priviledged (sic) will not change the way I feel about responsible blogging. I made it clear that I used the post in which the chocolate souffle recipe featured as an example of what I believe to be some of the causes of foodblogging’s detoriating (sic) credibility and vanishing visitors’.

As this blogpost is about food blogger ethics, it is interesting to observe how opinionated and previously fiercely independent Woolworths Pantry blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, who describes her ‘Scrumptious‘ blog as ‘Recipes and inspiration from an independent African food blog’, has shifted in her definition of ‘independence’!  In her ‘About me and Contact’ page, she writes: By ‘independent’ I mean that my blog is not sponsored by anyone, and that I don’t endorse products or services in exchange for freebies, money or publicity. Because this blog is a freebie- and ad-free site, you can be assured that any branded product I recommend to you has been selected and paid for by me, because I think it’s interesting, tasty or exciting. Disclaimer: I earn my living by working as an independent food writer, recipe developer and social media consultant for a variety of clients.  Their products and services are never mentioned on this blog. Post Script; 20 March 2012: I’ve recently been appointed one of Woolworths offical (sic) bloggers for their sponsorship of the new TV series MasterChef South Africa.  I’m am (sic) paid to write blogposts and recipes for Woolworths, and will be reproducing that content on this site. You’re welcome to send me press releases, or invite me to launches, but please note that I don’t accept samples, ‘gifts’, ‘freebies’, or any similar inducements! We must commend Ms Hobbs for being the only one of the four Woolworths Pantry bloggers honest enough to declare her blogging for payment. Each of the four bloggers’ blogs carry the same Woolworths’ banner.

We predicted that MasterChef SA would be controversial, but did not expect a food blogger ‘bun fight’ to be the cause of such controversy, in addition to the MasterChef SA sponsor Robertson’s controversy, about which we reported last week.  It will be interesting to see which further controversies will develop in the remaining sixteen weeks of MasterChef SA!  The incident also questions the SA Blog Awards’ evaluation of top food bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: In looking at the line ‘Cook like a Chef’ in the Woolworths ads linked to their food bloggers’ recipes one must ask again what the definition of a ‘chef’ is.  All four food bloggers are recipe writers but clearly not chefs.  One wonders why Woolworths would be dishonest in its advertising in projecting the bloggers to a more glorified status and so mislead their customers.

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: Woolworths Pantry has credited Bon Appetit magazine with the ‘inspiration’ for Ms Govender’s dark chocolate soufflé recipe subsequent to the publishing of Ms Myers’ blogpost, confirming that Ms Myers was correct in what she wrote!

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: For Week 3 on the Woolworths Pantry website, only recipes by food bloggers Alida Ryder and Jane-Anne Hobbs are featured, with none by Ishay Govender and Fritz Brand. The photograph of the four food bloggers is also no longer featured!

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

SA Blog Awards 2010 organisers’ response to criticism poor!

Despite posting an invitation via Twitter to the SA Blog Awards organising committee of JP Naude, Dave Duarte and Chris Rawlinson to respond to our criticism of the SA Blog Awards 2010, we received nothing more than a not-so-understandable Direct Message on Twitter from Chris Rawlinson: “I think if you had taken a few mins to call me you may have most of what you said is simply not true. Hope all well. Chris”

In addition, the organising committee posted a response, two days after our blog post appeared, to the criticism documented not only on our blog, but also written by many other bloggers (see via a Google search), on their website www.sablogawards.com, in the News section, and not on their Home Page, where it should have been featured.  Massive criticism of the Awards organisation also swamped Twitter on Sunday!  One would have thought that the organisers would have sent the response to the criticism to each of the nominees by e-mail, to win their favour for the 2011 Awards!

The following issues raised have not been addressed in the reply of the Organising Committee:

1.   The change in rules in the Awards competition over the two month period

2.   The exclusion from the Awards dinner for the Top 10 finalists, originally indicated to be open to all

3.   Voting at nomination stage

4.   Organisers’ names not revealed

5.   Judges names not revealed, and questionable capabilities of some judges, in not being bloggers

6.   Poor standard of organisation generally

7.   No communication about the rules to those that entered

8.   Massive changes between the 2009 and 2010 competition procedure, categories, prizes and dinner inclusion/exclusion

9.  Sponsorship of some categories, but not all

10.   Role of Afrigator

11.   The controversial choice of www.watkykjy.co.za as Best Blog in South Africa.

12.  Not mentioned previously is the male dominance of the organising committee (3 males), executive judges (5 males) and judges (48 of the 64 were male).  I would like to predict that there are more female than male bloggers, and therefore they may not have been able to appreciate the female touch.  We suggest a more balanced gender distribution for 2011!   From what I could see at the Vista Bar, there were definitely more male than female winners.

We are delighted to read that each of the Top 10 finalists in each category will receive a ‘digital badge’ to feature on their blogs.   We also acknowledge their salute to bloggers and the great work that they do, and the thanks expressed to all participants.  

What is really obvious from the reply is that traditional media such as PR featured more strongly than social media in marketing the SA Blog Awards, an absolute contradiction, given that blogging is the foundation of social media marketing.  The Twitter presence was poor, and the SA Blog Awards should have had a blog!

This is the official response from the SA Blog Awards to criticism received:

“On behalf of the SA Blog Awards we would like to thank all of the participants who contributed this year. These include the public, the nominees, the South African Bloggers and the judges. A special thanks to News 24, our other sponsors and suppliers and partners, without who the awards would not have been possible.

A tremendous effort was made this year to move the SA Blog Awards to a new level. We feel that this has been accomplished. Where there are a few criticisms in the blogging industry, we welcome these and will look to learn from those that are factually correct. In addition we will shortly be implementing our review process, which we hope all will participate in.
 

The SA Blog Awards has been run by volunteers and goodwill up to now and the time and effort has been quite taxing. The new CEO, JP Naude, stepped in after a casual conversations with Chris Rawlinson and Dave Duarte, and recognising the potential of the SA Blog Awards began implementing new support structures, media policies and other processes on a very short notice, and as such was still saddled with some systems which had been in place in the previous years. JP is well aware of the current flaws and has already, in a very short time added enormous additional value. JP immediately recognised that the first priority was to re-establish the credibility and integrity of the SA Blog Awards.
 

Contrary to what has been written in the public space regarding the nomination, registration and voting phases. (sic) We made every effort to notify bloggers to register; we did this via the Afrigator database, email, twitter and notifications on our site. In addition we notified former voters of the nomination phase. During the nomination phase, the public vote phase and the judging phase we continually asked for nominees to register their contact details with us. After all phases had closed we still continued asking nominees to register their contact details. To date we are still struggling to get final correct details, in some cases nominees entered incorrect email addresses. During this process we manually went to the blogs and looked for contact details or mailed them from their site requesting details. Where we had contact details we used them to the best of our ability.
 

When we talk about moving the blog awards up to a new level, we mean an improved voting process, more awareness for the bloggers of South Africa, better criteria for the judges to understand, and ensuring an equal platform for all nominees. All of these were done, but will again be reviewed in order to find the best possible formula. 
 

We asked judges which were subject related to the category to judge. This means the category was judged by an expert in the subject matter of that category which hopefully will assist the bloggers with better recognition, should they choose to seek endorsements or financial support for their blog.
 

This year the SA Blog Awards was supported by News24 who have applied their online support for the bloggers. In addition the SA Blog Awards radio partner, Good Hope FM, supplied radio coverage pre -and post the event. Further has been garnered from the SABC News, SAFM, Cape Talk, 702, eTV News, The Digital Edge and several other online publications. All this was for the first time arranged with the kind support of Atmosphere PR, which added a much more professional dimension than in previous years.
 

As a sponsor and supplier to the SA Blog Awards, Ogilvy Cape Town added their support with additional fun and creativity using a digital photographic concept on the night. These social media pictures have been published and will surely bring enjoyment to all bloggers and other viewers.
 

Our emphasis this year was on the readers of the blogs, with the judges in place to act as the guardians of the categories. We believe the readers of the blogs are of great importance and as such gave them a greater say in the voting process. The public vote counted for 70% and the judges vote 30%. This led us to the 24 hr voting system. This system allowed for blogs with regular readers to show their appreciation, and as such the blogs which have a loyal regular following rose to the top. Falling in line with our policy to continue striving for a better formula this process will be reviewed.
 

We increased the number of active voters in excess of 300% from 2009 to 2010.
 

Our judges were given several criteria to look at, these included, Design, Content Quality, Reader Engagement, Relevance to the category, and Overall Experience. These are factors that we believe make a good blog and bring the reader to the forefront. A factor we believe the judges must prioritise during scoring.
 

Finally we asked an executive judging panel to look at the winners of each category in order to determine an overall winner. The Executive Judging panel then scored the top three blogs they thought were most deserving.  These scores were compiled and an end result calculated to indicate the final overall winner. The results were conclusive.
 

The night itself was an overwhelming success bar one or two glitches. The night was invite only, this meant we arranged an event which was limited in numbers, however free to the nominees and invited guests. The venue, The One & Only, we believe was befitting the stature of the event and was appropriate considering that we were recognising the best bloggers in South Africa. Furthermore the night was well arranged, sound was excellent, light, and multimedia quality was good. In addition, our MC Mumzy was also exceptional.  We would have loved to have all top ten nominees at the awards, but during the 2010 stage this was just not logistically or financially feasible.
 

In terms of prizes we have had queries on several fronts, many say prizes are not necessary and that the prize is the prestige of winning, some say there should be financial incentives. Again we will engage our audience and ask the question.  Which do they prefer? Our overall winner received an iPad from News 24, a Black Berry from Vodacom and vouchers from, Rocket seed, Sunglass Hut and Obox. In addition we commissioned a fantastic glass sculpture as the overall award, again a step up from years before.
 

The category winners each received a glass award engraved with the details of that category as well as the aforementioned vouchers. Each top ten finalist will still receive a digital  badge to showcase on their blog, with category winners, and the overall winner receiving relevant winners badges.
 
Finally we engaged local computer wholesaler Infinitix to supply us with PC equipment for a charity of our choosing. We chose the community centre in Bridgetown. This community is plagued by violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and several other social evils. Marlon Parker from Rlabs is involved with this community centre, and they have made a significant improvement in changing the lives of many within this community using social media. We trust that the PC equipment we handover to Marlon will help him with his continued effort to use social media to better the lives of those suffering under the hardships they live in.


We once again urge the bloggers of South Africa to stand by the SA Blog Awards and work towards improving the process together with us. The respect of the blogging community lies in the hands of the bloggers.


At the SA Blog Awards we will continue to seek, recognise and reward the best bloggers in South Africa. Our work is however not finished. We will keep the pulse of the SA Blog Awards alive in South Africa constantly.


Once again congratulations to the bloggers of South Africa whether good or bad, big or small, we are proud of the fact that you are blogging. You are the new voice of society”. 

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

SA Blog Awards 2010 have devalued SA blogging!

The SA Blog Awards is a good idea, and can be a good measurement of success and performance in a field that bloggers were never trained for, by raising the standard of blogging in Southern Africa.   It is a shame that the 2010 SA Blog Awards were so poorly organised, and that it has been dogged by controversy.  At the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting earlier this week, long-standing blogger Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog said that the controversy surrounding the SA Blog Awards had devalued blogging, instead of enhancing it!

Ever since the SA Blog Awards were announced on Twitter about 2 months ago, they have been criticised for their change in procedure compared to previous years.  When the shortlist of 10 finalists for each of the 24 blog categories was announced on 1 September, there was even more criticism and very bitchy commenting by those that did not make the top 10 list in their category, and by those who disparaged others by questioning why some bloggers had made the Top 10 list in specific categories.  When the top two winners per category were announced, and most Top 10 short-listed bloggers were excluded from the Awards Dinner at the One&Only Cape Town last night, the knives really came out, and the organisation of the SA Blog Awards was severely criticised.

Guest of Honour Western Cape Premier Helen Zille spoke at the Awards evening about how “bloggers are the new voice of society” and how blogs “link the local with the big picture”.  The premier, no slouch herself on the social media scene with around 115 000 Facebook friends and one of country’s first verified Twitter accounts, said that digital communications were a “force for entrenching democracy”.  “Everything breaks immediately and is commented on and analysed before it hits the press… it’s a problem for newspapers and I wouldn’t want to be a newspaper editor in this day. It’s made it more difficult to control what information is transmitted”, reports Memeburn, one of the award-winning blogs.

So what were the complaints?:

1.  The announcement of the call for nominations of the SA Blog Awards was on Twitter only.   If one was not on Twitter, or did not follow SA Blog Awards on Twitter, one would not have known about the Awards, or may have been delayed in participating, in seeing Tweets by others about the call for nominations.

2.  The rules of the Awards seemed to have been made up as they went along – the fact that voting was encouraged at Nomination stage already was not clear, and irritated Twitterers, in that they were bombarded with Nomination vote requests.  The process of nomination was also not clear, with a message popping up, telling one that one could not nominate a blog more than twice on the same e-mail address. 

3.  The organisers of the SA Blog Awards were not identified on the SA Blog Awards website, and via Tweets one could put together the information that 2009 Blog winner in the Business category (Dave Duarte) and Chris Rawlinson, winner in the Marketing category, had got together with JP Naude (an infrequent blogger, by his own admission on his site: “Yes I don’t blog much… I’m a businessman and radio presenter” – prior to this mini-blog post earlier this month, JP had last blogged in May! He is a presenter on Good Hope FM) as Chairman of the SA Blog Awards. I met JP at the Vista Bar after the Blog Awards presentation, and he told me that his company organised the SA Blog Awards.  I was shocked when I saw a comment on the shortlisted Bangers and Nash blog, written by SA Blog Awards committee member Chris Rawlinson a few months ago, congratulating Dan Nash on his blog, and stating that a good blog should carry the f-word at least once a day!   So much for the quality of the judges!  (I did get to meet Dan Nash at the Vista Bar, having had dinner at Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town, and he was very generous in handing out tequila).

4.  When the top 10 shortlist was announced per category, the list was on the SA Blog Awards website, and top 10 finalists were only notified by e-mail the following day.  At no stage was an e-mail with the rules ever sent to all nominees.   One had to find information on the website, and this seemed to be amended as the SA Blog Awards progressed.

5.  Previous participants were shocked as to who made the top 10 shortlist, especially those that had won in previous years.  In the Food & Wine Blog category, for example, eight out of ten 2009 finalists did not make it in 2010.  The Relax-with-Dax, Scrumptious, Spit or Swallow, Rossouw’s Restaurants and Neil Pendock’s blogs all fell out of this category, with only the My Easy Cooking and Cooksister Blogs making the 2010 shortlist again.   Relax-with-Dax and Spit or Swallow did make the Microblogging/Twitter shortlist, however, a surprise to them too.

6.   As the SA Blog Awards developed, more and more sponsors were announced for the categories, but not all categories were sponsored (e.g. our Whale Cottage Blog made the shortlist in the Most Controversial Blog category, which did not attract a sponsor!)   In 2009, the ‘old hands’ and finalists tell me, they all went home with prizes.  It appears that despite sponsors coming on board, the category prizes were a little perspex obelisk with the SA Blog Awards logo on it.  This gives little incentive to enter the Awards competition in 2011.   Sponsors’ monies appear to have been used to pay for the dinner, and to compensate JP Naude’s company for organising the Awards.

7.   The highlight for the 2009 finalists was the SA Blog Awards dinner, I have been told, even if the bloggers did not win.  It was a great networking platform, and an honour to have attended.  In pre-announcing the top 2 out of the top 10 of each category this year, the Awards dinner was reduced to about 50 finalists, and only those got to attend the dinner – in the last minute the rules were changed, in that the SA Blog Awards website announced that the dinner was ‘by invitation only’.  Initially the Awards dinner date was set for yesterday (over a long weekend!), leading one to assume that all top 10 finalists would be invited to attend it.

8.  The voting phase for each category spanned about two weeks, and one felt like an Idols’ finalist, begging for votes on one’s blog and on Twitter.   I think that the more the finalists begged, the fewer votes they received.  One was allowed to vote once a day per valid e-mail address one has.  So, for example, someone with 10 e-mail addresses could cast 10 votes daily!   The actual weighting of votes by ‘fans’ and the judges evaluation was only recently stated as being 30 % of the vote by the judges, and 70 % from the public.  The judges per category were also not all announced – on one specific day the judges of some of the 24 categories were named on Twitter, and some judges also proudly tweeted that they were judging blogs (e.g. Jo-Ann Strauss, Sam Wilson and her husband Andreas Späth).  We never got to hear the names of the judge(s) of the Most Controversial Blog category, for example.  Mention was also made that blog ranking statistics would be taken into consideration as well, being Afrigator specifically, a site that frequently goes down.  The question was raised as to the effect it would have on one’s standing if one was not registered on this ranking site.  Oddly, few of the top-ranked Afrigator blogs were in the finals.  It is clear that the larger the number of readers of one’s Blog, and the greater the Twitter following, the higher one’s votes would have been likely to be.   The top first and second winners per category were notified by e-mail that they had made it, and they were listed on the website too.  The remaining 8 finalists per category were not notified by the organisers, and were only told that if they did NOT receive an e-mail, they would know that they had not made it as number 1 or 2!   This was the rudest aspect of the SA Blog Awards organisation, in my opinion.  Many Blog finalists had put in a lot of effort to encourage voting, and thereby had publicised the Awards on behalf of the organisers, who had created little publicity for the event themselves!  No thanks was received for one’s participation.

Despite all of the above, we are proud that we made it to the Top 10 finalist stage in our category, and that we learnt from participation for the first time.  We trust that the organisers of the 2010 SA Blog Awards will accept this feedback and will improve the organisation and credibility of it, to ensure that they have quality participants in 2011!

The overall winner of the SA Blog Awards was a big surprise, being www.watkykjy.co.za, a provocative proudly-Afrikaans on-the-edge blog, that claims to receive 180000 ‘visits’ per month, and describes itself as “Die beste Afrikaanse blog en website in die heelal”!  In the past the Award has been won by www.2Oceansvibe.co.za every year that editor Seth Rotherham (Will Mellor) has entered the Awards.  Rotherham/Mellor did not even bother to attend, being in the Karoo over the weekend, and sent a message to the organisers that this was the last SA Blog Awards competition he had entered.   (Most non-Cape Town top 2 finalists per category did not attend, yet the writer of www.indieberries.blogspot.com travelled all the way from South Korea to pick up her two category wins).

The winners in the 24 categories, announced last night, are as follows (congratulations to them all):

Best Entertainment Blog:  www.2oceansvibe.co.za (ranks 3rd on Afrigator)

Best Media & Marketing Blog:  www.cherryflava.com

Best Post on a SA Blog: www.brainwavez.org/screen/film/features/2009/20091001001-01.html

Best Overseas Blog: www.pharside.co.uk

Best TV Radio Blog: www.ecr.co.za/kagiso/content/en/east-coast-radio/east-coast-radio-blogs-breakfast

Best Politics Blog: www.wonkie.com (ranks 10th on Afrigator)

Best Photographic Blog: www.guywithcamera.co.za (Andrew Brauteseth)

Best New Blog: www.simply-delicious.co.za

Best Food & Wine Blog: www.simply-delicious.co.za

Best Science and Technology Blog: www.shesthegeek.co.za

Best Music Blog: www.dontparty.co.za

Best Fashion Blog: www.kimgray.co.za

Best Design Blog: www.indieberries.blogspot.com

Best Podcast/Video Blog: www.zanews.co.za

Best Business Blog:  www.memeburn.com

Best Group Blog: www.rlabs.org

Best Sport Blog: www.paddlesweep.net

Best Green Blog:  www.sprig.co.za

Best Indigenous Language Blog: www.watkykjy.co.za (7th on Afrigator) 

Most Controversial Blog: www.2oceansvibe.co.za

Best Travel Blog: www.getaway.co.za/page/blog

Best Personal Blog: www.indieberries.blogspot.com

Best Parenting Blog: www.reluctantmom.wordpress.com

Best Twitter Blog: www.twitter.com/mandyjwatson

Best Company Blog: www.rlabs.org

The SA Blog Awards website states that “integrity and credibility of the SA Blog Awards is our highest priority”.  It also states that the organisers would look for a ‘balance between the public voting system and the judge’s choice of winners’, to allow a free and fair selection of winners.  Many participants of this year’s Awards will agree that this was not the case!  

POSTSCRIPT 27/9:  The response to this blogpost has been phenomenal, with more than 850 readers in the first 21 hours of publishing it, and an incredible number of Twitter Retweets, many containing compliments, throughout the day yesterday.  Twitter is normally very quiet on a Sunday, especially over a long weekend.   The link to this post was sent to the organising committee of JP Naude, Chris Rawlinson and Dave Duarte, with no response to date. 

If one googles ‘SA Blog Awards’, one can read many blogposts written in the past two months, criticising various aspects of the SA Blog Awards.

The list of judges per category, with many typing errors, was recently added to the SA Blog Awards website, it would appear.  It is funny to see Randall Abrams listed as a judge for the Most Controversial Blog category – did I not write above that we felt like Idol’s finalists??!!  The other judge for the category was listed as ‘Ivor Vector’, but this name does not exist on a Google search.  However, Ivo Vegtor says he was invited to be a judge, but decided not to.  Randall Abrams has no blog, nor has Graham Howe, one of two judges in the Food & Wine Blog.  As far as judging goes, read the Comments section to this blogpost about what happened to Chris, the writer of iMod, the top ranked blog on Afrigator.  The list of judges for all the categories:  http://www.sablogawards.com/Judge3.aspx

Chris von Ulmenstein: Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Restaurant Reviewer receives harsh ‘reviews’ about restaurant review

Rossouw’s Restaurants is South Africa’s only restaurant guide (Eat Out may have more glitz and glamour, but it does not come close to this ‘Platter’ equivalent to restaurants), and its owner JP Rossouw has established himself as a credible source of restaurant information, despite one not actually knowing what credentials Rossouw has to be a restaurant critic.  That credibility has now been questioned, with readers of his largely negative review of the new La Mouette restaurant in Sea Point grilling (pardon the pun!) Rossouw on his use of other reviewers, yet marking them with his initials, as if he had written the review himself.

Whilst knowledgeable about wines, and earning a living from them, in that he often wrote about wine in the Cape Times, is said to compile restaurant winelists, and consults to restaurants about wines, Rossouw commendably has been focused on only writing about restaurants in his blog (even though he does not know the difference between a blog, a blog post and a website) and in his annually updated Rossouws’ Restaurants hard copy guide.   Confusingly the book may contain some reviews that his blog does not, and vice versa.

On Friday, after publishing his very critical review of La Mouette, the first critical commenter “Eric” lashed out at Rossouw for his review: “Phew JP, you were mean! This review is so out of character for you – long, nitpicking, nasty, disparaging. You must have been having a bad day before you went for lunch to La Mouette. I hope you go back to get with the programme”.  This was followed by a further critical comment by “Cormac” (someone using the name of Portofino Cormac Keane, or the man himself?) “I am also quite surprised reading your review, it is unduly harsh for a restaurant that has been open for two weeks. I have eaten there twice and found the food to be very good, and I am not easily pleased”.

Rossouw’s loyal fans “Bazil” – could he be a Rossouw reviewer, the same Bazil that is a ‘Food Fanatic’ on Eat Out’s restaurant review panel, who lists La Mouette as one of the restaurants that he has reviewed, and who wrote in his 2 May Eat Out “review” that he had been to the “new and officially not open” La Mouette? – (and likens Rossouw to AA Gill, the “revered and feared London food critic”!) and “Michael” quickly jumped to Rossouws’ defence, and a spat developed, which led to the closing of the Comments section of the restaurant review, an unprecedented move.  Rossouw later explained that he felt that comments had become personal between commenters, and removed the offensive comments. When this writer had exposed Carne in not being truthful about its “organic meat” and Karoo origin claims, Rossouw allowed commenters to attack the comment writer without censorship.  This was picked up by one of the commenters and questioned.

Impatiently wanting to get her point of view across, and reacting to Rossouw’s comment censorship, “Sisteranna” used another restaurant’s comment box to give Rossouw a most articulate piece of her mind, questioning:

1.   Rossouw’s censorship and deletion of comments

2.   The cowardice of commenters in using pseudonyms

3.   Writing restaurant reviews after one visit only

4.   The credibility of reviews published with Rossouw’s initials JPR but not written by himself :”I am afraid thie (sic) entire state of affairs has cast serious doubt in my mind as to the integrity and veracity of any reviews published here”.

Every time she wrote a comment, Rossouw wrote back, and he clearly started tripping over his words, in that he had to admit that he had sent another reviewer to review the restaurant.  Here things become a little hazy, especially as Rossouw had removed a response by him, in which he had admitted to “Cormac” that he himself had not been to the restaurant, but that his reviewer had written the review.  He added that what was posted was far less harsh than how the reviewer had written it, implying that he had edited it to tone it down (one questions why the ‘truth’ should not have prevailed, given that it was a pretty harsh review anyway).  

When he was challenged about not writing all reviews himself by the commenters and on Twitter, he changed his tune, and implied (in a fudgy sort of way), that he had first sent a reviewer, and then had gone to the restaurant himself to review it.   However, observing this as a regular Rossouw’s Restaurants blog reader, it is quite out of character for Rossouw to review a restaurant within 2 weeks of it opening.  In the past Rossouw has been surprisingly slow on restaurant opening and closure news, and reviews of new restaurants.  Many reviewers will give a new restaurant some time to settle in before they attempt a first review, and one saw Rossouw’s time delay in the past to be for this reason. 

Then he tripped himself up by stating that his reviewer had been to the restaurant for dinner, yet he quoted lunch prices (La Mouette has different prices for its dishes for lunch and dinner).  Had Rossouw been at the restaurant himself, he would have known about the price difference.   Rossouw claims his reviews are independent, paid for and unannounced, which is how it should be, but he his well known to established restaurateurs.  Restaurants would pull out all the stops were they to see him arrive.   One wonders how he deals with the “independence” issue if he is paid by restaurants to consult to them about their wines.

Rossouw further claimed that he had written the review himself.  However, it was unusually long, and very critical, especially about the wine prices, and this again is out of character with Rossouw’s “Mr Nice Guy” image, according to “Eric”.  Rossouw normally only writes three paragraphs or so, and often one has been frustrated that he has not been critical enough, but he clearly does not want to offend restaurants (generally).  Rossouw replied to “Sisteranna”: “Where I do use a team is for the reviews that appear in the printed guide.  …. the blog and the book are separate but are linked”.   Does this mean that Rossouw will publish the review in his 2011 printed guide?  He continued: “All blog reviews on this website are written by me and only after a meal which I pay for”, contradicting himself again.

One of the commenters has told me that his comment was edited by Rossouw before being posted, to make himself look good and the commenter look apologetic, which was not what he had intended.

Many of the 33 comments to date (as at 10h00 this morning) are the diatribe between Rossouw and the tenacious “Sisteranna”, who, when challenged, revealed her identity as Sonia Cabano.  A Google search identified her as a chef (who trained in London, at Kensington Place amongst others, where La Mouette chef Henry Vigar was the head chef until a few months ago), cookery book writer (KOMBUIS) and as having presented cooking programmes on kykNET and SABC3, a lady who clearly knows what she is talking about.  She is persistent in her questioning of Rossouw’s inconsistencies in his comments, and subsequent responses. 

In having created a stimulating debate and raised a few laughs, the La Mouette review and the comments received have raised important ethical and procedural issues about restaurant reviews.

Rossouw’s review and all the comments can be read here.   Read our review of La Mouette here.

POSTSCRIPT: JP Rossouw has written a very calm and reasoned response to this post on his website.

POSTSCRIPT 8 JUNE: In response to a request by JP Rossouw to “correct” my blog post, I replied to him on Friday 4 June, and asked him to meet with me, to tell me the whole story and to show me the two La Mouette invoices for the meal for himself and for his reviewer, to prove that both of them ate at the restaurant.   He has not replied to this invitation to date.   We also note that Rossouw has edited some of his comments on his website relating to this issue, to emphasise that he and another reviewer went to the restaurant on separate occasions, telling a different story to the way he originally told it via his responses to comments to his blog post.

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