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Chicago Chef Fights Back Against "Carpet Bombing" and Negative Facebook Group

From EATER.COM: A diner who recently visited restaurant Graham Elliot in Chicago was left disappointed, and did what people on the internet sometimes do: he voiced his displeasure by "carpet bombing" multiple websites (specifically Yelp, Time Out Chicago, Trip Advisor, and Zagat) with a lengthy, negative review, and then emailed chef/proprietor Graham Elliot Bowles asking for a 50% refund.

Bowles did not play along, however, and responded via email: "I'd say you could go "F'" yourself, but I'm a nice guy, so let's just call it even." (The full email exchange is below.) In response, the diner created the Facebook group "Chicagoans Against Graham Elliot" that, at the time of this writing, has only five members. It also featured the above art.

Contacted for comment, chef Bowles had a lot to say in regards to diners' expectations, the relationship between restaurant and guest, and what protocol should be followed to appease unhappy diners, which we happily reprint in full:

First, let me say that I am not a believer in the idea that the customer is always right. I feel there should be more of a focus on the "relationship" between restaurant and guest. You are coming to my house for dinner, and my team and I will do everything we can to show you a good time by doing what we do best.

Sometimes what we do isn't what the guest is looking for, and I'm totally cool with that as we can't be all things to all people. We generally will be the ones to break-up with the guest first, letting them know it's us, not them. We mention that we will be happy to call and make a reso for them at a restaurant that might be better suited to their needs.

These things happen...But when you've done your research, made a reservation, entered the restaurant, read then menu, placed your order, consumed your food & drinks, and told the manager and server that "everything is fine"...well then that's where things start to get shady.

By leaving the restaurant and immediately taking the passive-aggressive road by posting a shit ass review online, then telling me to pay him back half of his meal, I felt the guest was trying to scare me into paying him off in hopes that he wouldn't say anything else that could "hurt our reputation". It's not like we haven't had people criticize us before, but this gentlemen incorrectly described each and every dish he complained about (which led me to believe, like Donnie in the Big Lebowski, he was out of his fucking element).

Perhaps in a hotel or corporate environment, the protocol would be to give in, invite them back, comp their bill, offer them a handjob, so forth and so on. It's for this very reason that I left the hotel world to do my own thing. I think as more and more Chefs open their own restaurants and do their own PR work (via Twitter, Facebook, etc) this will be a more common occurrence, and hopefully it will level out the playing field and make those who hide behind their computers realize that we won't take their shit lying down.

— Graham Elliot Bowles


The original email to Graham Elliot Bowles:

Hello,

Please find below my review submitted to Yelp, TimeOut Chicago, TripAdvisor, and Zagat. Overall, it was a very disappointing experience. I would like to have a 50% refund.

Thanks,

[NAME REDACTED]

We visited Graham Elliott at the suggestion of my fiancee. We entered the restaurant and were greeted at the host stand in a rather curt manner. They asked us to leave by 7 PM because they had a reserved guest coming.

The prices are extraordinarily high, even for Chicago. We ordered Foie Gras mousse lollipops coated in PopRocks. I would have preferred the Pop Rocks alone as the Foie Gras mouse was overly salty, drowning out the flavor. We received about a tablespoon worth of Foie Gras mousse for $5. Hardly worth the price.

We then ordered the beef carpaccio appetizer. We received four cracker sized slices of overly fatty beef sliced as thin as supermarket luncheon meat. Underneath the meat was a luke warm stick of cream cheese. This was $10.

We then received the pan seared scallops costing $10. We received two scallops in an orange glaze. While good, $5 per scallop was a bit ridiculous given the relatively simple presentation. By comparison, Morton's provides $10 scallops wrapped in bacon for $15.

We then shared an entree, selecting the Halibut for $31. We received a piece of halibut that was 2 inches by 2 inches square and undercooked! It came with no sides other than the green puree the halibut sat on top of on the plate.

We then ordered two desserts at $10 each. We ordered a strawberry sponge cake and a pineapple upside down cake with mango sorbet. The strawberry dessert was once a cake. It looked like someone gave us three crumbles of an angel food cake left over from lunch with gave us two peeled strawberries cut in half with some cool whip. Hardly worth $10. The pineapple dessert was chunks of vanilla marinated pineapple chunks that looked like came out of a Dole can. The cake accompanying the pineapple tasted like a left of McMuffin.

When the check came, I found out that the two four ounce portions of Coke cost me $3 each, with NO FREE REFILLS! Coke costs 10 cents. Therefore, between my fiancee and I, the restaurant received a $8.70!

Overall the experience was REALLY souring. We were so hungry that we actually went to the local Whole Foods Market and filled up on two slices of Pizza and two miniature Cheesecakes all for $15 after spending $122 for what was supposed to be DINNER and not an evening snack.

If you are in the area, try Carmine's Italian or for Cuisine similar to Graham Elliot, Roy's Hawaiian Fusion. RHF offers triple the size portions at 2/3 the price!


Graham Elliot Bowles' email response to the diner:

Is this a joke? I think I will post onto Yelp, TimeOut Chicago, TripAdvisdor and Zagat as well, announcing how much of an amateur you are. What with your name dropping Morton's, splitting an entree and complaining about dishes you clearly have no understanding about. As for the 50% refund, I'd say you could go "F'" yourself, but I'm a nice guy, so let's just call it even. Next time you come in, we'll charge you double.

Later, Bowles was amused, tweeting: "I luv it! Facebook page called 'Chicagoans Against Graham Elliot' created by someone who didn't like my response to his Yelp post. Bring it!"

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