It’s 2013: at this point, the idea that the Internet is a double-edged sword should be a truism, not a novel observation. But Adam Liaw’s latest column for the Wall Street Journal proposes just that, noting that the transformation of chefs into public figures started by tell-all memoirs and catalyzed by social networks like Twitter threatens to upset the delicate word-of-mouth equilibrium whereby restaurants rely on their reputation to survive.
Liaw argues that even though chefs can use Twitter to promote their own work and craft a public persona—a development the WSJ hyped just two years ago—they can also use it to share less savory sides of themselves, like “knee-jerk reactions to criticism, sexist and demeaning observations of staff and customers, or scatological and unhygienic descriptions of the minutiae of a life on the pans.”
All of this is true enough, but Liaw steps into shakier ground when he hypothesizes that diners may factor chefs’ more embarrassing social media moments into account when they’re deciding where to make their next reservation. If the twenty-first century has seen the rise of the chef-celebrity, then it seems logical to look to other celebrities for a model of how Twitter gaffes affect a public figure’s image in the long run.
Diners are adults; we’re more than capable of separating the personal failings of whoever’s preparing our food from how the product actually tastes, particularly when it’s highly unlikely the celebrity chef in question made our meal themselves.
And the evidence seems to indicate that social media notoriety doesn’t put too much of a dent in celebrities’ career; if anything, the extra publicity helps them. Just because we know Alec Baldwin’s something of a homophobic ass doesn’t mean we won’t laugh at 30 Rock, and Azealia Banks’s ecstatic Glastonbury crowd didn’t seem too worried about her public beefs with Angel Haze, Baauer, and, um, everyone else in the music industry.
Besides, diners are adults; we’re more than capable of separating the personal failings of whoever’s preparing our food from how the product actually tastes, particularly when it’s highly unlikely the celebrity chef in question made our meal themselves. We live in an America where a guy who sent dick pics to strange women on the Internet is a frontrunner to become mayor of New York.
At the end of the day, tweeting chefs are probably safe (in fact, Bloomberg critic Ryan Sutton doesn’t think they’re being outspoken enough). Of course those in the industry should be careful what they post for thousands of readers to see, but that goes for literally anyone with a Facebook/Twitter/blog, not just chefs.