Following the decision by chef Izu Ani to ban Samantha Wood, Foodiva blogger, from his restaurants following a negative review of recently opened Gaia, Wood has responded to defend her impartiality.
In an email to Caterer Middle East, Wood set out what she said were a number of factual inaccuracies in Ani’s comments and outlined why she felt the review, by guest contributor Matt Broderick, was an “honest portrayal of the dining experience”.
Wood stated that she is an admirer of many of Ani’s restaurants, and that the negative review was not related to his decision to not work with Wood on her Dine Around Dubai experience with Carine.
The statement from Wood in full: “I have no issue if Izu wants to ban me from his restaurant. However, I would like to set the record straight on Foodiva’s editorial policy and a number of factually incorrect statements he has made.
“Foodiva’s restaurant reviews since its inception over seven years ago abide by our no freebies, anonymous editorial policy http://www.foodiva.net/editorial-policy/ My guest reviewers and I do not accept invitations in return for reviews. I knew I would be recognised at Gaia, which would not have allowed for an honest portrayal of the dining experience, so I commissioned regular guest contributor Matt Broderick to review. His review shares negative yet objective and constructive feedback of his experience, as well as a number of positives. The fact that some of the dishes were comped shows that the team realised the experience was not up to scratch. My role as an editor is to make minor style edits if required without altering any of the facts. When I published the review on my social media channels, I highlighted the challenge of publishing this particular review: 'It pains me to publish this review of Gaia from guest contributor Matt Broderick because 1) I am proud of my Greek-Cypriot blood, and 2) I (and my guest reviewers) are fans of chef Izu’s concepts. Anyway, impartiality is what I thrive on, and honest feedback is essential for this industry to mature. I had best let you read it.'
“Izu thanked both Matt and I for his review on Instagram, and Izu and I even shared some banter in the comments. As with any review, many people agreed with Matt’s experience, and some disagreed. Izu was gracious with all the commentary.
“It is disappointing that Izu believes food writers such as I don’t matter. This is not the attitude he took when my guest reviewers and I favourably rated Carine, Izu Brasserie, Lighthouse and La Serre over the last seven years. In fact Lighthouse is even included in my most recent annual guide of favourite restaurants in Dubai.
“In your article, Izu claims that I said "oh he didn’t do a soft opening", but I never said or wrote anything like that, so am not sure what he is implying.
“As for my dine around experiences, this is a commercial part of my business that I have organised for four years. In fact, I featured Izu and La Serre on one of the earlier itineraries. I did approach Izu and his team to include Carine earlier this year after it opened, but through his PR they declined. Our correspondence was very gracious and I certainly did not offer to pay a fee to include Carine. This review has nothing to do with the possibility of inclusion in a dine around. In fact, I was recently asked to recommend restaurant managers for a new venture of Izu’s, and he subsequently interviewed a number of candidates on my recommendation. I saw him at an industry event at Carine at the end of October where we had a friendly chat, so in light of all of the above, I am at a loss as to why he deems this review ‘personal.’ In my opinion, the only thing that is personal is his reaction to this review.
“As I have expressed on a number of comments on social media, Izu is a talented chef so I wish him and his ventures every success. I do have one question for him before I sign off, would he please clarify if the ban applies to solely Gaia, or his other restaurants where I am a regular customer, like Lighthouse?”