One picture has many in the food world buzzing and taking sides. S. Irene Virbila, the venerable restaurant critic at the L.A. Times for the last 16 years, visited the Red Medicine restaurant in Beverly Hills this week, only to have her party turned away and her picture taken by the restaurant’s managing partner, Noah Ellis.
Virbila booked reservations under another name, as she often does when reviewing restaurants, and arrived promptly for her reservation.
They waited for more than 40 minutes before Ellis and his partners decided to turn her away, but not before snapping a photo of her.
She asked him to delete the photo but Ellis declined and asked Virbila and her party to leave.
According to the paper, Ellis posted the picture on the restaurant’s Tumblr site, explaining that “she was not welcome there.”
Ellis said he posted the picture because he wanted to take away Virbila’s anonymity and he didn’t like her reviews. “Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her. We find that some of her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs,” he said.
Virbila contacted her editor after the incident and was upset by it, saying she “felt violated to have her picture taken without her permission.”
But L.A. Times Food editor Russ Parsons said she was mainly upset about the fact that her identity was released, unwillingly. “She was upset because she has worked extremely hard for more than 15 years to maintain her anonymity in the Los Angeles restaurant scene,” Parsons said.
Many restaurateurs and other food critics have weighed in on the incident, including chef Michael Mina, who employed Ellis at several restaurants.
“Is he out of his mind? I think that’s crazy,” Mina said.
Michael Bauer also weighed in saying the whole scene “sounds very stupid.”
”I think it’s very short-sighted,” he told the Times. “If it was a good restaurant, they wouldn’t be afraid.”
SFoodie, the food blog for the SF Weekly went a step further with this harsh comment… “The forced outing of the L.A. Times restaurant critic is a form of rape.”
There was plenty of criticism of the use of the word rape and SFoodie Editor John Birdsall apologized for that description, changing the wording to “violent assault.”
Parsons said the paper has no plans on changing the way they do restaurant reviews.
Click here for the full L.A. Times article.
Photo Credit: Red Medicine website: www.redmedicinela.com