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Josh Ozersky - Mr. Cutlets


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I said before that I was too busy to thumb through magazines for examples, but I came across one by chance last night.

 

Alan Richman, for GQ magazine, traveling the country to examine "ethical" foods. He raves about the produce at Satur Farms, is cooked an ethical fish dinner by Le Bernardin, and so on and on.

 

- There is no "disclosure" in the article.

 

- Clearly he wasn't anonymous; the article is good publicity for the growers and chefs involved.

 

- Richman may have paid his own way at every stage and been reimbursed by the magazine later.*

 

- He may well not have.

 

I know where my money is. Let me emphasize that I don't think Richman is doing anything wrong here. But this is a restaurant critic (much more so than Josh), praising food which (I assume) was provided free by individuals who (I assume) knew they would be featured in a GQ article. (Some of the chefs involved in Josh's wedding have said they did not know about the Time piece).

 

Now, we can say that a wedding is a wedding and a field trip is a field trip, and contrast the cost. But what exactly is Richman doing right here which Josh did wrong?

 

*In which case this is a bad example.

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You know those problems we all have with Josh Ozersky?   Well, Robert Sietsema has them, too.   (NB: Josh -- or whoever writes his headlines -- is now calling himself a "Food Critic". But I th

Obviously you don't but other people do. There are 29 comments on Eater, all of them negative about Ozersky.   Were you OK with Shaw writing glowing reviews of free meals and not disclosing the fa

this is fucking perfect. not the least bit surprising, but nice to see cynicism rewarded

It's a matter of intention. Richman didn't write the piece to promote Satur or LB in exchange for free fish heads. Also, you're misrepresenting what he did just a tiny bit, aren't you?

 

With a few glorious exceptions, eating ethically for a month, as I did for this month's GQ, was an exercise in frustration. One illuminating moment took place in a coffee shop in Boston: My café au lait was handed to me in a disposable take-out cup, whereas everybody else in the place was drinking coffee from genuine porcelain cups. I wanted mine in a real cup, too. Not only is there less waste, the need to wash the cup creates a job for an entry-level employee, possibly someone with a family to feed.

 

eta: surely you'll ask how I can tell what the intention is, and my answer is that like almost everyone but you and FG, I know bad intentions when I see them.

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if the chefs mentioned in the wedding piece were unaware of the article, isn't it sort of like ozersky was double dipping? he got the free food and venue and then got paid by the magazine for a less than honest recounting of how he came by all the freebies. i'd be pissed if a "friend" asked me for free services as a gift and then profited from selling the story without mentioning it to me first and then didn't quite manage to tell the whole truth about it.

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It's a matter of intention. Richman didn't write the piece to promote Satur or LB in exchange for free fish heads. Also, you're misrepresenting what he did just a tiny bit, aren't you?

 

With a few glorious exceptions, eating ethically for a month, as I did for this month's GQ, was an exercise in frustration. One illuminating moment took place in a coffee shop in Boston: My café au lait was handed to me in a disposable take-out cup, whereas everybody else in the place was drinking coffee from genuine porcelain cups. I wanted mine in a real cup, too. Not only is there less waste, the need to wash the cup creates a job for an entry-level employee, possibly someone with a family to feed.

 

eta: surely you'll ask how I can tell what the intention is, and my answer is that like almost everyone but you and FG, I know bad intentions when I see them.

 

I don't understand your point about misrepresentation.

 

One can make an assumption that Richman didn't write the piece for the road trip and Josh did write the piece to get his wedding catered. But it's just an assumption. I think it's impractical to judge ethics by what one thinks is going on inside the writer's head.

 

Can you put your finger on any actual difference in conduct here?

 

ETA: I am surprised that you recommend judging someone's ethics by their intentions rather than their actions. Speaking for myself, I've never seen an intention. I just see what people do. If there is no sharper distinction between these two pieces of journalism than what their authors were thinking about, then I rest my case. I really did think someone would come up with something more substantive.

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Yes, Josh didn't tell his editor at Time that he got $100k or more. I'm sure he knew they would never run the piece if he did.

 

Richman ate "ethically" for a month and did a heck of a lot of work on various "ethical" eating stories. He didn't just plug Satur and LB, he wrote about all these dishes:

 

1. Brioche-Crusted Walleye, Grange Kitchen & Bar, Ann Arbor, MI

2. Mitchell Davis's Homemade Shaker Lemon Pie, New York, NY

3. Winter Vegetables, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY

4. Barbara Damrosch's Chicken Dinner, Four Season Farm, Harborside, ME

5. Fluke Sashimi, Le Bernardin, New York, NY

6. Paul Ryda's Frozen Custard, Tantré Farm, Chelsea, MI

7. Mitra's Clabber-Fed Poularde and Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Evangeline, Portland, ME

8. Seared Sweet-and-Sour Berkshire Pork Belly Confit, Crabtree's Kittle House, Chappaqua, NY

9. Fried Green Tomatoes with Pepper Relish, The Pit, Raleigh, NC

10. Florida Cobia and Florida Shrimp, Michelle Bernstein's at The Omphoy, Palm Beach, FL

 

If you're seriously suggesting that he wrote about them because he was getting comped then I think the burden of fact finding is on you. What I'm seeing here are two completely different scenarios - a professional writer and critic who is writing a thematic piece vs a guy who thinks moussaka is pasta that is widely believed to work for ground meat.

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ETA: I am surprised that you recommend judging someone's ethics by their intentions rather than their actions. Speaking for myself, I've never seen an intention. I just see what people do. If there is no sharper distinction between these two pieces of journalism than what their authors were thinking about, then I rest my case. I really did think someone would come up with something more substantive.

 

Sorry, I'm not buying that position. Intentions tend to persist and hence they relate to past and future actions. If Richman has always acted with the intention of publishing subjectively truthful opinions and facts and it was discovered that he failed to tell his editors his dinner at LB was free (it being one of many, many, dinners he mentions) then I would say he probably made an honest mistake. Of course this could never be a statement of fact, but it's a reasonable assumption, and I wouldn't be significantly more skeptical of his future writings.

 

Ozersky on the other hand gives me no reason to believe this was a one time gaffe, and as you've pointed out he has experience as an editor, so he has to have known he was doing something wrong.

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I said before that I was too busy to thumb through magazines for examples, but I came across one by chance last night.

 

Alan Richman, for GQ magazine, traveling the country to examine "ethical" foods. He raves about the produce at Satur Farms, is cooked an ethical fish dinner by Le Bernardin, and so on and on.

 

- There is no "disclosure" in the article.

 

- Clearly he wasn't anonymous; the article is good publicity for the growers and chefs involved.

 

- Richman may have paid his own way at every stage and been reimbursed by the magazine later.*

 

- He may well not have.

 

I know where my money is. Let me emphasize that I don't think Richman is doing anything wrong here. But this is a restaurant critic (much more so than Josh), praising food which (I assume) was provided free by individuals who (I assume) knew they would be featured in a GQ article. (Some of the chefs involved in Josh's wedding have said they did not know about the Time piece).

 

Now, we can say that a wedding is a wedding and a field trip is a field trip, and contrast the cost. But what exactly is Richman doing right here which Josh did wrong?

 

*In which case this is a bad example.

 

Yes in this case it's a bad example. I know for a fact that he paid for one of the meals he researched as part of this article. They knew he was coming to do a piece, but there was no discussion of comps. He came, he ate, he paid. I don't know of the rest but I have no reason to assume any different.

 

I'm also with Orik on the intention thing.

 

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I am surprised that you recommend judging someone's ethics by their intentions rather than their actions.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't it worse to shoot someone deliberately than accidentally?

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Holly's question about the treatment of gifts as income remains interesting to me. While the classification of gifts is subject to a number of IRS procedures, I doubt the service would permit the restaurant to "contribute" $15,000 in services to a non 503 recipient as a de minimus gift. They certainly wouldn't allow the restaurant to deduct it if somebody wasn't reporting it as income. And, an aggregate of $250,000 from several givers to one recipient would absolutely get a second look

Based on Ozersky's description, I don't think any idividual chef breached the $15,000 barrier, but I wonder about the fair market value of getting the venue for free. That might well have been a gift above the limit.

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While I'm at it I should clarify something else too. Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet didn't approach the PR for Alain Ducasse to solicit the free meal. He was contacted by the PR people, to which he replied something like he'd love to but couldn't afford it. The PR people the invited him to the dinner. He wrote about it and was upfront that this was a freebie. There was never any ambiguity. He wrote about it with an amateurish delight, but that's sort of his gig (see name). To the best of my knowledge he's never taken -let alone asked for- another free meal since.

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While I'm at it I should clarify something else too. Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet didn't approach the PR for Alain Ducasse to solicit the free meal. He was contacted by the PR people, to which he replied something like he'd love to but couldn't afford it. The PR people the invited him to the dinner. He wrote about it and was upfront that this was a freebie. There was never any ambiguity.

Incidentally, I am occasionally offered free meals by PR—and I take them, gladly. I disclose the fact in my write-up, and people can decide for themselves if that means the review is no longer worth reading. As a percentage of the meals I write about, the comped ones are miniscule—maybe 1 percent. Nevertheless, I do this mainly for fun, and in those rare cases where someone is willing to give me fun for free, I take it.

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Nope, the vast majority of nyc restaurants (despite being 2x as expensive as they used to be) are highly accessible to any employed professional.

I do think you need to be at a pretty high end of the income chain to dine at the places Sneakeater patronizes—at least, with the frequency he does. I cannot even afford what Sneakeater does.

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I am sorry, but you are missing the point. There are people who pay employees to maintain food forums. It's not necessary, but that's how they do it. Videos of that quality can be made with inexpensive equipment, and you need one person to point the camera. It really doesn't matter if Josh has a crew of twenty. What I'm telling you is true.

But my question is about what Josh actually does, not what he could hypothetically do. If it turned out that all the production and editing were done by an unpaid sycophant, who just donates his time because he is independently wealthy, loves Josh, and has nothing else to do, then that would certainly explain it.

 

But in fact, I believe he is paying people to do this, they are not just interns, and the amount of time taken to produce them—at the pace he does—is not trivial. The videos are well above YouTube quality, both in terms of resolution and bandwidth support, and that costs money too.

 

I don't think Josh has a crew of twenty, but if he did it would certainly matter, in terms of my question, which is: how is he paying for it?

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Incidentally, I am occasionally offered free meals by PR—and I take them, gladly. I disclose the fact in my write-up, and people can decide for themselves if that means the review is no longer worth reading. As a percentage of the meals I write about, the comped ones are miniscule—maybe 1 percent. Nevertheless, I do this mainly for fun, and in those rare cases where someone is willing to give me fun for free, I take it.

 

Oakapple, I have no reason to question your ethics so I'm not going to. It's between you and your readership. As for me, the line is clear. I don't write up free meals. Ever. Period. End of discussion. The reason is more self-preservation than anything else. Not that I write about restaurants often anymore, but when I do I need the freedom to not always be complimentary. I don't want chefs to claim that I hate his/her meal because he/she made me pay for it. That would put me in a position I couldn't defend. On the rare occasions I'm comped (which is almost always because the restaurant was treating David-the-chef and not Pim-the-blogger), I don't write about it. I consider it a favor from a friend. I eat and I shut up.

 

I do go to events like F&W classic in Aspen or the Foodbuzz event Wilfrid went to as well last year. When I write about those (I don't always) I made it clear that I was a guest. When I accompany David to events that I'm not formally involved, I pay my own way.

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