It began as a kind of game. Ron Eyester, chef and owner of Morningside's Rosebud, wanted to do something different with Twitter, something other than the self-promotion and overserious food-reigns-supreme tweets that chefs were prone to. "I just thought it would be kind of funny to pass along to people the things that people do in restaurants. Not even things that piss me off necessarily, but just the absurdities that happen every day." And so, the Angry Chef (Twitter handle @theangrychef) was born.
The Angry Chef is Eyester's alter ego, a Twitter personality who publicly says all the things about customers that service people have said to each other since the dawn of dining. "If you want to create your own entrée I might suggest a grocery store and cooking classes," a recent tweet went. "If you 'don't mean to be difficult' then don't be...Thx" says another. For anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant, Eyester's tweets feel like that insider camaraderie that happens between waiters and cooks and hosts, the things muttered about table 12 while passing through the swinging doors from the dining room to the kitchen. The fact that the "create your own entrée" tweet went out at 6:02 p.m. on a Friday night makes it all the more delicious. Eyester tweets about real people in real time.
After about a year of tweets and a national, robust Twitter following, Eyester caught the attention of the folks over at CNN's Eatocracy blog, who asked if he might write something for the blog. Eyester, who never went to culinary school but did graduate from college with an English degree, was psyched for the opportunity. "I was getting frustrated with the 140 characters," he says. "And I want to write. Who doesn't want to be heard?" So he sat down to write what would become an Oct. 11 post on Eatocracy, a list of six things that tick off a chef. An example:
"You know what happens when you're late for a flight? You miss it! You know what happens when you're late to the movies? It starts despite the fact that you're not there. Why am I obligated to hold your table when you're late? Oh, you hit traffic. What's that? I've never heard of traffic."
Eyester didn't think too much of it — the post was a way for him to express himself and his alter ego in a new way, and nothing he said seemed that outrageous. But hell hath no fury like an anonymous Internet commenter scorned. Immediately, the comments section filled up with a frothing, lava-like storm of anger. "YOU SERVE ME GRILL MONKEY! Not the other way around," came one of the early comments from someone named "RUSerious." Many like these followed. The post now has more than 1,600 comments, most of them full of stunned outrage that a service professional would dare to point out the obnoxious things customers do.
"I got freaked out a little bit, I gotta be honest," Eyester says. "People were regarding me as a malicious figure who was cursing at my guests and kicking people out of the restaurant, but given that my attitude was the main complaint, the tone of the comments was absolutely ridiculous. I got about 20 hate e-mails. The best one had a subject line that said, 'You're a douchebag, asshole.'"
Two weeks later, at the request of Eatocracy's editors, Eyester wrote a follow-up post. The tone of this post was far more thoughtful. And he brought up something that has long bothered many industry folks. "Considering the fact that diners have opinions regarding their dining experiences (Yelp, Citysearch and OpenTable), why can I not be afforded an opportunity to share my thoughts with an online community?"
Eyester also said a few things that seem pretty shocking in tough economic times in our customer-is-always-right society. "Restaurants don't need everybody's business, nor do they want it," he wrote. "Restaurateurs don't want certain folks in their restaurant because of the detrimental effect that they have on the other guests that we actually value and appreciate."
But what really bothers Eyester is the idea that folks were so affronted by a chef expressing the frustrations of dealing with the public. "I feel as though I'm entitled some avenue for expressing my thoughts," he says. "We're far from having it fairly balanced."
Editor's note: As our culture becomes more food obsessed, the outlets for commentary on eating at restaurants continue to grow. Food forums, food blogs, listings sites with customer reviews, not to mention traditional restaurant criticism, steer much of the conversation about food in America. But the industry voice is tiny, barely a whisper. Which is why I've decided to give the Angry Chef a column in Creative Loafing. We look forward to reader amusement, outrage and understanding. -BR