A Michelin-starred head chef has decided to write a series of bad reviews of his own Bristol restaurant on Tripadvisor.
Zak Hitchman of Casamia in Redcliffe says he posted the tongue-in-cheek write-ups as a reaction to some of the ‘silly’ reviews from others claiming to have eaten at his restaurant.
Zak became head chef of the Michelin-starred eatery in July 2020, taking over from owner Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, who now oversees the restaurant as well as Paco Tapas and Pi Shop next door.
Casamia had long held a reputation as a high-end fine dining establishment with its formal service and white linen tablecloths, with diners often dressing up to eat at the £180-a-head restaurant.
Since Zak took over, however, he has made huge changes to the food, service and ambience, introducing upbeat modern jazz played through a specially designed sound system, graffiti-style street art on the walls and even garnishing dishes with Wallace and Gromit toys.
Kitchen staff now wear t-shirts and Dr Marten boots rather than crisply ironed chefs’ whites, and there is no dress code for diners who are now encouraged to wear what they like. Hitchman has described the new Casamia experience as ‘less of a restaurant, more of a weird gig with food’ and there is more of an emphasis on live fire cooking on the menu that can often run to 25 courses.
Although the majority of diners have appreciated the dramatic shift in style, others haven’t enjoyed it quite as much and a few have shared their experiences on Tripadvisor.
It was these less than complimentary reviews from anonymous diners that prompted Zak and his staff to start posting their own ‘reviews’ of Casamia.
One of the team’s posts said: ‘Really loved the show, if anything the music should be louder, especially when Cardi B-WAP came on. 3 stars only because it was very cloudy that day’.
Another four-star review from the Casamia chef read: ‘It was a spiritual journey. Brought me near to tears. However there was clearly a problem with the fuse box, lights were going on and off. Long live the donut king’ and one praised the ‘Amazing food, service and atmosphere’ but went on to say ‘however I much prefer Chicken Run over Wallace and Gromit so for this reason I’ve reduced to 3 stars only’.
Tripadvisor reviews are ‘nonsense’
Zak says: “I’ve always looked at Tripadvisor as a load of nonsense to be honest. I look at the reviews in much the same way that I look at Amazon reviews.
“I’m sure there are some honest people out there but there are also a few crazy people out there and there are reviews that are completely made up.
“When we get good reviews on there it’s lovely and nice to read but it doesn’t change anything for us – the best thing for us is getting instant feedback from people when they’re in the restaurant. All the chefs and waiters talk to customers and we like that live feedback.”
So why did he decide to post negative reviews of his own acclaimed restaurant?
“We had some genuine ones like ‘we had a dreadful time, the music was too loud for me’ which is fair enough – if Casamia isn’t for you, that’s fine, there are hundreds of other restaurants you’ll enjoy more.
“But it got to a stage where we had some bad Tripadvisor reviews that were just silly. The one that sticks in the memory is a short one that said ‘the loud music reminded me of a youth club, I expected a burger and I’d give it lower than one star if I could’.
“Who bothers to write something like that after paying £180 a head?”
Zak acknowledges that he’s possibly the first Michelin star chef to post bad reviews of his own restaurant but he says it was more about highlighting the fact that people can post anything they like whether they’ve eaten somewhere or not.
“Tripadvisor is an open forum where anybody can write whatever they want. I don’t want to sound arrogant but we just don’t take the reviews seriously. We’d much rather talk to somebody face to face or via a private email.
“I don’t think you can take Tripadvisor seriously and we’ve proven the fact that you can post anything you want even if it’s a bad review of your own restaurant.
“These reviews are still on there, nobody has taken them down from the site. It just makes a mockery of the whole thing.”
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