As I am an attorney (and despite the cliched jokes to the contrary), my ethics are very important to me. I have posted a Blogger Code Of Ethics and written numerous posts about ethical issues. I believe that all bloggers should follow a code of ethics as the power of the "pen" can be too easily abused. For example, negative reviews can adversely affect a business so one must be very careful in how one proceeds. One must be objective and fair, honest and upfront.
Rarely do I have an ethical dilemma as I simply follow my own rules, which have served me well for many years. However, I find myself now entangled in an ethical dilemma which has the power to destroy a person's reputation. I have long been pondering over how to properly handle this matter and have asked others for their opinions as well. I have finally made a decision on a course of action and only hope that what I am doing is right.
Because of my Monday Rants, I was approached by a line cook from a popular, Boston-area restaurant. He wanted to share with me some unsavory information concerning the chef and initially I was reluctant to talk with him about this matter. I had little interest in gossip about chefs, such as who they might be sleeping with or whether they do drugs or not. His information though struck at a more important issue, a deception the chef was perpetuating upon the general public, a lie about the sourcing of some of this restaurant's ingredients.
The restaurant has a reputation for serving primarily local foods, from their produce to their meats. The line cook alleged that the restaurant actually served very little meat that was purchased locally. Most of it came from large scale, out of state farms that cost far less than locally purchased meats. It appears that the chef has a close relative who works with one of those large scale meat suppliers and thus is able to acquire his meats more covertly.
This is an explosive allegation and I certainly would not have given it any credence without clear evidence. I met with the line cook and he had a cell phone video showing an incriminating conversation between the chef and his relative. It was not the best of quality, but the voices were clear enough and seemed to support the allegation. He lacked any further evidence and didn't think he could get anything else.
I was considering dropping the matter but decided I would interview the chef, and try to throw in a few questions about rumors concerning his meat sourcing. I arranged an interview through his PR company and met with the chef later one morning at his restaurant. The interview started off well until I started asking questions about his sourcing. My initial questions were rather innocent, without mentioning any rumors, yet the chef's attitude and demeanor changed. He seemed defensive even though there was no reason to be at that time. When I finally asked about the rumors, he ended the interview, leaving quite angrily.
It seemed to me that there was validity to the line cook's allegations. It seemed clear that the chef was trying to hide something. I did some further digging, identifying the chef's relative and his company. I phoned the relative and let me just say that I obtained verification that he delivered meat to the restaurant. With that verification, I contacted the chef again, though this time directly. I indicated I might be publishing this story and wanted to hear his side.
The call was extremely unpleasant, with lots of profanity and threats from the chef. However, the chef realized that he was in a corner, though refusing to admit guilt, and begged that I would not post the story. If I posted my story, it would probably destroy his reputation though he seemed guilty of the allegations. Should I post it or not?
In the end, the chef indicated that he would be leaving the restaurant within the next week, that he would likely be getting a job in another city. I indicated to him that if he quit and move, then I would not post the story. That deadline has passed though and there is no indication that the chef intends to move on. The chef has also not returned my subsequent phone calls or emails. This post is his final chance to do the right thing, to follow through on our agreement.
If nothing changes this week, then next Monday's Rant will identify the chef and restaurant, providing the evidence I possess. I received much support on both Facebook and Twitter for outing the chef if I possessed sufficient evidence of his deception. My outing will not be without repercussion, but I am willing to take on those consequences to expose this fraud. Once I identify the chef and restaurant, the restaurant owner will have the ability to verify this matter on their own. All they will have to do will be to analyze the invoices for the local meat producers and determine there was an insufficient amount to have fed all of the restaurant's patrons.
Chef, step up and do the right thing or it will be my obligation to reveal the truth.
Every year, on April 1, I write an April Fools post, and this year is no different. I have no plans to out any chef, and have not received any info about a chef's deception concerning the source of their meat. With the advent of Social Media, it has become even more difficult to fool anyone because everyone talks about April Fools. Before SM, you could go the entire day without someone mentioning it. Now, you often can't go five minutes before someone mentions it. This post does strike at some very important issues and I appreciate all the thoughtful comments it has engendered. Though it has generated a few hateful comments as well. This is an issue that certainly could arise one day. But this time, it is only an April Fools joke.