A local chef with an incendiary reputation has taken to Facebook to trash longtime Free Press restaurant critic Marion Warhaft.
"I tweeted it so now I'm gonna Facebook it," Scott Bagshaw wrote. "Marion retire you ignorant slut."
His comment ran on his Facebook page Dec. 30, the same day Warhaft's annual top-10 restaurant list ran in the Free Press. Bagshaw's revived restaurant, Deseo, wasn't on the list. It didn't get a nod the week following either, when Warhaft wrote a column on her favourite dishes from a variety of restaurants.
Bagshaw is the chef who was fired from popular eatery Pizzeria Gusto in 2010 after giving an interview detailing his drug- and booze-riddled exploits while living and working in Australia several years earlier.
Perhaps more seriously, Bagshaw boasted he and his sous chef would check out female customers at Pizzeria Gusto and discuss whether they'd sleep with them.
Bagshaw was canned. The rest of the staff walked out in protest. The restaurant reopened days later with a different tuque.
Bagshaw is a popular, relatively young chef. He cultivates a bad-boy reputation, the sort popularized by dyspeptic celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. The average patron doesn't care if he juggles knives or dandles orphans on his knee in his spare time. They just want a good meal.
I called Warhaft to find out whether she knew she'd been trash-talked by Bagshaw. She did. Were his comments justified? I asked. Would missing the top-10 list damage his professional reputation?
There was a sigh. Warhaft is a pro and she's been in this business for 25 years.
"There's only one reason he wasn't on the list," she said. "I haven't reviewed his new restaurant. If I haven't done a full review, I can't put it on my top-10 list."
Warhaft positively reviewed Bagshaw three times in the past. In August 2008, she gave four stars (out of five) to Pizzeria Gusto. When Bagshaw moved to Resto Gare, she reviewed the restaurant and awarded another four stars. Finally, when Deseo opened in the Royal Albert Arms in February, Bagshaw picked up another four stars.
That Deseo location closed permanently after a water-main break. Warhaft notified readers when Deseo reopened on Osborne Street in the fall.
She hasn't been there to critique the new digs, servers, ambience or menu. No full review, no top-10 mention.
"I regarded it as a new restaurant," she said. "I have a policy of giving new restaurants a few months to settle in before I review them."
Are there any hard feelings after his outburst?
"He's a good chef," she said of the man who called her a slut.
Warhaft has ticked off her share of chefs and restaurant owners. In the late '90s, the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association circulated a letter saying it was time for her to be fired. It claimed it had a petition signed by 60 restaurateurs.
Warhaft kept her job.
Winnipeg chefs know a positive review by Warhaft will boost reservations. It's not a guarantee of success, but it doesn't hurt. She takes the responsibilty seriously. She's had to deal with angry chefs before.
"I've had people swear at me," she said. "I answered the phone once at work and they said, 'f off' and hung up."
That's just one of the reasons she's seldom at the Free Press building.
Scott Bagshaw didn't respond to several interview requests left at Deseo. It's hard to know what prompted his unedited (and perhaps ill-informed) outburst on a public forum.
I asked Warhaft if she planned to review Deseo any time soon.
Yes, as it turns out, she does.
For those of you who think revenge is a dish best served cold, this veteran says his poor manners won't affect her review.
But it might affect the decisions of Winnipeggers who don't care for a fine-dining experience served with a side of bile.