We haven’t heard much lately about the follies of accused plagiarist Chef Stu Stein, and his restaurant Terroir, although we’ve heard plenty of rumors that the restaurant is struggling. Regardless, recent posts on Stein’s blog
Earth to Table, (no longer valid) sponsored by Restaurant & Institutions Magazine, are pretty damning evidence from Stein himself that there are indeed big problems at Terroir.
Chef Stein has a tendency to publicly criticize those who work with him when things don’t go the way he wants. Take
this post (no longer valid) from last June, just one month after Terroir opened, where Stein expresses disappointment in his staff and states he had expected his staff to “get it by now.” Comments like this rubbed several readers (not to mention employees) the wrong way. Frankly, it shows a complete lack of respect for those who should be able to trust and look up to an employer. No wonder Terroir’s General Manager resigned only two months after the restaurant opened.
However, recent blog postings by Stein really show his true nastiness. How he plans to retain and find future business associates, staff and customers boggles my mind. In a recent post titled
Customer Service? (no longer valid) Stein is highly critical of his food purveyors, going far enough to say, “what happened to my customer service?” In a quip regarding one specialty food business in particular, Stein says, “I don’t do a lot of business with them because they lack the depth and knowledge of Pacific Northwest ingredients we typically need, and I have had customer-service issues with them in the past.” While he doesn’t name names, the way he writes it and quotes from a Willamette Week article, makes it very easy to figure out who he is talking about. A questionable move on Stein’s part, and if I was one of his food purveyors, I’d be pretty insulted and none too pleased. Who wants to do business with a guy that publicly trashes you? Someone at his PR company should put a muzzle on him. The man just does not know when to shut up.
On the other hand, Stein indicates he is not too pleased with his PR company either. In
this post, (no longer valid) he vaguely hints that he is considering firing them. Specifically, Stein indicates his displeasure over recent media reporting and customer feedback about the restaurant, stating “That tells me that we-that is, us internally and my PR people in general-are not getting our message across. That being said, my contract with my PR firm is up at the end of the year.” He also goes on to say “The message we’d hoped to get across was, Terroir is the quintessential Pacific-Northwest restaurant… Terroir is that rare restaurant that seems so right for its location, yet with an appeal far beyond its neighborhood. A place that will convince you that small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist. The problem is that the new customer base doesn’t get that message.” Once again, it’s those magic words from Stein – they just aren’t “getting it.” It’s always someone else’s fault.
We’ve seen tomfoolery like this before in other failing restaurants, and honestly it’s the biggest and dumbest PR move a restaurant can make. Alienating everyone around you by blaming your staff, then your customers, and finally your purveyors and your PR firm for problems inherent in your business plan, cuisine, concept and management, only serve to make matters worse. When a chef does this very loudly and publicly on a blog, it’s just downright stupid. In essence, Stein is creating his own bad press and publicity.
The main problem with Terroir? Stein just doesn’t “get it.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Quit blaming everyone else. Be a man, take control, and fix the problems. Start with supporting and training your staff… and fix the damn food! The economy is on a downhill slide and things are getting competitive out there. At the rate Stein’s going, I wouldn’t be surprised if Terroir is on the closing list for 2008.
Update: Commenter and occasional contributor Kevin Allman brings up the following points below:
Stu Stein’s blog, Dec. 13, 2007:
“A place that feels like a real restaurant. It’s a copacetic blend of good design and focused intent.”
“A place that will convince you that small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist.”
Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic, reviewing Terzo, June 11, 2006:
“Terzo is perfect for its Cow Hollow neighborhood, with a copacetic blend of good design and focused intent.”
“Terzo has renewed my enthusiasm, proving that small plates, civilized dining and reasonably priced food can coexist.”
I wouldn’t spend a cent at Terroir.