Eat Out Judge Bruce Palling embarrasses New Media Publishing and Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards!


New Media Publishing must be regretting its decision to have appointed Bruce Palling, controversial Eat Out judge and UK food blogger, to co-judge the Top 19 (originally Top 20) Finalist Restaurants with its editor Abigail Donnelly this year, to improve her credibility after a number of controversial Awards were made by her in her capacity as sole judge last year. Yesterday a Tweet from Bruce Palling announced that he will not be attending the Eat Out Gala Restaurant Awards Dinner at The Westin hotel on 25 November.

From the outset the expectation was that Bruce Palling would attend the Eat Out Gala Restaurant Awards Dinner, and one wonders why the details about the class of flight and his involvement on the night of the awards ceremony had been left to a mere three weeks before the event.  Palling had promised the staff at Belthazar that he would come back to eat at the restaurant on his return to Cape Town at the end of November, so it had certainly been discussed, and a contract signed, one would assume.

Yesterday Palling’s Tweet attracted attention: “Sorry to announce that will not be attending Eat Out Awards ceremony – due to “unforeseen circumstances” New Media won’t provide me a ticket”. New Media Publishing did not Tweet or e-mail a response.  We wrote to Bridget McCarney, MD of New Media Publishing, and called Mango, its PR agency.  Ms McCarney responded last night, indicating that pushy Palling had insisted on a first class ticket from London to Cape Town (costs can vary between about R49000 for a BA or Virgin ticket to R67000 for Emirates, while an economy class ticket would cost about R11000), and that he would not accept an economy class ticket nor a video broadcast with him from London!   She wrote as follows:

“Thanks for your email.

We were looking at whether there were more cost efficient ways of doing this rather than a business class ticket for Bruce to attend the awards. The idea was that we would have a video insert of Bruce talking about the awards or a direct live link.

Bruce declined to do the video and didn’t want to fly economy for such a short trip which of course we completely understand.

So yes, I can confirm that Bruce won’t be attending the awards at this stage

Trust that answers your question

All the best


The Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards 2012 have been marred with controversy, not only because of the appointment of Palling, who only very occasionally has articles published in the Wall Street Journal European edition, and now hidden by a paywall, and whom no one had heard of locally nor in the UK, yet Mrs Donnelly sung his praises and overstated his credentials for her own benefit; for Palling’s embarrassing Tweets slating springbok and politically incorrect references to the race of customers of a restaurant; for his rude and disparaging Tweets about our blogposts about his time in Cape Town and the Winelands, which New Media Publishing refused to take action against; for Palling’s unfair criticism of Belthazar on his last night in Cape Town; for the embarrassing selection of The Pot Luck Club as a Top 20 Restaurant Finalist, when both Mrs Donnelly and Chef Luke Dale-Roberts knew that the restaurant had not been open for a full year, and which judging criterion was not picked up by Palling, which led to the elimination of the restaurant from the Top 20 Finalist list of honour; and now the spat with Palling, which he undiplomatically Tweeted to embarrass his hosts!

Once again we say that Eat Out Editor Abigail Donnelly has served her time, and her bias for and against some of our country’s top restaurants two years running means that she no longer has the credibility to be in charge of the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards!

POSTSCRIPT 6/11: Bruce Palling has responded (surprisingly gently, other than referring to me as a ‘slug‘, and claiming to be the subject with Eat Out of some sort of conspiracy by ourselves) to this blogpost on Twitter, denying the allegation that he demanded a Business Class ticket, as indicated by New Media Publishing: ‘@Gabbles17 Love the idea of me being the embarrassment! Certainly never ‘demanded’ or even mention 1st class fare – beyond that silence’. He also referred to recent surgery, and that he therefore cannot travel ‘steerage with two day turnaround’. He must have removed a disparaging Tweet, as he apologised to @LawHollander :“Well, I went to your country and loved the food – I apologise for earlier Tweet”, but that Tweet is no longer in Palling’s timeline.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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18 replies on “Eat Out Judge Bruce Palling embarrasses New Media Publishing and Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards!”

  1. Out of interest I’ve just Googled Mr Palling. I quickly formed the impression that he’s a self promoting ex war reporter. He’s not even a Brit! Along with most of my fellow countrymen I’ve never previously heard of him.

    I think that Ms Donnelly can take some consolation in the fact that she’s not the only person who’s been conned by Mr D!!!

  2. What a shambles and a total embarrassment to the sponsor DSTV. Eat Out have no shame so they won’t care.

    This entire tired and stale concept should be scrapped, the incestious nature of the selecting and awarding of awards to people’s pals and cronies is a disgrace and a bad joke.

    There should a new format with entrants selected by the public, no more friends and favourites of Abigail Donnelly who frankly speaking should have been removed long ago as she has zero credibility.

  3. What a bunch of amateurs and a TOTAL embarrassment to the SA food scene.

    What the hell were Eatout thinking brining in some smart Alec from overseas, are they telling us there is no one else in SA qualified enough to do the job.

    BOYCOTT Eatout, vote with your Rand, don’t buy it.

  4. Hi Chris

    for as long as i have been comenting on your blog i have said time and time again that the eat out awards have no credibility and do not reflect the real world exclduing some superb establishments and time and time again you have disagreed, you have even attended the awards, glad to see you have finally come round to my way of thinking.. 🙂

    And by the way that fact that this organisation doesnt want to pay for this guys business class flight reflects more on the organisation than on Mr Palling.

  5. Nice to hear from you again Darren from Hout Bay.

    I have been critical of the Eat Out awards for a number of years, but especially since last year, when the bias to the favourite chefs really was blatant! This doesn’t stop me from attending the Gala dinner though.

    Something seriously went sour in this relationship (one senses that Palling is arrogant and demanding. Palling denied on Twitter today that he demanded a first class ticket, as claimed by New Media Publishing!

    It is a surprise that an important publishing house is so poor at communication, not having issued a media statement, and only sending me the information, and only because I asked them for it!


  6. nothing new here…the bloke was called in for his opinion on the nominations and they have been given.

    job done.

    that he will not be at the awards evening for whatever reason doesn’t change that fact.

    I reiterate that new judges will not by default get you an entire new selection of top 10 restaurants for the simple reason that (to 90% of the selections as there will always be the close call/debatable selection) they are the countries best places to eat that tick all the boxes. The boxes in my opinion being food+service+venue+xfactor. So, “Yes” with the current format the 10-20 will always be an exclusive few. That is why I believe the entire format needs an overhaul with more restaurants outside of the 10-20 being recognized for past year improvements,etc. Whomever the judges are,are irrelevent in this regard.

    In response to Danios’s comment. Yes, I have been saying that for ages…if you don’t like the guide, don’t buy it. It is that simple. In fact, be brave enough to go one better and ask to have your establishment removed from the guide. And there in lies the irony, everyone wants to be in the guide….and win no doubt, which tells me that this entire avenue of critisim directed at eatout smacks of sour grapes because either you are not “there” or Your favorite is not.

  7. Interesting point of view Ryan.

    So have you asked Eat Out to remove your Ryan’s Kitchen entry?

    The issue you don’t raise is that no restaurant owner/chef can be seen to criticise the Eat Out Awards system or Top 10 list, as one will be disadvantaged for years to come.

    We don’t know exactly what role Bruce Palling played. Abigail went to eat at her Top 20/19 list, and was followed about 10 – 14 days by Palling, eating at restaurants on the same list. So it was a verification of Abigail’s list, making her the sole judge to a large extent again!


  8. Chris

    But why would I want to be removed from the guide….I do not have an issue with the nominations. I do have an issue that the guide does not recognise more places outside of the 20 but those are 2 separate points of discussion. As already mentioned, the top 10 winners are the 10 best. Do you really need a different judge to tell you that the Test Kitchen,La Colombe,etc are the countries best restaurants?

    It would seem that Bruce was used in determining who the 10 best are of the 20 nominated. As I understand the 20 nominations are a collective agreement by all the relevent reviewers.
    Franschhoek in recent years has had Graeme Howe, Fiona McDonald (unconfirmed but suspected)…and currently suspected Greg Landman.

  9. I just stumbled onto this “controversy” today. I have to say Chris that the tone of your posts is quite hysterical. Personally, I have been mystified by Eat Out’s award choices for a long, long time but wasn’t aware that Ms Donnelly is the sole judge until now. Eat Out deserves all the criticism it gets for that. But why then make Mr Palling the focus of your outrage?

  10. Dear Robert

    Perhaps you have not read all four our blogposts about Mr Palling’s appointment by Eat Out? If you read them all, you will see the comedy of errors that was inevitable: blowing up the credentials of Mr Palling undeservedly, the numerous faux pas by him in his Tweets, and clearly now the sour note between the two parties.

    I have no ‘outrage’ about Mr Palling, but I am amused about his arrogance, and my prediction that he would not be attending the Gala dinner coming true.

    Mrs Donnelly was the sole judge in 2011 only, and pulled in Palling this year to cover herself, but blew it again, despite his ‘assistance’ in the judging.


  11. In my honest opinion, ‘beauty pageants’ such as these contests have no relevance in modern day South Africa at all.

    But to digress, Chris, why have you gone so silent on your buddy Anne Myers’s DinnerDivas programme?
    Just curious.

    Kind regards
    Sonia Cabano

  12. Thank you for your surprise support Sonia.

    I am not sure what you are trying to say about ‘Dinner Divas’? I went to the launch, where we saw the first episode, and I wrote a blogpost about it. I am unable to see the programme, serving Breakfasts to my guests at 8h30. Nothing sinister at all.


  13. Dear Chris Black

    Both your comments are disparaging and defamatory, and not related to the blogpost. Therefore they have been deleted!


  14. Sonia Cobano

    Please do not read our blog or our Tweets (you have blocked us anyway, so why read them so fanatically and correct the spelling in others’ Tweets who interact with us, and the grammar and capitalisation in my Tweets when you don’t know what I want to say?), as you never have anything kind to say, continuously disparaging us in your personal @SoniaCabano2, @LusciousCT and Table Mountain Twitter accounts.

    We will not publish any further comments from you.


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