Food Blogger ‘bun fight’ discredits MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths!

It was via Twitter yesterday that I picked up a link to a blogpost “Not so good today…”, written by respected food and cookbook writer and TV producer Anne Myers on her blog ‘I love Cooking’. In her story, she identified two instances of food bloggers writing irresponsibly in their recipes, not on their own blogs, but on the newly created website for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths, leaving the retailer with egg on its face, with two of its four guest MasterChef SA food bloggers being accused of unprofessional blogging.

To tie in with its MasterChef SA sponsorship, Woolworths created a Woolworths Pantry page on its website, and invited four food bloggers they felt to be at the top of their field to blog for them in return for payment: Alida Ryder writes the blog ‘Simply Delicious‘, and was named the top food blogger at the SA Blog Awards in 2010; Ishay Govender followed in her footsteps in winning the SA Blog Awards 2011 Food Blogger of the Year for her ‘Food and the Fabulous’ blog; Jane-Anne Hobbs is described on the Woolworths website as having ‘pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa’, now blogging on her ‘Scrumptious’ blog, and soon to have a cookbook published, she announced today; and Fritz Brand, who blogs on ‘Real Men can Cook’, is a more recent blogger with no known accolades (interesting is that Woolworths accepts his writing with grammatical errors, and he even misspells the Woolworths brand name on his own blog!).  Once a week the bloggers contribute their recipes according to a set theme, and receive credit for the recipes that are featured.

Strangely, no MasterChef SA branding appears on the Woolworths Pantry pages, only the ‘Cook like a Chef’ box appearing on the recipe pages, an adaptation of the in-store banners ‘Cook like a MasterChef’. The bloggers do not comment on the MasterChef SA programme at all, even though the initial Tweets of some of these bloggers led one to believe that they would be commentators for Woolworths about the reality TV cooking programme.

Ms Myers was very kind to the two Woolworths Pantry bloggers, in not mentioning their names in her blogpost, perhaps a weakness, as their names were revealed later in the day anyway. The bloggers concerned commendably showed integrity by declaring their discredited recipes in the Comments section of Ms Myers’ blogpost, and their responses are interesting.

Fritz Brand claimed ownership of the criticised Nutella Crêpes recipe, which called for five teaspoons of salt, four of which were to be coarse salt, according to the Woolworths Pantry recipe, which Ms Myers wrote was difficult to rub through the sieve, as required in the recipe.  Brand defends his recipe in the Comment on Ms Myers’ blog, stating that his recipe only called for one teaspoon of salt, and that Woolworths must have got it wrong in posting the recipe on its site! He also writes that he posted the same recipe on his own blog, without the four extra spoonfuls of salt.  The four mystery spoonfuls of salt were removed from the recipe on the Woolworths Pantry website after Ms Myers’ blogpost appeared!

Interestingly, a second Tweet about food blogger ethics circulated later in the day, with a link to Ms Govender’s blog, and her blogpost ‘Food Bloggers – The Cauldrons are boiling’.  Not knowing that she was under attack in Ms Myers’ blogpost, it sounded as if Ms Govender was having a general go at ‘bully’ food bloggers who do not have a ‘spirit of community’, who discredit others, who wave ‘their blog stats and self-importance around’, one not realising that she was in fact reacting to Ms Myers’ blogpost.  She called for an (undefined) ‘formal qualification system’ in the ‘food blogging business’ that builds ‘sensibility and comaraderie’ (sic), implying that only qualified persons may comment about other bloggers, one suspects she was trying to say.  Only on re-reading Ms Myers’ blogpost last night was it clear that Ms Govender’s blogpost was a response to Ms Myers’ very serious allegation that Ms Govender’s recipe for ‘Dark Chocolate Souffles’ had been plagiarised (an ‘almost word-for-word replica of the recipe’) from the website www.bonappetit.com. Ms Govender writes in her blogpost about ‘bully’ bloggers’ ‘crucifixion mentality’, without ‘calmly gathering facts and asking the involved people for their opinions’, clearly (but unfairly, in our opinion) accusing Ms Myers of this behaviour. On Ms Myers’ blogpost Ms Govender defends herself in writing that some standard recipes would appear very similar to others, that she has a background in intellectual property law and could never consider taking ideas from others, that she gets involved in community projects benefiting others, and is an example of the ‘spirit of community’. Ms Myers was harsh in her reply to Ms Govender, clearly not moved by it at all: ‘Ishay, defending yourself and pointing out your qualities and good deeds for the lesser priviledged (sic) will not change the way I feel about responsible blogging. I made it clear that I used the post in which the chocolate souffle recipe featured as an example of what I believe to be some of the causes of foodblogging’s detoriating (sic) credibility and vanishing visitors’.

As this blogpost is about food blogger ethics, it is interesting to observe how opinionated and previously fiercely independent Woolworths Pantry blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, who describes her ‘Scrumptious‘ blog as ‘Recipes and inspiration from an independent African food blog’, has shifted in her definition of ‘independence’!  In her ‘About me and Contact’ page, she writes: By ‘independent’ I mean that my blog is not sponsored by anyone, and that I don’t endorse products or services in exchange for freebies, money or publicity. Because this blog is a freebie- and ad-free site, you can be assured that any branded product I recommend to you has been selected and paid for by me, because I think it’s interesting, tasty or exciting. Disclaimer: I earn my living by working as an independent food writer, recipe developer and social media consultant for a variety of clients.  Their products and services are never mentioned on this blog. Post Script; 20 March 2012: I’ve recently been appointed one of Woolworths offical (sic) bloggers for their sponsorship of the new TV series MasterChef South Africa.  I’m am (sic) paid to write blogposts and recipes for Woolworths, and will be reproducing that content on this site. You’re welcome to send me press releases, or invite me to launches, but please note that I don’t accept samples, ‘gifts’, ‘freebies’, or any similar inducements! We must commend Ms Hobbs for being the only one of the four Woolworths Pantry bloggers honest enough to declare her blogging for payment. Each of the four bloggers’ blogs carry the same Woolworths’ banner.

We predicted that MasterChef SA would be controversial, but did not expect a food blogger ‘bun fight’ to be the cause of such controversy, in addition to the MasterChef SA sponsor Robertson’s controversy, about which we reported last week.  It will be interesting to see which further controversies will develop in the remaining sixteen weeks of MasterChef SA!  The incident also questions the SA Blog Awards’ evaluation of top food bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: In looking at the line ‘Cook like a Chef’ in the Woolworths ads linked to their food bloggers’ recipes one must ask again what the definition of a ‘chef’ is.  All four food bloggers are recipe writers but clearly not chefs.  One wonders why Woolworths would be dishonest in its advertising in projecting the bloggers to a more glorified status and so mislead their customers.

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: Woolworths Pantry has credited Bon Appetit magazine with the ‘inspiration’ for Ms Govender’s dark chocolate soufflé recipe subsequent to the publishing of Ms Myers’ blogpost, confirming that Ms Myers was correct in what she wrote!

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: For Week 3 on the Woolworths Pantry website, only recipes by food bloggers Alida Ryder and Jane-Anne Hobbs are featured, with none by Ishay Govender and Fritz Brand. The photograph of the four food bloggers is also no longer featured!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

23 replies on “Food Blogger ‘bun fight’ discredits MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths!”

  1. Ishay says:

    Dear Chris
    Thank you for creatively summarising the content of my blog posts as well as the others. Your interpretations and conclusions make for interesting reading too. I have no doubt, like with Anne’s post this post of yours will gather the mileage you desire. I would like to ask, if you don’t mind, not why you did not ask my opinion on any of the above nor if you have in fact read any of my recipes or writing in the past, but why you have used an image of mine with no credit given?
    The tone of your post indicates that you have not read the considered content of my comment to Anne, or if you have studied it, it would be counter-productive to your argument here to admit same.
    Best regards,
    Ishay

    P.s I would be weary about the word bun-fight. I know it sounds festively in keeping with Easter, but there is a huge difference between engaging aggressively in an argument and stating a case for reference. Nice title though.

  2. The phrase “There can only be one chef in the kitchen” can not ring more true these days.

  3. Anel says:

    It’s as clear as day light that Ms Myers and kie are just jealous because they were not crowned as South Africa’s top food blogger. Jealousy makes people nasty, that’s for sure. Don’t be sore losers guys, get up and try again. Trying to discredit people publicly is certainly not the way to handle things. The wheel has its way of turning and the world does not smile on bitter people.

  4. Was Anne Myers’ blog a finalist for the SA Blog Awards Anel? Is that what you are referring to?

    Chris

  5. Dear Ishay

    As you know, like you, I am a part-time night-time blogger. I did not contact you as I did not create the story, and was merely summarising Anne Myers’ story and the reactions to it, and added an additional paragraph about one of the other food bloggers on the Woolworths panel. Secondly, you had two platforms in which to present your case, both on your own blog (which did not address the issue at all, as you were criticising other food bloggers without declaring the context within which you were doing so, and not to the point at all – being the criticism on the Anne Myers’ blogpost) and as a Comment on Anne Myers’ blogpost in which you replied (evasively I thought). I did not need to speak to you to gain further information, as I assumed that you would have used both platforms to deny Anne Myers’ allegation, and thus fully presented your case. I would be more than happy to add any further details you would like to forward to me.

    I have read every word of your Comment on the Myers’ blog as well as in your own blogpost – maybe you missed my sentence summarising the Comment content: “On Ms Myers’ blogpost Ms Govender defends herself in writing that some standard recipes would appear very similar to others, that she has a background in intellectual property law and could never consider taking ideas from others, that she gets involved in community projects benefiting others, and is an example of the ’spirit of community’.”

    I apologise for using the photograph of the souffle from your blog – I have replaced it with the one of the same dish on the Woolworths site.

    Chris

  6. Ann Meyer’s piece was badly researched and badly written. It doesn’t deserve the attention it is getting. Unfortunately it says a lot about all of us that we would go and read drivel like. I agree with Anel – the jealousy from Ann is immense, and the fact that she didn’t bother to get all the facts before spewing her drivel onto a page is criminal. There seems to be a vendetta against Ishay Govender-Ypma from Ann’s side and a few others, and I would go so far as to say it may even be racially motivated.

  7. PS

    There was no wordplay intended in the headline Ishay. In one of the two blogposts and their Comments I saw the words ‘bun fight’, and that’s why I used it in inverted commas.

    Chris

  8. Wow Hennie, a serious allegation.

    I have never met Anne Myers, but I could not think that a respectable food blogger and business person could be said to stoop so low. I do hope that Anne will defend herself against this attack.

    Given that she runs a serious daytime business unlinked to her blog, I could not see that she would see any other food blogger as any type of threat, and have made it all up. I have not seen evidence of any vendettas against food bloggers, except against myself perhaps, but then I am not a recipe-driven food blogger.

    What would Anne be jealous about?

    Yes, there were some typo’s in both Anne’s and Ishay’s writing, but I didn’t see any problems with Anne’s blogpost in how she presented her content.

    In the interest of disclosure I am confirming that you are close friends of Ishay.

    Chris

  9. Kobus says:

    Bunfight? Hogwash. More likely a storm in a paper-teacup, created by ms Myers for little more than a bit of publicity. Let’s have at it, then:

    1. I googled Anne Myers,and tried to find any cookbooks she wrote. Results on Amazon? Zero. Kalahari? Zip. Loot? Nada. OOOh yeah, there was the single title at the CNA redband sale in 2003, if I’m not mistaken. There goes the “well-known and respected cookbook writer” claim. As for TV productions, the claims are up on her website, but nothing impresive springs to mind. Loads of “clients” names are mentioned though- indicating clearly on which side her bread is buttered.

    2. Ms Myers has a good old go at character assasination, first inferring plagiarism on Ishay Govender-Ypma’s side, then rapidly retracting it later in her comment section. Grow a pair, ms Myers- if you’re so convinced there’s been wrong-doing, say so and stick by it. The rules of recipe-blogging are well established within the community, if you’re still unsure about your allegations go read David Leibovitz’ well-written blog about it, one that is often referred to.

    3. She supports her views on the foodblogging scene in South Africa by referring to a recent column in Rapport by Herman Lategan- or that “Vermin Late-again” as one of my journalist friends refer to him. Lategan is renowned for stirring the pot to provoke a boil-over response, and certainly neither a proficient writer or known for his insights into things culinary. Hardly the type of source material anyone outside the intimate circle of gossipwriters or -mongers would refer to.

    3. Misprints and mistakes happen, to the best chefs and cookbook writers. It would be considered a common courtesy to alert a blogger of an obvious mistake in a recipe, especially when said recipe is published by a third party, often involving several intermediaries. I have on my shelves translations of books by Paul Bocuse and Allain Ducasse with glaringly obvious errors, and editors’corrections inserted on a loose page in front. No, ms Meyers, they are professional chefs, not faux Jo’burg interior decorators- in case you don’t know.

    I find it highly ironic, Chris, that you also have a go at the SA Blog awards, considering that your own blog was a finalist in the “most controversial” category some time ago. Ah- controversy. That explains it.

  10. Ah… you see Chris, this is exactly my point. Thank you for publishing it and helping me make it. (and sorry if I baited you) I threw out a totally unsubstantiated claim, without knowing the person I am talking about, without having done any research and without getting her side of the story. Wow, that all of a sudden sounds familiar doesn’t it? My, that sounds exactly like Ann’s post. Is calling someone a racist up there with calling someone a plagiarist?

  11. Interesting experiment Hennie.

    The only difference is that Anne substantiated her claim of plagiarism, which is not punishable by law, while you did not substantiate your ‘racism’ claim, which is punishable by law.

    I am always amused when the bearer of the information becomes the one to be attacked by interested parties of the person criticised, and have of course suffered this on this blog too.

    Chris

  12. I am sure that Herman Lategan’s article on food bloggers was a very tongue-in-cheek one, given that it was published on April Fools’ Day! I thought that he wrote it in the most beautiful Afrikaans.

    Chris

  13. Kobus says:

    Chris, Rapport’s frontpage is usually the April Fool’s joke- pity that it continues to be so all year long. I read very little tongue-in cheeck into it, more the tone of voice from one-too-many vodka tonics at the wrong Greenpoint bar. Considering his thought-provoking stances on other issues, and people, such as Breyten Breytenbach.

    I have yet to see any proof of Myers’claim, and doubt if there will ever be any offered. She has not responded to comments requesting proof, nor has she provided a link anywhere in her story, to the recipe she believes was plagiarised.

    It is simply too easy to cry wolf without substantiation. I’m sure you’ve experienced it as well.

  14. Chris – again – she isn’t being attacked because of what she wrote. She is being attacked because her information is incorrect. If me wanting accurate writing instead of character assassination makes me an interested party, then I am happy to be called that. Just bear in mind that my friendship with Ishay has nothing to do with the fact that I am commenting here. I am commenting because what is right is right – get all the facts before you make accusations.

  15. Sorry, forgot to add – how did Ann substantiate her claim of plagiarism? How is it plagiarism if a mistake is made by a 3rd party and credit isn’t given where it was by the original author? Ann gave her OPINION without gathering all the facts. That doesn’t make it plagiarism. That inaccuracy makes it libel and that is punishable by law.

  16. Anel says:

    Chris, I don’t know if Anne Myers’ blog was a finalist in the SA Blog Awards. To be honest, I’ve never even heard of her until today. Out of ALL the food bloggers out there she targets Ishay – who’s blog came 1st in the SA blog Awards – and a random guy, who I’ve also never heard of before. As the saying goes, tall trees catch the most wind. Ishay received a lot of positive publicity via print, online and television media over the past couple of months. Ms Myers article comes across as an attempt to piggy-back of Ishay’s fame by “exposing” her as a “plagiarist”. Some comments on twitter from food bloggers who where finalist in the blog awards just reek of jealousy. We can’t all be winners people. Except it and move on. No need for all this bitchiness. Life is to short!

  17. Dear Anel, Hennie and Kobus

    Please address your criticisms of Anne Myers and her blogpost to her blog.

    I cannot agree that Ms Myers had any ulterior motive to discredit Ishay. It concerns me that Ishay has not denied the allegation nor provided alternative information in what she wrote on her own blog or as a comment on Ms Myers blog.

    Chris

  18. Sorry, one final comment, then I am done with this. Have you placed the 2 offending recipes next to each other and looked at what Ishay apparently plagiarised? I did a moment ago, and except for one or 2 sentences in the instruction section, the recipes are so different, I don’t actually see ANY resemblance. She did say her recipe was INSPIRED by the Bon Appetit recipe (on her own blog, Woolies excluded the disclaimer on their site) The ingredients are different and the cooking times are different. How is this plagiarism?

    Have a look:

    http://www.woolworths.co.za/Home/Week-2/Ishay-s-Blog-Dark-Chocolate-Souffle-with-Honey-Almond-Cream/cat594834.cat

    http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/02/milk_chocolate_souffles_with_nougat_whip

    So WHERE is the issue? Ishay didn’t deny the allegation because the evidence is clear for all to see who bothers to look!!!

  19. Maybe you missed the new disclaimer underneath Ishay’s dish on the Woolworths Pantry website Hennie. Why would they have added that after Ms Myers blogpost was published if Ishay’s recipe was dissimilar to the Bon Appetit one?

    I think you owe Ms Myers an apology for all the name-calling in your comments.

    Chris

  20. Uhm Chris, with all due respect – you are in no position to tell me what to do. Secondly, please advise me what names I called her, and I will gladly retract what I said. Go read the comments above again, and give me them names please.

  21. You must be tired, to be so grumpy Hennie.

    Have a good sleep, re-read your comments about Ms Myers on this and her blog, and do the right thing.

    Lekker slaap

    Chris

  22. Herman Lategan says:

    Yo! The knives are out. Love it.

  23. Herman Lategan says:

    Kobus, you sound just like Brent Meersman.

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