Scandalosa! When a group of prominent New York City food bloggers recently gathered at a tiny Manhattan townhouse that housed a hush-hush "underground restaurant," they thought they were going to be treated to the culinary stylings of celebrity chef George Duran.
It all started well. The foodies sipped Duran's "one-of-a-kind sangria" and chatted with the chef and food industry analyst Phil Lempert about what matters most to them when it comes to food: from-scratch cooking with quality ingredients, preferably organic, and an avoidance of processed foods. While hidden cameras rolled, the bloggers were served suspiciously salty garlic bread and bland, mushy lasagna with mystery meat cubes. What happened next lit a bonfire of outrage.
The food bloggers, all apparently well-raised, were polite about their dinner, but many wondered why it was so ... sucky. And then, just like in the Folgers Coffee ads from the '70s, there was the big reveal: They had been eating frozen entrees by Marie Callender's!
"I told you first hand of our focus on wholesome food, particularly with our baby in tow. We both said to you, with 20+ witnesses and apparently hidden cameras, how much we despise over-processed foods and artificial ingredients. We discussed with the group the sad state of chemical-filled foods and discussed various chains. And yet, you still fed me the exact thing I said I did not want to eat," wrote Lon Binder of Food Mayhem in an open letter to George Duran.
Suzanne Chan of Mom Confessionals was driven to tears, especially since she had brought her children's pediatrician as a guest. "Not only had I been duped but now my husband was mad at me and my guests/pediatrician must of thought of me terribly. It's even crossed my mind that I may need to find a new pediatrician, I was that embarrassed."
"This made no sense to me whatsoever," says Cindy Zhou of Chubby Chinese Girl. "Maybe they thought that psychologically, if we are thinking/talking about good food, happy food memories, our taste buds would be distracted? LOL so silly."
A few commenters have made fun of the bloggers, saying, "Hey, at least you got a free meal!" But not everyone considers free food good food. And while some eaters were fooled, I guarantee that if you cook from scratch seriously and regularly, you can tell the difference between a frozen entree and a fresh-made entree. I would have been angry, too.
Meanwhile, ConAgra (the company who owns Marie Callender's frozen foods) and the PR agency they hired have apologized, sort of. “It was never our intention to put any bloggers or their guests in an uncomfortable position and for that we are sorry,” a representative of ConAgra told The New York Times. Jackie Burton, director of corporate communications at the PR agency that organized the event, pointed out that it seemed most of the guests had a great time. “But we also understand that there were people who were disappointed and we’re sorry -- we apologize that they felt that way.”
What do you think? Do the food bloggers have the right to be outraged or are they overreacting?
Image via Marie Callender's