Michelin chef admits to writing bad reviews of his OWN restaurant

He has written the fake reviews in response to ‘nonsense’ Tripadvisor comments

Updated on 19 August 2021 • Written By Eamonn Crowe

Michelin chef admits to writing bad reviews of his OWN restaurant

The head chef of Michelin-starred Casamia in Bristol has admitted to leaving a series of bad reviews of the restaurant on Tripadvisor.

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Head chef Zak Hitchman claimed he wrote the fake reviews in response to some of the ‘silly’ comments from diners he has received online since taking over the restaurant from Peter Sanchez-Iglesias in early 2020.

During Sanchez-Iglesias’ tenure, Casamia was a fine-dining operation known for its smart dress code and silver service, but Hitchman has made some major changes since taking over. These days, diners are encouraged to wear what they like, there is graffiti splashed across the walls and dishes are presented alongside Wallace & Gromit toys.

The changes have led to some former fans of the restaurant leaving disgruntled reviews on Tripadvisor and Hitchman’s own fake reviews are his response to the criticism.

Clearly not afraid to poke fun at themselves, one fake review written by Hitchman and his team reads: ‘Really loved the show, if anything the music should be louder, especially when Cardi B-WAP came on. 3 stars only because it was very cloudy that day’.

Casamia's former head chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Another tongue-in-cheek write up says: ‘It was a spiritual journey. Brought me near to tears. However there was clearly a problem with the fuse box, lights were going on and off. Long live the donut king’

Speaking about why he made the decision to post a series of fake reviews, Hitchman said: “I’ve always looked at Tripadvisor as a load of nonsense to be honest... I’m sure there are some honest people out there but there are also a few crazy people out there and there are reviews that are completely made up.”

“Tripadvisor is an open forum where anybody can write whatever they want. I don’t want to sound arrogant but we just don’t take the reviews seriously. We’d much rather talk to somebody face to face or via a private email. I don’t think you can take Tripadvisor seriously and we’ve proven the fact that you can post anything you want even if it’s a bad review of your own restaurant.

“These reviews are still on there, nobody has taken them down from the site. It just makes a mockery of the whole thing.”

Since publishing this article, Tripadvisor has responded with the following statement, which you can read in full below:

"Tripadvisor has spent the last 20+ years working to fight review fraud, inclusive of working to deter instances of businesses boosting their own bubble ratings and working to harm a competitor. In fact, in 2019 alone, we stopped more than 1 million fraudulent reviews from ever being posted to our platform through the use of our technology and human-based moderation practices. Our process is always a race towards perfection where we use cutting edge tactics to ensure trust in our platform, but we certainly don’t make the claim to be perfect.

In the case of the restauranteur in question, the behavior exhibited was largely atypical of the normal review boosting or vandalism behaviors that we monitor for on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After our investigation, these reviews (and additional content found to be authored by the chef) were removed and the business in question will receive a fraud penalty related to the misuse of our platform. Future penalties will be applied should this pattern of misuse continue.

It is important to also note that through our management center tools, a business owner is able to flag negative reviews they believe to be fraudulent and those reviews would be investigated. This chef and restaurant management obviously did not utilize those tools because they were the authors of this fraudulent content. This restaurant and management team has used this functionality in the past to flag previous reviews.

We will continue to use instances like this to improve our moderation practices as we work to ensure the integrity of our community content."

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