Ever wonder about the restaurant business in this town?  How PR works?  Well, here’s a great example.  The February issue of San Diego Magazine sports a cover story headlined “Kiss the Cook, 6 Top Chefs Dish Up Date Food Secrets” with a photo of Chef Jason Shaeffer (of 1500 Ocean at The Hotel Del Coronado) and his girlfriend Chelsea Clark.  Disclaimer time:  Jason is a friend of mine and a damned good chef.

What bothers me terribly is this:  The writer of the piece, Executive Editor Ron Donoho, is married to the public relations director of The Hotel Del, where, Jason is Chef de Cuisine. Hard to believe also that in this issue, 1500 Ocean is reviewed by Robin Kleven Dishon.  Am I the only person who thinks this is all too cozy?  Is it just a coincidence that 1500 Ocean is getting so much ink in one issue by the Executive Editor?  How does it affect the credibility of all concerned?

10 thoughts on “All Too Cozy?

  1. Since when has the food culture in San Diego–or any other town for that matter–been straight forward? At least the chef of choice has valid credentials (worked at Per Se in New York City with Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame) and can cook his ass off (remember the post-Doug Organ Laurel days). Although the path to the cover may have been shady no one can deny that Jason Shaeffer has earned the right to be there. Which is WAAAAAAAAY more than I can say for a certain number of chefs honored as Chef of the Year by the San Diego Restaurant Association over the years. 

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  2. re: what bothers you about the san diego magazine/hotel del connection:
    does it bother you enough to check the facts?
    ron donoho had nothing to do with the cover decision.
    nor did he ask the jason be on it
    nor did he have anything to do with assigning robin klevin dishon to review 1500 ocean–that decision was hers, and was approvied by me.
    oh well, don’t let the facts…..

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  3. FoodBuzz responds to Mr. Blair: Perception is reality. The reality is and facts are that Mr. Donoho wrote the piece that showcased with five others, Jason Shaeffer, chef for 1500 Ocean at The Hotel Del where Mrs. Donoho is the head of PR. It is also fact that Shaeffer was on the cover and Ms. Dishon wrote the review of 1500 Ocean in the same issue. Those facts create the perception that an all too cozy relationship exists when PR meets the press.  My only mistake was not to check that Mr. Blair is the editor and the decisions were his.

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  4. perception is reality only if you have reasonable powers of perception. of course you clearly implied that ron made the decisions. i’m surprised you regard that “only mistake” as minor–not the entire point of your item.

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  5. With all due respects (if any are due) . . .

    I suspect the protestations of the San Diego Magazine staff echo the flattery of being expected to have “journalistic standards.” I’ve perused the magazine for the past year and see little evidence of any standards. It’s a shame newcomers associate it with the image of San Diego. There really is more to San Diego than Botox, face-lifts, pretty teeth and incestuous relationships with otherwise fine chefs. I’ve learned not to expect anything resembling professional journalism from the magazine. Was Maybell Von Troutberg really seen hobnobbing with Elvis at the latest charity ball? Oh my!

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  6. Of course it’s blurred. Restaurant “reviews” in a glossy puff-lication like SDM never contain actual criticism, either. When advertisers plunk down their money, they expect to be able to hang something that is extremely flattering on their wall.

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  7. My husband and I dined for our anniversary in October at 1500 Ocean. The Duck was burnt to a crisp and the crab appetizer was watery and tasteless. We decided to give it another chance a couple of months ago,I had a dish with Red Snapper, it was so undercooked it was raw in the middle. Not what I expected from an accomplished Chef.

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  8. um, if that was duck confit, there’s a good chance it was supposed to be cooked so well done. And some people, myself included, do prefer a good piece of fish cooked properly, which means leaving it raw in the middle. If it were a steak, that would be called “medium-rare.”

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