As Craig Hlavaty briefly discusses in this week's feature on the Twitterverse, the food community has become one of the largest on Twitter. At first, it may seem unusual for members of a a non-tech-oriented community to have become such early adopters of the technology and to have built such an enormous network. But food lovers have always gravitated toward not only each other but also ways to document, share and debate their love of food. Twitter fits the bill as an updated version of forums like eGullet or Chow.
So many personalities caring so deeply and passionately about a subject will always be a formula for polite disagreement on one end of the spectrum or all-out war on the other. Below are some of the most memorable food fights from the Houston Twitterverse.
5. Misha vs. the world: If you're looking for a fight, @tastybitz -- a/k/a Misha, the blogger behind Tasty Bits -- will bring it. Never one to be shy (or tactful, for that matter) about expressing his opinion, Misha has taken on just about every Twitter user in Houston. While his more routine targets are @mattbramanti (featured in the cover story's sidebar) or @HTownChowDown, perhaps Misha's most memorable moment featured one of our own. Late last year, Misha got into an argument with former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh about why Walsh focused primarily on "street food culture" as opposed to more high-end dining, which ultimately led Walsh to block Misha on Twitter entirely. As befitting his reputation, Misha wears this badge with pride.
4. Yelapa Playa Mexicana vs. electronics: After Chef L.J. Wiley's first "Reality Dinner," a multi-course feast that spanned an entire evening, he noticed that many of his diners had been Tweeting throughout the entire dinner as opposed to simply relaxing and enjoying the food. The next day, he sent out a very benign and playful Tweet about "no electronic devices" allowed at the next Reality Dinner so that people could focus on the food first. His Tweet was mistakenly construed as an attack on Twitter as a whole, which seems odd considering the chef has taken to social media like a duck to water and uses it routinely to communicate with customers. Luckily, the kerfuffle blew over quickly. Twitter often has a memory as short as its character limit.
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3. Randy Rucker vs. his peers: The talented chef -- most recently of Rainbow Lodge and now running his own restaurant in Tomball, Bootsie's Cafe -- is known as much for his temperamental behavior as for his cooking. Rucker has gotten into heated arguments on Twitter with peers, industry personnel, media and even occasionally his customers. After the Pork Belly Throwdown event organized by the Houston Chowhounds, Rucker was so incensed at not winning the competition that he lashed out against his fellow chefs and competitors as well as a public that didn't appreciate his food, vowing to never participate in such an event again. Late last year, such behavior even prompted Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook to publicly chastise him (along with a few other young chefs like Jonathan Jones of Beaver's) for being "at their strutty, ranty worst, full of profane, lewd trash talk and delusions of grandeur."
2. Alison Cook vs. Jonathan's The Rub: As previously indicated, the food critic is active on Twitter and uses it as an effective means to keep her ear to the ground for news, communicate with chefs and interact with readers while maintaining her anonymity. She also uses it, on occasion, to describe her experiences in restaurants she's just visited. One night, that experience included being kicked out of Jonathan's The Rub by chef and owner Jonathan Levine. Cook described her ejection with befuddlement and typical grace. Her followers made sure the story was RT'd (re-Tweeted) hundreds of times, which led to the un-social media-savvy Levine indirectly apologizing to Cook via a radio show. Unfortunately, the damage to his reputation had already been done.
1. Cleverley Stone vs. the Houston Chowhounds: The radio show mentioned above was none other than Cleverley Stone's show on 650 AM. Stone's show and occasional appearances on Fox 26's morning news have led her to proclaim herself "Houston's dining diva," and her diva-like behavior has led to more than a few spats in the food community, one of which was covered last September by our sister blog, Hair Balls. But leading up to that incident was some trash-talking on Twitter that started with a joking Tweet from rival food radio host/producer Jenny Wang (a/k/a @imneverfull) about Cafe Annie's long-postponed closing date. Over the next few days, the dialogue between Stone and her followers -- most of whom were Houston Chowhounds, and therefore her target demographic -- devolved to the point where @tastybitz called her a "cunt" and Stone unfollowed and blocked every single Houston Chowhound en masse, even the innocent bystanders who'd had nothing to do with the conversations/arguments. Although Stone later deleted all of her Tweets, they were carefully cached by Jenny Wang, and the end result was that Stone has lost a significant portion of supporters and listeners.