As It Happens

French critic fined for fake review of unopened restaurant

A Michelin-star restaurant in Dijon, France has a message for angry and anonymous restaurant reviewers: Think twice before you moan and groan -- especially when the restaurant is run by the family of renowned French chef, Bernard Loiseau.
Late renowned chef Bernard Loiseau with his widow Dominique, the current president of the Bernard Loiseau restaurant group. (Wikipedia)

A Michelin-star restaurant in Dijon, France, has a message for angry and anonymous restaurant reviewers: Think twice before you moan and groan -- especially when the restaurant is run by the family of renowned French chef, Bernard Loiseau.

In a recent order from Dijon's high court, an anonymous online reviewer has been fined €2,500 ($3,608 Cdn) for penning a scathing review. The money will go to the restaurant, Loiseau Des Ducs, 

"He said that the restaurant was mainly [overrated]," Dominique Loiseau tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Loiseau is the widow of the famous chef Bernard Loiseau and president of the restaurant group that shares his name. 

A view of the entrance of the French restaurant 'Loiseau des Ducs' on Feb.24, 2014, in Dijon. (Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images)

Although the review was published in 2013, Loiseau still knows very little about the anonymous reviewer. Police have not released his identity publicly.

"He had written a lot of bad things about a lot of businesses in Dijon. I think it's somebody who doesn't know what to do," Loiseau quips.

The online review appeared five days before the Loiseau Des Ducs grand opening. Loiseau says the timing of the review was devastating. But, it's also the reason she was confident she had a case. After a discussion with her general manager they decided to take a screen shot of the review and file a lawsuit against the reviewer.

"He had no reason, he was lying," Loiseau says. "If you have a review and [your restaurant is] open, you cannot punish people because they say 'They do not like so and so.' But here, [our business] was not open, so we could do something."

French chef Bernard Loiseau cooks in his kitchen in this March, 4, 1991, photo. Loiseau died Monday, Feb. 24, 2003, in Saulieu, central France, aged 52. In 2001, Loiseau received the prestigious International Five Star Diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences for outstanding commitment to excellence and service within the hospitality industry and to designate him as one the finest chefs in the world. (Jacques Brinon/AP)

Loiseau insists she continues to value reviews. She makes a point of talking directly to her clients to try and accommodate their requests. Loiseau dismisses theories that her late husband's suicide was a response to negative reviews that suggested he may lose his Michelin status. Loiseau says her husband respected critics but would likely have trouble with online reviews - where anyone can become an authority.

"I think in a few years these reviews will be [less pervasive] because now it's new, so people think they are important. But, I believe it will [soon settle] down."

Loiseau thinks this is the first time that a restaurant critic has been fined for a review. She is grateful for the judge's decision and knows that her husband would have supported her taking legal action.

"Oh, he would be proud, of course. He would be very proud!"

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