James Holmes, the affable locavore chef behind Austin's Olivia, missed out on the culinary scandal that unfolded last year when Time.com critic Josh Ozersky wrote about how much he enjoyed having restaurant chefs cater his wedding (while failing to mention he accepted their services for free.)
Holmes was presumably too busy cooking to get bogged down in questions of food blog ethics. But the story riveted passionate eaters, thousands of whom are registered to hear its meaning parsed at a South by Southwest panel next week.
According to Holmes, 2000 people are slated to attend a panel discussion of ethics in food criticism, for which Holmes will be joined by Ben Leventhal, executive editor of The Feast; Jane Goldman, vice president of CBS Interactive (and former head of Chow); Marcia Gagliardi, founder of tablehopper.com; and Robert Sietsema, food critic for the Village Voice. The panel will tackle Ozersky, FTC rulings and the demise of anonymity.
Holmes has been tapped to bring reports from the trenches.
"I've had some really good experiences and really bad experiences," Holmes says. "Ninety-five percent of it is good."
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The bad, Holmes says, are the unbidden e-mails that arrive at least twice a month, requesting a free meal in exchange for blog coverage.
"I get a lot of random messages saying 'Can I spend a night with you in your kitchen?'" Holmes says. "No, you can't, man."
Holmes is wary of appearing rude, but says he can't accommodate every eater with a camera and a homemade business card. Still, he doesn't know who's responsible for reining in bloggers mad with the sense of power a web address provides. He's looking forward to hearing what other panelists think.
"It'll be interesting," he says. "I'm on the fence about a lot of things."