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Incognito (somewhat) Chowhound 'Outed' in Restaurant - A Cautionary Tale


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Incognito (somewhat) Chowhound 'Outed' in Restaurant - A Cautionary Tale

Alan Gardner | Jul 16, 2001 11:43 AM

Didn’t your mother always tell you to wear clean underwear and look presentable when going out, because you never know who you might meet? And, like me, you didn’t listen.

Last week I needed a Chowhound fix. I’d been on vacation, returning home quite sick and with no appetite. Eventually I needed hot and sour soup and staggered out, unshowered and unshaven to a small place that has the best hot and sour soup in Toronto (already posted on the Canada board). Usually, we’re the only Occidentals there, but this time there was a party of about 15 people. After I ordered, I was asked by the waiter if I’d read about the place on the Internet, as a local magazine had apparently posted something. While we were waiting for the food, our discussion revolved around who might have written this up. We know a few of the food and wine writers, but nobody had said anything. Also, now that large groups were coming – would this change the soul of the restaurant? Could we destroy a small restaurant with success and publicity?

Fortunately, the soup was fantastic as usual. And we were part way through our meal when the large group started to leave. As they passed our table, someone asked whether this restaurant had been recommended to us by Alan Gardner. Not really, I replied – I am Alan Gardner. At first, they didn’t believe me, but then ensued a surreal scene that I’m still having difficulty in believing. I was virtually hauled out of my seat, paraded over to the group and an announcement made that ‘This is Alan Gardner” upon which there was a round of applause, followed by much hand shaking and picture taking by the group, who turned out to be Dutch.

Apparently they had searched Chowhound, found my ‘Top 10” and had been so successful with the first restaurant that they had toured Toronto with my list in hand. This was their third time to this restaurant and this was the first time they’d seen other Occidentals there, so guessed we’d also found it on Chowhound.

Most bemused were the restaurant managers (fairly new) who didn’t know our names, or the role we had played, who suddenly found that a patron appeared to be a celebrity. But they couldn’t figure out why! And now my unshaven, disheveled picture is being shown around in the Netherlands.

So, take heed all Chowhounds. And wear clean underwear – you never know what’s going to happen – even at a neighbourhood restaurant.

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