My friend Al experienced this last week. He complained about this on Secret Eats’ Facebook page, but they just deleted it.
So here is the account of his experience:
Very disappointed that you deleted my comment with regards to your last event in JHB, nonetheless herewith is my review which I will share and post to blogs and social networks alike.
The Secret Eats events advertises itself with adjectives like “absolutely delicious”, “amazing wine”, “perfectly paired wines” oh yes and a chef “on top of his game” all of this, this 4-course “taste experience” AND wine pairings for R650pp. Which is rather steep by today’s standards, but it is 4 course, right, and wine pairings and a top chef, so surely, SURELY this is what you will be getting which make the R650pp a little easier to swallow.
Arrived at the event 15mins early (we were that excited, see), only to have nobody greet us at the door. So joining the other guests and wondering around like a lost flock of sheep we finally managed to grab the attention of one of the organisers. Sat down and watched entertainingly how the kitchen staff and organisers scattered around fixing drinks, packing boxes etc. Not to bother, I’m sure the food will be amazing…
Eventually more people arrived and the organisers looked out of their depth, the rest of our party arrived with no meet and greet at the door, it took another 15mins for them to get their welcome drinks which I had to attend and serve to. Received Secret Eats cards with info of another guest at the evening, I’m confused is it a singles night? Nonetheless I asked everyone, EVERYONE, if the info relates to anyone, nobody. In fact I wasn’t the only one, it seemed a great mass of us failed to find anyone. Are these even the right cards? Did anybody actually find anyone? Silly game, let’s move onto the dinner, guests are hungry.
Onto the dinner where the head-chef washed our hands, odd. We were given slices of lemon earlier on the evening which everyone had to carry around, why not just have it all in a bowl at the table from the beginning – makes common sense right, rather than to carry this lemon, and your drink and your belongings. The seats were unreserved which kind of makes it a problem when you arrive as a party of 4 and then find that there are only 2 seats here and another 2 there etc. fortunately lucky for us we managed to grab the last remaining 4 empty seats in a corner, unlucky for others I assume who wished to share the “experience” together.
The tables were set up with herb plants along the middle of the table. My particular seat was missing my “wine pairings” and the seat next to me was missing its teaspoon and fork – these being the only utensils throughout the evening. Nestled between this rainforest of plants was the table’s bottled water, still in the plastic bottle, they not bothered to have it poured into a jug of ice perhaps, that would have been nice. The first course, remember they promised courses right, the first course was a little bit of salmon with orange that had been sitting on a soup spoon since the beginning of the night. Charming but I hear salmonella is a fantastic diet plan.
The second course I can only describe as being coffee mash on a small pastry, but lets not forget our wine pairings which still happened to be the same red and white wine from the beginning. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I’m pretty certain that wine pairings mean you actually get a different glass of wine to pair per course, not the same wine through the ENTIRE evening. But like I said I’m not a connoisseur just a simple fool sitting with a fork and teaspoon, from a different set I might add.
The third course: a baby tomato in a shot glass with a dark chocolate drop inside. By this time my stomach is eating my spine I’m so hungry; it was at this stage that I realised these were the actual courses and not canapés. Sigh. Finally some food arrived that required you to actually chew, a little bit of chicken on a stick. When a member of our party told the chef, Shaun Woolf, that she is a vegetarian, his response and I quote, “Not my problem, you will have to wait until the next course”. Excuse me!? Now as a chef, a top chef, a chef that is supposedly on top of your game, it is your problem. Surely you are capable of going back into the kitchen and providing an alternative. I can understand egos, I watch Gordon Ramsay religiously, but champ your food isn’t even good, the setup is drastically poor, people are virtually sitting on top of each other and the only thing separating the dining area to the reception and kitchen is a shower curtain. He then exclaimed that nobody told him about a vegetarian being here on the night, a challenge far too great for this man. When the situation was explained to the organiser, sure enough there in his notes, high-lighted and circled is the dietary requirements for 1 vegetarian. Top chef here then came back with a plate consisting of 3 separate pea pods. Three.pea.pods. I kid you not.
Wine pairings so far, the same red and white wine since the beginning. Not even sure if I can even classify this as “wine pairings”. When asking the waiter to see the wine, the red was from an unlabelled bottle – could very well have been boxed wine. Nobody on the night bothered to exclaim exactly what wine we happened to be drinking.
The fourth course: we were instructed to grab some of the herbs from the plants decorating our table and start preparing our own pesto. Yes, we are now making our own food. Hoping this would actually lead to something worthwhile, we were then given a small bowl of pasta. A bowl of ice-cold pasta I might add, of which the majority was then sent back so they could be nuked in the microwave. The gent next to me, his pasta was so overcooked it turned into mash when he started mixing in his own pesto which he had to make.
It was at this time we had enough. Hungry, annoyed, having just wasted the last 2hrs making our own pesto, drinking boxed wine, dealing with a rude chef, eating nothing but pathetic canapés we left. For R650 this is what you get. Are you havin a laugh Secret Eats? I feel like you are nothing but con artists, over-selling something that clearly isn’t. Venue was a joke. Food was an embarrassment. Organisation was laughable.
You want to know how it’s done right, The Waterford Restaurant hold proper wine pairing evenings only once a month. Proper 5 course meals that require you to use more than just a fork and a teaspoon, where meals aren’t prepared and presented in a shot glass. Where wine and different wine is served per course and it’s not unlabelled in fact the wine farmer is with you on the night and how much does it cost, R600? R500? Try R295, more than half the price that you cons ask for. And you land up supporting the UJ School of Tourism and Hospitality.
We were also told there would be a raffle on the night supporting a local charity. Whatever happened to that Secret Eats? Just shut it down because you’re robbing people of their time and money. It’s pathetic.