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Friday, October 13, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Chowhound: censorship at work again?

image credit: Photobiker

I was browsing Chowhound last night while waiting for you know who to come home when I came upon a series of very curious looking posts, by someone who called himself 'Photobiker'. This Photobiker dude apparently lives above the popular Yucatan-Vietnamese restaurant Yucatasia -quite beloved amongst the Chow set.

Mr.Photobiker is apparently so sick and tired of the unsatinary practices he's observed from his windows above the restaurant's courtyard, he took a bunch of photos to expose those practices and posted them on Chowhound. The photos were damning -if they indeed came from the courtyard of said restaurant- showing workers cutting meat on the cement floor with only a tiny piece of wood or a piece of cardboard box as the cutting board, and cooking right next to the overflowing garbage -complete with rats-on-wings pecking happily at the refuse.

The tenacious Mr.Photobiker tracked down all the threads in CH that mentioned Yucatasia, and posted a message and a link back to his website. I poked around at the Photobiker's website, and he seems legit enough, a French photographer on a mission to take photographs around the world on his motorbike. There was nothing there to make me suspect that he might be a restaurant owner jealous of Yucatasia's success. Not that I can verify that, but you check out his website yourself and see if you think he's legit too.

Miraculously, by the time David came home and I tried to pull up the posts on Chowhound to show him, they've all disappeared, with no note or notation to tell us where they've all gone to.

How odd was that? Now, I know that Chowhound has garnered more a few passionate critiques among the food blogs, but not from me. One of my dearest friends –and my Chowhound front- Malik is quite active on it, and has passed on more than a wisdom or two he's unearthed there to me. I think Chowhound –at least the Bay Area forum- is unmatched when it comes to ethnic and cheap to mid-range eats in the area. The Chronicle can go on making fun of Michelin and how they didn't get ethnic food until they are blue in the face, but if I want me some goat curry I'm going chowing with the hounds and surely not in the company of the grand old lady that's the Chron.

Chowhound claims a reputation of putting the diners' interest first and and foremost. They have been quick to delete anything with a remote appearance of coming from a restaurant, be it a shill or a retort. That's fair enough. Theirs is a site for diners, and if they are not interested in hearing another point of view, they've got the rights to do so. Not that I've ever been deleted there or anything. I know enough to steer clear from any topic regarding Manresa, I've hardly even said much about the restaurant on my own blog since David and I began our relationship.

But now that Chowhound is more than an outgrowth of a man's vision -having been acquired and now run by the web giant CNet, which also owns Chow magazine- perhaps more transparency in the running of the forum is in order? They can start by explaining the deletion of these posts. I, for one, am quite curious to hear their reason for that.

Meanwhile, I'm not going for Bahnmi Carnitas any time soon.

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