Pierre Jancou at Vivant in September 2012

Pierre Jancou spanks magazine for “fradulent” free meal request


Pierre Jancou is many things: a lover of food, an ambassador of natural wine, and (as we learned this week) a former male model. He is also (as we learned from last year’s exchange with F-R Gaudry) a man with a temper.

On October 19, Jancou received an email from the secretary to Jean-Paul Ludot, the Directeur Général of Marie-Claire, announcing that Vivant had been selected to feature as his favorite restaurant of the month. This was paired with a request for the boss man (and a guest) to eat for free.

Jancou replied that he had never in 24 years invited a journalist to eat for free and that he found such a request to be “louche et frauduleuse.” Ludot himself responded that this was a “very classic approach to test restaurant menus and write articles.” He then cited the number of Marie-Claire readers and told Jancou that he would remove Vivant from their selection. “You are the only one to react this way… and as aggressively,” he continued in a follow-up reply. He went on to say that Jancou was “stingy.”

How do I know all this? Because Jancou forwarded the email chain to me (and many others) on October 21. I giggled and emailed him my reply, but another recipient, Bruno Verjus, published the entire correspondence on his blog Food Intelligence. That gave rise to stories in Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro, L’Express and other major media outlets.

In response, Marie-Claire has issued an official apology for Ludot’s “personal error.” Ludot himself has apologized for his “clumsiness” and assured us that his “attitude has been shifted.”

The greater shifts, however, are in the balance of power between old and new media, and between restaurants and journalists. Ludot’s boast to Jancou that “others have understood that it was an opportunity to put forward their establishment in a major magazine… with 500,000 readers” reveals an (unsurprising) unawareness of the fact that Jancou doesn’t need him.

Restaurants, if they are any good, have already been written and written about. Journalists have little to offer in the way of “exposure” to restaurants that are already full every night. The days of free meals, for the writer (and their bosses) are surely coming to an end. Maybe even for Pudlo.

 

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14 thoughts on “Pierre Jancou spanks magazine for “fradulent” free meal request”

  1. Pierre Jancou is well known as a boorish, obnoxious, self-absorbed lout so why his self-important fobbish response (and subsequent publicizing of this private email exchange) should come as a surprise to anyone in Paris is beyond me. That man will do anything for attention, his cartoonish tattoos say it all.

  2. I definitely agree with Pierre Jancou on this matter. On the other hand I don’t criticize or judge the ones who do so. In our house we feel is better for our business and us. Pierre just said that in 24 years I never invited a journalist in for a dinner or free dinner.

    We can we respect once philosophies.

    You are my hero!

  3. Also, perhaps M. Jancou simply doesn’t want to prepare food for readers of such base quality publications.

  4. “Restaurants, if they are any good, have already been written and written about. Journalists have little to offer in the way of “exposure” to restaurants that are already full every night. The days of free meals, for the writer (and their bosses) are surely coming to an end. Maybe even for Pudlo.”

    Regardless of who was in the wrong, isn’t the bigger issue food journalism and where it’s going (or not going?). Thank you, Paris by Mouth, for your courage as a food blog in writing these final thoughts. It seems like everyone wants to write about food these days, but if everyone’s a self-made critic (either in writing or just by eating out), who will care about reading the reviews?

  5. Pierre Jancou is totally correct!Who do these journalists think they are- they appropriate their importance from their job-

  6. Ptipois said: “Some people do not seem to realize that there is a considerable difference between inviting someone and asking for an invitation. That is only where the problem lies.”

    I don’t see a problem with beeing asked. I mean: how many top notch or ambitious restaurants have a “press contacts” section on heir websites? What do you think this is for? Exactly, it is for journalists/high end bloggers etc to ask about pictures, interviews – or a reservation. And if you place a reservation through the press contact, it is clear that it is considered an invitation. Again, I don’t see a problem with this. And many journalists don’t even have a choce: On “Food Intelligence” several commenters explained that there are no big expense accounts for critics anymore, even less so for freelancers. So what shall they do? I had plenty of nice writers in my restaurant, where it was clear that they didn’t ask for an inviation because they are so greedy, they rather felt humiliated by the fact. But they simply had to – otherwise they couldn’t make a living from it. Mr. Ludot is certainly not the typical example, even if his case oh so conveniently fits the cliché.
    Again: no theater or opera critic pays for his expensive tickets. Nobody cares. The same with travel journalist who fly to the Maledives etc.
    I never would have thought that I would ever defend restaurant critics, but what is it with food, that people get so angry about freebies?

  7. “Restaurants invite journalist to check on what they are doing. But if they mess up, they’ll get a bad review or won’t appear at all.”
    Boy, I couldn’t disagree more, Milimalimaloue; sure there are PR folks and sure there are sponges, but people like Pierre Jancou and Daniel Rose, who don’t fall for this trick, have my respect and take it from me or anyone in the business, and I know a few, everyone is looking for a free meal in Paris, but they do not, I repeat DO NOT, report on bad free meals. As one person said to me when I questioned her on her ethics, “Oh, I just don’t report them.”

  8. Some people do not seem to realize that there is a considerable difference between inviting someone and asking for an invitation. That is only where the problem lies.

    So all other considerations about “journalists eating for free” or PRs inviting journalists or anything included in the PR budget are irrelevant in this case.

  9. The guy’s a fricking CEO! He could even afford Alain Passard!

    The demand alone to get invited is so brazen that I have to admire Pierre Jancou for keeping a civilized tone in his email.

    By pulling Vivant off the magazine they prove how objectively chosen their recommendations are. Then again – it’s a women’s magazine. Who are we kidding?

  10. I have to add : even though journalists eat for free all the time, it does not mean that the restaurants inviting them are guaranteed a good review.

    Restaurants invite journalist to check on what they are doing. But if they mess up, they’ll get a bad review or won’t appear at all.

  11. I must say I agree. The whole thing is very hypocritical. I used to work as a PR for restaurants and invited journalists all the time. Without them even asking. And when they did, I’d always advice my clients to say yes.

    Part of the problem is that most papers and magazines can’t (or won’t) afford to pay these restaurant bills any more.

    Isn’t it true, also, that there is a misleading confusion between actual food critics and lifestyle journalists ? They can’t be hold to the same standards, can they ?

    All that been said… That guy from Marie-Claire : not a food critic OR a journalist. Just a gougniafier, if you ask me…

  12. Of course I am with Mr. Jancou as well, in that he has every right not to invite anyone. But generally I don’t see a problem with a journalist asking about an ivitation. To some I say Yes, to others I say No.

    Everyone knows that the “big restaurants”, be it in Paris, London or Berlin, invite food- and travel-journalists. What do you think they have their PR-agencies for?
    So what?

    Do you really think that, say, a renowned theater critic has to pay for his premium seat?
    Greetings,
    Pierre W.

  13. I’m with Pierre and intend to tell him so next week; this trick of saying “we’re going to give you an award and by the way I and my gang will be there at X o’clock” is not limited to Marie-Claire. One book (by Olivier Morteau I think) states that one famous guidebook writer routinely pulls this trick.

  14. I am a restaurateur myself, and honestly, I don’t see Mr. Jancou’s problem with the very first Mail he received. He is asked very politely if he “thinks it would be possible” to invite Mr. Ludot.

    Why didn’t he just reply in an equally polite way and just say “this is not possible”. That would have been appropriate.
    I think his very aggressive and insulting reply paved the way for the escalation.

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