by Susan Ellis
The Memphis Business Journal has suspended its Best Chef in Memphis contest just one day after it was launched.
The move came after restaurateurs and chefs included in the contest complained about the contest's format, which pitted chef against chef in a bracket, with the winner to be determined by an online vote.
MBJ made the announcement Thursday in a post on the paper's site, explaining, "We looked at the contest as a way to engage more local readers while highlighting the spectacular culinary scene we have in Memphis (which we plainly stated in the launch). We never intended to disparage or upset the chefs; we thought, quite honestly, it would be a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to incite a friendly competition."
According to the story, the MBJ reached out to the chefs prior to the contest. The story also states, "Published reports of us encouraging smack talk are patently false."
On Wednesday afternoon, the Flyer received a copy of the letter signed by chefs and restaurateurs that was sent to MBJ about the Best Chef in Memphis contest. It read, in part, "We feel we will have to respect[fully] decline your offer to participate in the MBJ's Best Chef in Memphis Competition as it is currently structured. It just does not reflect the way in which we choose to do business and support each other."
A restaurateur, whose chef was included in the bracket, told the Flyer on Wednesday that a MBJ representative suggested that restaurants use social media to "smack talk" the competition.
The MBJ story concludes, "Ultimately Memphis is fortunate to have such a close-knit community of chefs, and although we’re puzzled by the response, we also tip our hat to the camaraderie. That’s quite a lobby."