In the first week of my work experience placement at the Hendon Times I was faced with the attractive prospect of interviewing the proprietor and head chef of the restaurant voted the best in London by the VisitLondon awards.
As many of you know, food is a large part of my life and this seemed like the first step on the best-case-scenario of my life plan - becoming a food writer. Little did I know that an ethical dilemma was waiting for me at the Gourmet Garden Malaysian restaurant...
Well, I went and met the owner, and talked to him about the award, and his restaurant, and which dish he thought had swayed the judges. He was even more obsessed with food than I am, so we were getting on famously and I had already got down enough good quotes. We had to wait around for a PR rep who had insisted on coming and eventually failed to turn up, so we kept talking about the restaurant and the food, and when he mentioned a crab dish, I blurted out “oh I love crab!”
Well, as soon as I said that he only clicked his fingers and ordered an underling to cook some up for me! I tried to eat my words and pleaded with him that it wasn’t professional, but in the end there was nothing for it but to do the honourable thing and sample the crab. And it was delish. But I had a sinking feeling that even though I was going to write a complimentary piece on this guy anyway, now that I’d eaten his forbidden fruit, I was obliged to.
What if the crab had been disgusting? What would I have done? The moral, I have learnt, is that no means no. On a larger scale, where the consequences would be more dramatic, it’s best to risk offending people and keep your stomach growling but your journalistic integrity intact.