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Let’s Discuss: The Insatiable Steven Doyle

Image by John Ueland.

In the November issue of D Magazine, freelance writer Jason Sheeler profiled Steven Doyle, founder of CraveDFW. When we assigned Sheeler the job, he had no idea who Doyle was. Sheeler called Doyle and asked if he could tag along on one of his nightly fact-finding missions. The whole evening was recorded, with Doyle’s permission, on audio tape. Sheeler filed the story.

Steven Doyle is not happy with the piece. He feels it’s “mean spirited and odd.”

Since the story hit the streets, I’ve received phone calls, texts, and emails from bartenders, waiters, restaurant owners, and readers who have, as one put it, “observed Doyle in action on numerous occasions.” What is astonishing to me is that none of these people will speak on the record.

So I will.

I don’t “know” Steven Doyle. I’ve met him a few times and he has contributed to SideDish. I think he is a nice person with a big heart and he wants to create a big love fest in the Dallas dining scene. He works hard. But Doyle is a cheerleader masquerading as reporter and he is setting a dangerous precedent for food bloggers following his lead. They attend free media food and drink events and write glowing reports without mentioning the fact they didn’t pay. They posses a scary sense of entitlement: “I have a food blog let me in.”  Do their reports serve the reader? No, they serve the restaurant industry.

If I’m a restaurant owner, I’m not going on the record to say anything against food bloggers who attend my media dinner and, in turn, talk, blog, and tweet about my yummy food. It’s free advertising. I can’t blame them. Hell, I even feel sorry for restaurant PR people—who needs to hire one if you can get 50 food bloggers with advance degrees in social media to spread your message. Doyle claims he doesn’t take anything other than what all members of the media are offered. However, plenty of people have reported otherwise. Truthfully, if Doyle would “own” his modus operandi, he could be an appealing personality. His recent gig as host of the celebrity kitchen at the State Fair proved he can carry an audience. His website could be a respectable pay-for-play alternative like an insidery version of Where magazine. Crowds at the bars part as he enters. His groupies wear I Heart Steve “tour” jackets.  Instead, Doyle chooses to deny and retreat.

I’m no shrink but Doyle’s need to be first at reporting a restaurant opening or closing is unhealthy. Many restaurant operators have said that if a story about them appears in another blog, they get a text, email, or phone call from Doyle. “He basically bullies me by saying ‘why didn’t you call me?’ or ‘your place is busy because of me,’” said one bar owner who, of course, doesn’t want his name used.

It’s the dawn of a new age in food writing. Everybody’s a food critic. The Associated Press standards are slipping fast. So are the FTC’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” which states bloggers can be fined up to $11,000 for not disclosing freebies. The FTC explains that an “in-kind payment” for a blog post is considered an endorsement and the payment must be disclosed.

Doyle thinks I am out to get him and bring down all of the Dallas food bloggers. Am I making too much of a big deal out of this? You are the reader, what do you think?

  • Jack Perkins

    Yes Pinhead. I’m telling you that nobody eats free at Maple & Motor. I’ve never even comped my mother.

    Listen carefully you cowardly, anonymous prick. You may call me rude. You may call me curmudgeonly. You may call me an ass. You may call for me to stop kicking your ass if we ever meet face to face.

    You can never call me dishonest you gasbag. STEVE DOYLE HAS NEVER BEEN COMPED AT MAPLE & MOTOR. If you can prove otherwise, lets hear it.

    Steve Doyle and I are not friends. If he or anyone else thinks otherwise, they are idiots. Friends come to your house for dinner. They come pick you up when your car is dead. They call you when their heart is broken.

    Steve and I are acquaintances who met when HE called ME to do the three part story you mention in your post above. Idiot. He and I tend to disagree more than we agree.

    Read this carefully. Bloggers are not important to me, or anyone for that matter. I find them to be absolutely insignificant. No restaurateur with any intelligence would sell their integrity to curry the favor of the best of them. They are at best a dalliance and at worst a nuisance.

    They are all better than you – even Margie and Cynthia.

  • RJ

    Did you even read what I write so far? I don’t care whether you or anyone like what Doyle writes.
    I don’t care if he has a million readers like you. It still doesn’t absolve him from violating FTC rules.

  • matt mccallister

    I think you are all a bunch of bitches…every single one of you…. fuck you and fuck off……
    Junge my food and that is it.. other than that fuck you

  • Penrose

    There’s not a hair of difference between you, Jackson, and every other restaurant owner who uses Doyle to promote himself. Deny, shout, and threaten all you want.

  • Penrose

    Junge McCallister’s food, bitches. Matt and Iris play Doyle like a lyre for easy press lovin’, but not one word in his defense.

  • FoodLover

    I had resolved to abstain from further comment, realizing most of these commenters need to hit puberty before they merit attention. However, Perkins’ rational comments and McCallister’s expression of artistic rage inspires me to try once again to shine adult light on the topic of Steven’s culinary blog. Most readers of Steven’s blog are highly intelligent professionals who value someone with culinary taste offering recommendations. We are harsh judges, and our exquisite palates are our final arbiters, not the FTC. We continue to follow Steven’s blogs ONLY because his past advice has proven valid to us; we will quit reading ONLY when his advice proves faulty. It isn’t that we don’t care about FTC rules; it’s just that our palates are far better judges of Steven’s recommendations than the FTC. RJ keeps crying that he only cares about FTC rules. Fine – then quit wasting time making comments here, because the FTC isn’t reading these comments. Google ‘FTC’, find their address and go make your argument to them. There is only one reason for RJ’s continued comments here, and that is anonymous character assassination, which is cowardly. It appears that nearly all these negative comments are being made by people green with envy, either of Steven’s large following or of the chefs who have merited Steven’s praise. I’m sorry for you, but God apparently chose to distribute talent unevenly. Live with it. The rest of us will continue to listen to Steven until the first time that he recommends a chef whose food disappoints us. Permit me to try to interpret and apply McCallister’s interesting comment: “If you like my food, fine; if you don’t, eat elsewhere.” Similarly, if you benefit from Steven’s blog, fine; if you don’t, quit reading it.

  • PenroseismyMan

    Jackson admits to giving Steven free tacos –

  • Margie

    I wish I was shocked by all this. Nancy, did you ever hear back from FTC?

  • matt mccallister

    @ penrose…..leave my wife out of this… Steve? I don’t think so … I normally don’t even comment on blogs nor do I read them… whether you are a good writer or not. If you have any further comments… we can discuss in person and yes come judge my food……you probably will anyway because you have to be just another fucking food writer,/yelper/blogger…get a life….stop trashing others

  • Jack Perkins

    “Even if it’s hard for you to get your head around, Jackson, this IS NOT ABOUT YOU.”

    Then why did you bring me into it?

    Here is how this is going to work. You are going to tell someone who you are. That ratbag is going to tell some one else. That person is going to tell me. You won’t be able to help it. They won’t be able to help it. Ask Twinwillow. Ask DallasDude.

    One day we are going to talk face to face. One of us looks forward to it. One of us dreads it. I know which one I am.

    Enjoy your day Ellsworth.

  • Beda

    Speaking of Twinwillow, he’s been suspiciously quiet; I’ve never known him not to offer his two cents’ worth.

  • Sander

    I make it a policy to not eat at places where the owner threatens people physically. Am I required to disclose that to the FTC?

  • Nancy Nichols

    OKay, folks. This is out of hand. The horse is dead. You are off topic. I am closing the comments. If you are getting here for the first time and have a comment you would like to make, email me and I will post it.