'If I wanted someone to come and influence my restaurant, I'd ask them'

The  Staff Canteen

Busy serving his 'Tacos and Tequila terrace' in the run-up to the 'real' reopening on May 20th, Masterchef champion, chef and restaurateur Simon Wood was a mix of bemused and furious when he received an email from a so-called influencer's agent asking for a free meal.

The irony, Simon said in an interview with The Staff Canteen, is that his Tweet sharing the email got so much attention. "That's 600,000 people whose mind I'm now in, who may be coming to get something to eat, so it works in my favour, I know that," he chuckled. 

Whilst it it a common occurrence, Simon ignores most such requests, but the fact is, "calling them out is a way of getting something beneficial out of it in my opinion - they shouldn't be doing it." 

"With this one, the tone of the email was shocking - it's like they swallowed an episode of The Office." 

"If people give this guy free food for being on Love Island for three days, well done to him, maybe it's us that's missing a trick, but it's just an absolute scandal. 

Due to the nature and location of his WOOD restaurants, customers tend to already be of the "celebrities, press and guides" crowd, so giving into requests of this type isn't something he's ever needed to do.

"If I wanted someone to come and influence my restaurant, I'd ask them. I'd say, 'would you come in for dinner and talk about it?' If I wanted to do that, I wouldn't do it with some random stranger who's clearly after a freebie." 

"It's a bit crass when people come in expecting it for free because they think they're somebody." 

They never learn

And if it was poor form to attempt this before the pandemic, it is even more so now.

"Even the biggest names in the country - whether you've got one star, two star, three rosettes, or you're a little café, or you're just starting out, everybody is in the shit. Unless you've got billionaire investors, we're in the shit and we need to get open."

"So to ask for something for free - what've they been doing for a year? You can't go anywhere, you can't spend anything. Go and line someone else's pockets apart from your own." 

For anyone doubting whether to give in to requests like this, Simon has a word of advice. 

"It will happen organically. It's a natural progression. If you're good at what you do, people come to your establishment because they want to enjoy it. To ask for it for nothing - it's just crass." 

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th April 2021

'If I wanted someone to come and influence my restaurant, I'd ask them'