Thursday, February 10, 2011

David Adjey: done like dinner

Let us pray - that this ends soon.

Put a fork in his arse and turn him over - he's done.

I can only be talking about the Food Network's David Adjey, who last night gave a ballroomful of Winnipeggers a master class in how not to win over a crowd.

It was ugly.

Billed an evening with David Adjey, the star of Restaurant Makeover and The Opener gave the crowd at the Fort Garry Hotel every cent's worth of their $30 ticket (or $1,500 for a corporate table) - in discomfort and embarrassment, that is.

Things started off well enough - Adjey entered the ballroom to the strains of his show's theme song, wearing a chef's jacket, pants (thank the Lord), and one of those head-mics favored by Madonna and motivational speakers everywhere, including my favorite: Tom Cruise in Magnolia.

Looking very much like Toronto's answer to Gary Busey, he served us our appetizer - three minutes of baby-back ribbing about our weather compared to Edmonton's - followed by the main course: an "I'm winging it and doing a bad job" descent into madness, bad judgment, desperation and flopsweat.

Having performed stand-up for the better part of a dozen years, I recognized the scenario well: you lose the crowd, try to make it better, and push so hard, you make it much, much worse. Think: Michael Richards and his famous onstage meltdown.

After only one or two minutes of Adjey's nonsensical ramblings, the crowd stopped paying attention and started texting, tweeting, and murmuring.

Sample murmur: "He's losing them."

Who are you - who who who who?

Adjey was ill-prepared to speak, but his big mistake was to break the first rule of communicating: know your audience.

As it was, it seemed that Adjey might have landed at the event in a flying saucer, wandered unknowingly into a lair of bizarre, alien lifeforms, and thought it best to talk his way out of the scenario in a tongue understood only by himself.

I'm all about counterintuitive logic, but among Adjey's questionable and badly delivered advice to the crowd were these chestnuts.
1. He said he won't hire staff unless they have cell phones and actually use them while they're working in the kitchen.

The audience took this as a sign that they should be texting too, but Adjey got flustered and agitated whenever he saw people doing it, despite his suggestion that multitasking should complement everything.

2. He outright said, "Young people are the smartest people around;" odd choice, considering that the people who bought tickets to the event were mostly "old" and well off.

He could have saved his ass by saying " technology" but, when challenged, he refused to budge from his initial statement. The tables full of "old people" tweeting on their mobiles was also a sign that maybe this crowd wasn't as dumb as he seemed to think.

3. He advised that one should never order "the daily special" at a restaurant - another odd choice, given that a good number of attendees were restaurateurs and damn proud of that daily special.

4. He said, ""Organic" is a scam."
Meet my organic fist

At this point, the crowd was clearly against the good chef. But this last bit of advice clearly came as a shocker to corporate sponsor - Organza. D'oh!

And Organza clearly came as a shocker to Adjey. One disgruntled attendee at the Organza table got up, removed the table placard with the Organza logo on it, approached Adjey, and angrily "stuck it in his face." The placard, that is.

Adjey begged him for a chance to explain - and for one painfully long moment, it seemed like Adjey was going to get a fist in the kisser.

However, the angry guy went back to his table, shouting things I couldn't hear, but with a look on his face that said, "This guy is frigging insane."

For his part, Adjey tried to win back the crowd by saying that he wasn't talking about ALL organic, just the BAD organic, and that clearly Organza was the GOOD organic, because it has angry employees who throw placards in your face if you say it's anything else.

To the attendees, he came off as the worst kind of bully: the kind who beats you up until you challenge him back, at which point he folds like a deck of cards. 

And that's when the heckling began.


Adjey: "Can anybody tell me what the future of restaurants is?"
Audience: "Organic!

Adjey: "I'm going to be talking for 20 more minutes."
Audience: Argh!

And so he pressed on. And on. And on.

People stared at their laps, rolled their eyes, and texted loved ones "in case."

At the end of the event, the flabbergasted and angry crowd was abuzz with rhetorical questions, like: "What's wrong with this guy?"; "Why is he such a bully?"; "Let's get him!" 

I guess the last one isn't a question.

And maybe it says a lot that, when I asked a person attending on behalf of the Children's Wish Foundation - the charity that was being benefited by the event - what she thought, she said, "I wish a trap door would have opened up, so I could've jumped in."

We can only be thankful that the Children's Wish Foundation made some money and the crowd was granted a blessed wish of its own when Adjey finally exited the ballroom.


  1. That sounds like one enchanted evening.

  2. I heard about this, glad you are posting it. As someone who has organized a fair share of events and many sponsorships, this is a horror story!

  3. As the promoter of the event.. I am quite embarrased and apologize even though it was not my fault.

  4. It wasn't anyone's fault, except you-know-who's - I think everyone is on the same page!

  5. Kenton, you pretty well summed up my feelings about the evening. I was shocked at the way he spoke about the sponsors and to the sponsors. Other top dollar sponsors were ignored completely.

    His comments about daily specials were so far off the mark it made me wonder if he really knew the restaurant industry at all. When a supplier phones up with fresh in wild oysters that day only, you grab them and make them a special of the day. Before putting a dish on the printed menu it will often be tried out first as a daily special to judge its popularity.

    So, note to dinners,check out the dialy special it might be a greaet one off.

  6. Oops, that should read - note to diners, check out the daily special it might be a great one off.

    My apologies.

  7. Wow...what a disaster!
    On second thought...he's not a speaker...he's a Chef and probably very used to some profanity and bullying of sous chefs in the seclusion of kitchens. Perhaps "speaking" should not be in his "Adjey-end-ah"!!!! Lol!

    That said...i feel sorry for the is difficult to recover from flops ...people tend to recall them more then the successful ones.

    It is not only the responsibility of the speaker to know his audience...but for the organizer to know his speaker!

    It is a lesson for all of us in the industry!



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