Friday, March 04, 2011

The perils of the PR person

The perils of having PR people sitting around to intimidate and channel conversations is something anyone who has vaguely worked in media will know. So, yesterday, I went and the executive chef of a very well known international hotel chain. 
It was three pm and I found myself in a largely empty expanse of space called the main restaurant. 

The chef was seated, opposite to two pr professionals, one in a suit, and the other in makeshift work clothes, jeans, an over sized top and chunky silver watch. I sat next to the chef who was ready with his leather planner, with notes jotted down with ball point pen. In this extremely hostile environment, I tried my best to break the ice, speak about the world cup - clearly, for me to do that is an act of desperation. I hinted to the two PR women that it wasn't necessary for them to take notes on our meeting. 

They didn't take the hint and i continued to ask questions to the chef but he was so nervous that he repeated the same three points throughout the interview, no matter what question I asked. Yes, so people are looking to eat something new, Avant garde Indian cuisine is the next best thing and people want their food to be well presented.

I asked him generic questions like what his favourite restaurants were and I sensed it was taboo for him to utter the names of the competition. He would evade my very basic asked out of fascination rather than any form of advertorial obligation to their competition (I mean clearly, I wans't going to write a PR piece on the hotel, what did they think.) 

So this poor, little man was at the mercy of stares from the two women staring directly at him and the other mercilessly throwing questions, the answers for some of which he read out. He fumbled throughout. w

The point is that I got nothing out of this interview, he probably is thinking now about the hundreds of things he could have said. After the conversation, I asked if I could see the kitchen. They agreed and asked me to give them five minutes. I waited and after ten odd minutes they told me they had gotten the open kitchen ready for me. The open kitchen is well, an open  kitchen that all guests can see anyway. I asked them why I can't see the kitchen but they had no real answer except that apparently it was off limits to outsiders. The funny thing is that just ten minutes ago they had agreed, probably too zapped and not ready with a PR strategy to refuse my offer. It's not like I have illusions about how clean or non clean fancy kitchens are but that is a different story. 

What exasperates me is that as it is , it was hard to get this guy to be comfortable and it is completely impossible to do an interview with someone who doesn't in some sense become your friend by the end of it. 

1 comment:

Ashutosh said...

Here, the onus of getting the chef out of his nervousness and rotten-replies mode was on you, you nevertheless tried well;but your apparent unsuccessful attempt shows by the fact that he was still not ready to feel friends with you.