Steve Dolinsky, Chicago’s Beard Award-winning food broadcaster, writer and ABC Chicago TV personality, has responded to the Twitter argument that erupted on Wednesday between critic Michael Nagrant and Piece Pizza owner Bill Jacobs. For years, Nagrant has questioned Dolinsky’s ethics, and he brought up his concerns again on Wednesday on social media. Meanwhile, Jacobs is irked by Dolinsky’s criticism of his 17-year-old Wicker Park pizzeria, a member of the Eater Chicago 38.
Nagrant pointed out that Dolinsky has never addressed concerns surrounding his Twitter account. Dolinsky, in an email sent Thursday, for the first time finally did when he wrote that he didn’t mourn the 25,000 Twitter followers he lost as part of the company’s purge of fake and dormant accounts. That process slashed the number of followers from many users. It especially affected celebrities who purchased followers to inflate their credibility. One reporter showed that Dolinsky lost 25,000 followers, more than any local Chicago personality. Dolinsky’s email didn’t mention if he purchased followers, a practice that earned Sun-Times writer Richard Roeper a suspension earlier this year.
“I’ve tried a number of strategies in the past to boost my follower count organically,” Dolinsky wrote in an email. “They did not work. There is no way to delete bots without spending an inordinate amount of time, so the recent purge was welcome.”
The Hungry Hound’s photographs still hang at many Chicago restaurants as part of his ABC Chicago segment, a badge of honor for some. His bosses at ABC remain silent on the Wednesday’s kerfuffle or about Dolinsky’s Twitter followers.
It started on Wednesday when Chicago food writer Michael Gebert tweeted about an interview with Dolinsky. Nagrant responded and called Dolinsky a fraud who engaged in unethical journalistic practices.
Dolinsky, in his email response, claimed he hasn’t taken a junket in seven years since a press trip to Sweden. He also resented the notion that he would trade coverage for free food.
“ABC 7 has been quite generous in the 15 years I’ve worked for them, providing a monthly budget for meals,” Dolinsky wrote. “Have I been given free desserts or an extra ‘gift’ course from the kitchen? Absolutely. It doesn’t impact whether or not I decide to come back with a camera.”
When it comes to his feud with Piece and Jacobs, Dolinsky claims there’s nothing personal. He called the pizzeria overrated in an interview with Fooditor.
“As for the pizzagate that erupted involving Piece Pizza, I can appreciate their popularity in the neighborhood,” he wrote. “They don’t need my endorsement, and their business surely won’t suffer. I only wish them well.”
Jacobs has been outspoken about the Hungry Hound’s disdain for his business. While business is good, he also thought it was suspicious that Dolinsky excluded Piece from Dolinsky’s Pizza City USA pizzeria tours. When contacted on Thursday, Jacobs declined comment.
For many, this conflict was mundane. But this wasn’t a garden variety deep-dish vs. thin-crust pizza argument. Nagrant, the former Sun-Times and RedEye critic, has wanted more transparency when it comes to ethics in Chicago’s food writer world. He also declined comment on Thursday.
Dolinsky believes he’s built a strong reputation at ABC. He also co-hosts a podcast with chef Rick Bayless.
“I would hope my work over the last 23 years speaks for itself,” Dolinsky wrote. “If people don’t trust me, they can choose not to listen/watch.”