The StaphMeal Saga

The food scene was turned upside down this summer when an anonymous blogger began hurling ludicrous­ epithets at everyone from Georges Perrier to Stephen Starr. But the truth about StaphMeal founder Joshua Scott Albert may be even more explosive than the grenades he lobbed.

 

THE DOUR GRANITE WALLS of Eastern State Penitentiary were designed to induce fear among the citizenry. At a sidewalk-cafe table across the street from this Fairmount Avenue landmark sits Joshua Scott Albert, the self-styled Internet outlaw who has inspired enough fear and loathing to fill a Hunter Thompson novel.

As fellow customers nibble on Billy Club salads and Machine Gun Kelly sandwiches, Albert alternately puffs on a Pall Mall, sips coffee, and chews over his next online character assassination. “I like to piss off people in positions of power,” says the 25-year-old blogger, an unemployed bistro worker gone rogue. Late last summer, Albert pissed off the city’s most prominent chefs and restaurateurs by launching a website: StaphMeal, a bitter brew of venom and snarky kitchen gossip, initially written anonymously, that advocated fiercely on behalf of local kitchen workers and waitstaffs.

“I wanted to stand up for the masses of voiceless, unvalued employees,” says Albert. “In my industry, powerful people often treat them like shit and get away with it. Sometimes I provoke the powerful to embarrass them, and sometimes I provoke them purely for the entertainment value.”

From the very first ambushes in early September,­ StaphMeal raged against the fine-dining­ machine, alleging wage theft and miserable working conditions. Citing unnamed sources,­ it called out Philadelphia’s culinary elite one by one and branded them “dicks,” “pricks,” “douchebags,” “scum,” “cheaters,” “racists,” “drunks,” “fascists” and “fucktards.” Albert’s hyperventilated posts quickly became must-reads for Philly’s foodie community.­

“Josh is of the mind that to get someone’s attention, you need to stick them in the eye once in a while,” says Chris Moraff, his friend and sometime benefactor. “It worked, that’s for sure. He got a lot of people’s attention.”

At what seemed the speed of a mouse-click, the nastiness prompted legal action by high-profile chefs Georges Perrier and Shola Olunloyo, which prompted the mystery blogger to unmask himself, which prompted many of his readers to lose interest. “In mid-September, the site was Topic A of the foodie community,” says a Center City server. “By the end of the month, nobody cared.” A mere 22 days after flaming into being, StaphMeal had effectively burned out.

At the very least, the tempest that was Hurricane Albert scarred the region’s gastronomic landscape. At the very most, a homeless drifter’s virtual rage raised serious questions about the ease of setting off a fire on the Web, free speech, the rights of the targets of cyber attacks, and the ethics of dishing bile under the cover of an alias or avatar.

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  • tracy

    i don’t feel bad for this kid. i do feel bad for myself and everyone else who will waste their time reading an article on this guy. there’s laws there are rules, play within them. does anyone actually have sympathy for this kid? doubtful. good thing the porn business is always hiring!

  • Arden

    Absolutely brilliant deconstruction of this guy’s brief reign of terror. Thanks Philly mag.

  • J.D.

    Beautifully written. I actually felt sympathy for the little monster.

  • Batali

    This story is what I’d call Josh Albert’s just desserts. Well done!

  • Jerry

    this one really blew me away

  • PAINTER

    What a sad weird little boy. I feel so sorry for him and his victims.

  • Shane

    A wonderfully wrought portrait of almost unfathomable self-unawareness and grandiosity!!

  • Amis

    That’s definitely the first time I’ve read “a bravura lack of introspection”…i laughed.
    It’s nice to see that a “nutball” 25-yr-old blogger’s vernacular can be so readily matched by a “douchebag” law professional.

  • Flay

    So much for his 15 seconds of fame.

  • Trotsky

    I arrived at this great story through a link from Philly’s most ludicrous “radical” Twitterer. “Barclay” is one more white middle class college kid who fancies himself a “radical” (translation: can’t get laid). He’s the ultimate hipster poseur loser, and he was OUTRAGED by this story. The line about on his Twitter feed (I’m not making this up!) was “Not sure if bourgeois rags deserve convo w/ radicals.”

  • Nora

    I agree with @Trotsky totally. I go to school with Barclay Shields and can attest to the fact that he’s a hipster pseud trying desperately to conceal his bourgeois upbringing and lifestyle. He even grew an Amish beard to show he’s “different” from his classmates and the rest of the Occupy Philadelphians. The kid is a total joke on campus. A sad sexless fraud.

  • Jim

    Excellent article. Thanks for running it.

  • Rouge

    I laughed my ass off at this story. Josh is one tortured youngster. So is radical wannabe Barclay Shields, the most pretentious “artiste” and “political theorist” residing at The Ox on North 2nd. He’s both a terrible activist and a terrible writer.

  • Nom-Chompsky

    This article aims to humiliate a group of poorly-connected, under-read and over-theorized group of radical youths who flock to stories in which they are portrayed as the victims in a continuing scheme of the well-to-do in Philadelphia. Lidz ventured to gather his material from the source instead of nit-tweeting libel without any concern towards verity. Barclay, there is definitely no milk or eggs in peanut butter.

  • Henry

    Terrific job. The writing is lively and surgically precise.

  • norman

    I use those words looslely as a fifth grader writes better than you fools.
    do you really get paid for this?

    Muckraker NOT muckracker

    with 10% unemployment it is a shock writers of your caliber get pay checks.

    -norman elifisy

  • norman

    I apologize for my last post about writers and edotors. I’m on meds for this damn schizofrenia and just now came to my senses. The story was very good and I am an awfil speller and didn’t m,ean “looslely”. Sorry about my mood swings.

  • Emily

    Excellent portrait of Mr. Albert, the latest example of a self-important, self-hating, attention-craving narcissist. Akin to a 300-foot flagpole in the midst of a prairie thunderstorm. Also known as being 25 years old.

  • Foo

    25 is the new 15, I guess.

  • Gulp

    Great new footage on YouTube of Joshua talking about getting “choked” by a Philadelphia cop at today’s Occupy Eviction in Dilworth Plaza. I’d like to believe the cop was acting on behalf of the entire Philly foodie community. I salute you officer.

  • Scott

    Way to go cops!

  • Stephen

    Josh’s beliefs were never more than skin deep. His real interest was in being viewed as a rebel, an extraordinary fellow who could see the real truth when those all about him were blindfolded. Like many disturbed personalities who fix on causes, he was a malleable creature who always saw nirvana just beyond the next bend in the road. His blog got him some of what he wanted: media notice, and attention, attention, attention.

  • Larry

    How adorable!

  • men

    I eat every meal out in center city since 1990. I was intrigued by and found many of the comments at staph meal of the anonymous staff accurate to the how I saw them treated.

    (I never knew the site existed until i searched a neighbors name to see how I might encounter him b/c i had to confront him on an issue unrelated to food…staphmeal alerted me to how he might respond by testimony of his employees…and he did respond similar to how he was painted in the anonymous blogs.

    How is this guy commenting on food places where we daily dine different than inga commenting on the designers of our local buildings for daily consumption?

    Our curb appeal is a reflection of how we live inside.

    I think Inga & Abert have alerted us all to have a higher standard and reminded us all to be beautiful both inside and out, and on stage and back stage, and in the front of the house and out back.

    (have you seen how our city restaurants keep the dumpster areas of our streets?!) Gross!

  • You’re joking right?

    Comparing this psycho’s commentary to serious critique is laughable. I ask, did Inga ever call someone a “c**ty Jew”?

    https://twitter.com/#!/staphmeal/status/174165167775555585/photo/1