A Tweet Can Burn Your Career to a Crisp. Ask Chef Atul Kochhar


A Tweet Can Burn Your Career to a Crisp. Ask Chef Atul Kochhar

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Yesterday, Michelin-starred gastro god Atul Kochhar, the first ever Indian chef to receive that honour put his foot in his mouth when he called Priyanka Chopra out on Twitter. ICYMI, Kochhar told Piggy Chops off after she apologised for an episode of Quantico that depicted Hindus as terrorists and naturally “offended Indian sentiments”.

His tweet read, “It is sad to see that you have not respected the sentiments of Hindus who have been terrorised by Islam over 2000 years. Shame on you.”

As it turned out, this little unwanted history lesson cost Kochhar deeply, as Twitter got in arms to boycott his restaurants, with JW Marriott, Dubai, where he was the head chef, cutting all ties with him, and effectively firing him. All because of a hair trigger response to a trend he felt he could cash in on. While salvation for the chef might be on the back burner for the moment, he is certainly not the first person to feel the professional ramifications of a Twitter rant. Believe it or not, there’s actually a gazillion other bozos out there who’ve sent their careers into a downward spiral with 280 characters.

Come to think of it, if Twitter was a country, India would no doubt be its wild wild west.

Let’s start off with Justine Sacco, director of corporate communications for media behemoth IAC, who was fired in 2014 for tweeting, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Her questionable epidemiological analysis certainly does leave a lot to be desired. Oh, there’s also a plot twist: Justine now heads PR for Match, Tinder’s parent company.

One person who should definitely swipe left on controversy is Phil Hardy, a spokesperson for US politician Raul Labrador who tweeted, “Me likey two broke girls” from his boss, Labrador’s Twitter account after watching a commercial featuring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs seductively eating a cupcake and hanging from a stripper pole. Now while Kat Dennings and stripper pole are the keywords that feature in a lot of men’s fantasies, it’s best to keep business and tharak separate.

The odd Twitter account mix up can also be blamed for the death of many. Remember that guy who tweeted an emotionally charged, “Maa chuda” from the Star Sports twitter handle before being fired? Or the Chrysler employee who dropped the F-bomb on Twitter from his company’s official account.

Come to think of it, if Twitterland was a country, India would no doubt be its wild wild west. Judging by the gazillions of Indian tweets featuring racism, bigotry, rape threats et al, it’s no wonder that a bunch of individuals have sounded the death knell on their careers. Case in point, Vishnu Nandkumar from Kochi, a manager of Kotak Mahindra Bank who was justifiably sacked after insensitively tweeting about the Kathua gang rape. Then there’s Ashish Kaul, who tweeted about killing Kashmiris economically, leading to him being swiftly fired for his amateur economic strategy of ensuring that Kashmir stays with India.

If this proves anything, it’s that Twitter and rage go together like bhel and puri and sometimes separating one from the other is almost impossible. Kochhar’s case is all the more fascinating because his dismissal is proof that hate speeches, whether they’re on Twitter or at rallies, should never be tolerated. It’s a memo India could do with, given how so many Indian politicians seem to get away with them.