Insidefortlauderdale.com: Here's What Happens When an Internet Troll Starts a Website (Updated)

Categories: Restaurant News
Update: Insidefortlauderdale.com owner Dennis Baasch responds. See below.

dennisbaasch.JPG
Photo provided
Dennis Baasch at a recent restaurant opening.
A website called Inside Fort Lauderdale posted a review October 24 of the new Philippe by Philippe Chow restaurant in Boca Raton under the headline "Philippe Chow's Questionable Price Claim." The main point of the snarky article -- written anonymously -- was a claim that the upscale Chinese restaurant had lied about its prices being lower than its Miami outpost. The point was flawed, largely because the writer used the wrong menu for the Miami restaurant.

But beyond that failed argument, the article also went out of its way to criticize the Gab Group, the public relations firm that had publicized Philippe. The unsigned piece continued: "Frankly I blamed the Gab Group, because exaggeration is something they do well."

It's a claim that Michelle Soudry, owner of Gab Group, didn't appreciate. "I started this company eight years ago out of my garage after having my first child, and my goal has always been integrity," Soudry said. She now has 13 employees, is among South Florida's largest public relations firms, and is known among the media for sending straightforward news releases that do not embellish. "This guy doesn't have the guts to put his name or face out there with what he's writing. He's obviously a coward."

The article, and all of the Inside Fort Lauderdale website, has been written for years by a man who simply went by Dennis. Or sometimes Max or a half dozen other aliases when he writes nasty comments on blogs.

But his real name, New Times has learned, is Dennis Baasch.

Baasch is 51 and moved to Florida from Melville, New York, where he was registered as a
Republican, according to records. He bought a $1.2 million condo in Las Olas Grand in 2006 that's now worth about $775,000. He owns several companies, including Inside Marketing Inc., Bandwidth Management Corp., and Emerging Technologies, which registered insidefortlauderdale.com.

Baasch didn't return phone calls seeking comment. He did respond to an email I sent him last year and, in a quick phone call, said his goal was to supplant traditional media outlets like New Times when it comes to food coverage. He spurned my offer to meet for a beer, saying he preferred his anonymity.

It appears the first published piece Baasch penned was published in the letters section of the Sun-Sentinel on October 11, 2008. He complained about what he called an Obama "handout plan," although he didn't specify what he was referring to. "Successful people give tons of money to charity, because we know the money will get to people in hardship," Baasch wrote. "When we pay higher taxes and the government writes checks, the money goes to lots of undeserving people, including drug addicts, the lazy and those who spent their youths partying instead of studying."

That vitriol became his calling card when he began Inside Fort Lauderdale about a year and a half ago. He writes constantly about the restaurant scene in Fort Lauderdale, penning unsigned previews of soon-to-come restaurants, reviews of media receptions, and then full-length reviews, often the day a restaurant opens. Almost always, they are negative if not outright pans. Some of the most successful, longest-running restaurants in town have gotten unfavorable reviews. The overall tone of the site is made clear under the "Contact Us" heading, where he mainly dissuades feedback: "Please don't post a complaint if you're unwilling to provide a real email so we can respond. It's just a waste of time."

That lack of transparency and feedback has irked restaurant owners and public relations people who say that Baasch often gets articles wrong. Try to contact him for a correction, they say, and you'll get no response.

While Baasch doesn't want feedback on his own site, he has been quick to offer it on Clean Plate Charlie and the rest of the New Times website. "This would have been a good idea for an article if you did it right," he wrote on an item about buying breakfast at Aldi's. "A caption on the lead picture would be useful," he wrote nearly immediately after an item about the top sports bars went live. "Boo, hiss, jeer on this. If trout with lima beans is better than La Cigale's Dover Sole Meuniere I'll eat my hat," he sneered on an item about the terrific Trout Amandine from Rack's.

On our October 20, 2011, review of Philippe Chow, he used the alias "Klaus" to crack on the Gab Group and Philippe Chow, using the same argument from his site. Writing about our new (and terrific) restaurant critic, Melissa McCart, Baasch wrote: "I think it's time to strike the gong on the new girl. Is this serious?"

His diatribe earned a response from Stratis Morfogen, CEO of Philippe Chow. Morfogen says public relations types would have told him to ignore the snark, but he couldn't let someone make up stories using an alias. "I'm not going to hide behind a tree as someone makes up facts. My name is Stratis Morfogen, and I'm the CEO of Philippe Chow, and I'm not going to hide and take this nonsense."

Such a reaction has been common around town, with restaurants and public relations firms nearly spitting when they mention the name Dennis. They loathe his usually negative reviews, even though few people have read them. According to the leading website tracking service, Alexa, insidefortlauderdale.com is the 982,646th most read site, with 25 other sites linking to it (for comparison, New Times' site is 32,577th, with 2,766 sites linking).

One of the regular targets for Baasch's hatred has been Ted Inserra, a Fort Lauderdale native who has worked at some of the best South Florida restaurants. Inserra now cooks at OB House and M-Bar, and Baasch has often been quick to criticize Inserra anytime New Times reports on him. "I've never met the gentleman, and I wouldn't know if he was sitting next to me at the bar right now," Inserra said. "He doesn't like anything. He's just a negative person, and it's mind-boggling why he would be like that."

What has confused those who have been burned by Baasch's website is his motivation. Spots for advertisements have long been held open with gray boxes declaring "Your Ad Here." He has been known to send emails to restaurants asking them to advertise. One that declined was met with a harsh reply that threatened a harsh review could be published instead. That email was later sent to New Times, although the restaurant asked that it not be named.

Baasch's recent review of YOLO seems like it might have come out of such a place. "This will be the most comprehensive review of YOLO ever written; the good, the bad and the ugly," he wrote. "I will preface this by saying that based on pure fundamentals; I don't like YOLO." The bar looks "cheap," the lunch menu is "no bargain," and the wineglasses hanging at the bar are "filthy."

It was a review, like most written by Baasch, full of hate. Which, come to think of it, may be the main motivation of Dennis Baasch, Fort Lauderdale's most prolific internet troll.

Update: Baasch called New Times to say that he wants this article taken down. His argument: "Personal attacks aren't cool. You want to attack my website or say my reviews suck? That's fine. But don't put up personal attacks."

When asked about the fact that his website and his comments on this site often amount to personal attacks -- including suggesting food writers and chefs should be fired -- Baasch said those kind of personal attacks are different.

He said he wouldn't be able to do his job if people knew his name. That's not true for credible food critics, who publish under their real names. When asked about this, Baasch said the reason he needs anonymity is so people don't know his personal information, like where he lives. Asked if he feared people hunting him down, he said: "Of course not."

It seemed clear Baasch either hadn't thought out why he deserves anonymity or was keeping the reason to himself. In response, he said: "You don't think the way I think, and you don't stand a chance of understanding it anyway."

There's also the question of Baasch's motivation. I mentioned that several people who commented for this article called him an asshole. I asked if he was, in fact, an asshole. Baasch paused, a long five seconds of silence, before launching into a long-winded explanation. "Why do people think I'm an asshole? Because I tell the truth?" He argued that he's a food critic and has to be tough, so therefore some people have made the jump to thinking he's an asshole.

Perhaps he doesn't want his name associated with the site because his "Dennis" persona is more of an asshole than Baasch is in real life, I suggested.

"I'm not afraid to have my name associated with this," he said.

So, there you go. The man behind insidefortlauderdale.com, who some say is an asshole, is Dennis Baasch.


Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB. Follow Eric Barton on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook

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46 comments
Laudy333
Laudy333

Great post! I was specifically looking for the "always negative admin asshole that runs inside Fort Lauderdale dot com" via google and came across this article - thanks for the know all.

professionalseoservi
professionalseoservi

is that website the same as htttp://insidefortlauderdaleflorida.com I just want to know.

Tony
Tony

Dennis Baasch who like to call him self a food critic but don't know how to boil the egg.How do you critic a restaurant service when you take food out? His comment was " I am to busy to sit-down". People work hard, invest money they earned, create jobs etc. and than this clown show up and write his negative outlook. I guess Dennis life is miserable as he is. 

Review U
Review U

Everyone knows Dennis is an asshole. But what has happened here is you have given him the attention he wants from writing an article solely about what an asshole he is and you have given him the satisfaction of letting him know he has won... By letting him get to you. Now he will never go away. And for what its worth, sometimes i like to read his B.S. just for the entertainment of it, not because i believe he knows anything more about good food than the next gu... And that includes believing anything about which restaurants and cooks/chefs are any good posted in the New TImes reviews. They are all opinions, and just like assholes, everybody has one.

Victor1046
Victor1046

Mr. Baasch came to our newly redone restaurant a few months ago and of course bashed it.  I personally would like to know what makes him a "food critic".  What is his background as it relates to restaurants, food, etc.  Is he a chef?  Probably not....  Glad to see he has been found out.  Thank you!  Vicki Greenfield   DIG Restaurant Delray.

Joel Valez-stokes
Joel Valez-stokes

More proof that just because you have the monetary ability and a PC does not make you a credible journalist! Great job, Eric!

Abe
Abe

Thank god someone finally exposed this FRAUD, and jerk off..............

Dave
Dave

This has to be one of the best articles ever!

Frank
Frank

This honestly has to rank as one of the most pathetic articles I have ever read. Why would a  publication that wants to be taken seriously decided to do a hatchet job on some relatively irrelevant amateur/would be food critic?

This is truly gutter journalism. Publishing personal information about him such as the value of his condo or his political affiliation can in no way be regarded as in the public interest. It is simply vindictive. And what has he done to be afforded this sort of treatment? Does every so-called troll get an blog article about them? Is the New Times really that thin-skinned?I don't agree with a lot of what Dennis comments, and definitely did not agree with his comment about Melissa - who I think has started very well in a position that cannot be easy - let's be honest, SoFlo does not have a huge amount of great restaurants.But Dennis has every right to voice his opinions. You may not like them, but they are every bit as valid as anyone else's. So what if he appears negative, he does not have to like every restaurant the New Times deems good. And, to be honest, I think many times he is more accurate than the New Times. Some of your reviews are so wide of the mark it is untrue, for example, Does Caminos. That place is garbage, yet got a glowing review in the NT. As for his review of Yolo, which you highlight, I had not read it before, but having done so now, I do not understand how you can say it is full of hate - that is insidious nonsense. He does not have to like the seen, but it seemed like a fairly accurate and balanced review. The food is ok, some good (especially the tuna, as he rightly points out) and some not so good. People do tend to go there more for the scene than the food (myself included), and there is nothing wrong with that, and the inside bar is way too small, but I prefer the outside bar anyway.I actually quite like checking his website. He is/was obviously a local guy who enjoys eating out, and keeping his eyes open on what is going on in the local restaurant business. His reviews reflect his opinion, which unlike the NT, are not tainted by PR companies and the need for advertising dollars. And criticizing him for trying to build a business around his blog is the height of hypocrisy. I feel really sorry for Melissa. Obviously a talented writer, and with the local scene better off having her here, I am not sure she realized what she was letting herself in for with the NT, who truly seem to be in the pocket of the PR firms.

freakerdude
freakerdude

Nothing wrong for calling this guy out.

ted anthony inserra
ted anthony inserra

another thing==Dennis once sent a personal e-mail to a possible employer advising him not to hire me, the owner was smart enough to dismiss it and go with his decision.  Again, i have never met him, and he does not know me!

ted anthony inserra
ted anthony inserra

thank you Eric for this well penned, profesional article. Dennis could be a help for the south Florida restaurant, but instead prefer's the "negitive outlook", i personally know of his unfounded, fact ignoring has hurt many independtly owned restaurants. One of my saying's, and for those i have worked with know=="I have skin like a coconut, not like an onion", his continious remarks about myself have not changed me at all, but some people he has caused hurt, and damage. I know you questioned if even yo write this article, not to bring more attention to Dennis, but i think you made the correct call, to Dennis i am always listed as==CONTROVERSIAL CHEF TED INSERRA, good job Eric.

Laine Doss
Laine Doss

It's one thing for someone to comment on food or a restaurant on their blog or in a comment, but these internet trolls go way beyond "my veal was dry" or "I disagree with your writing" - they take it to a dark, mean level because they remain in the shadows.

ErinHilburn
ErinHilburn

He would've gotten away with being an internet troll, if not for those meddling reporters. Mystery solved! Good read, Eric. 

Misha Grosvenor
Misha Grosvenor

I'm torn. I can't decide if I'm happy or sad that the Dennismaxklaustiltskin mystery has been solved. I have to admit that part of me kind of liked envisioning a small, bleary eyed man sitting behind a computer for hours (presumably in the garage/converted bedroom of his mother's house) trying to come up with venomous comments in between War of Worlds sessions and pressing his warlock cape. Never in a million years did I think that I should be looking out for a Jersey Shore extra sporting mom jeans.

Moral: Never judge a book by its cover/alias(es)

Richer soon
Richer soon

Isn't defamation of a non public figure a misdemeanor in Florida? Well soon find out.

Pakra
Pakra

This guy is not from here, and should not be allowed to comment about anything that happens in and around this city. He is an extortionist.

Jezebel
Jezebel

This is a huge problem with do-it-yourself journalists, especially when they're anonymous. No one checks these bloggers' qualifications, ethics, news judgment, or general sensibility, and integrity.

This Dennis guy is giving the journalism profession a bad name. Hopefully, he will just go away.

Dickyv
Dickyv

Eric, I like your work but don't get the point of this post at all. Sort of a dick move, no?

Jessica
Jessica

Great piece ERIC. That website is so negative & Dennis clearly is mad at the world. He has trashed several good events and restaurants with misinformation. Dennis Baasch I'd offer you a mask and snorkel to breathe since you are so far underwater on the condo your mommy & daddy probably bought for you but I’d rather see you suffocate!

Guesty
Guesty

Soooo disappointed. If that's him he looks nothing like the Dennis-es I've imagined around town time and time again.  Is he also a photographer?

But really... why bother...

Twoolfenden
Twoolfenden

Very, verrrry interesting. Well done, Eric!

lawrence_ignatius
lawrence_ignatius

He certainly has the right to express his opinion. However, when he attempts to extort establishments with the threat of a bad review it becomes more serious than just being the town douchebag. And contacting a prospective employer of a local chef to try and scuttle a job offer goes beyond petty spite into the realm of plain evil.

DennisCanSuckIt
DennisCanSuckIt

Is "Frank" code for Mom. Perhaps aliases run in the family.

Unfortunately, Dennis isn't just voicing his opinion about the food/restaurants. He takes cheap shots at other writers, critics, editors,restaurant owners, and even at his target audience. He is constantly disclosing personal information and B.S. rumors about other people in his comments yet no one can comment on his blog? He's a two-bit hater if you ask me!

Vpe
Vpe

Funny that Laine would call poeple Internet trolls when that's exactly what she is. She is the laughing stock of the Miami food scene including respected bloggers, critics and chefs. They all laugh at her. I wonder if she can even afford to eat at restaurants. Sounds like she just free loads at openings and media preview events. Some of these people have legit reasons for staying anon. They have real careers and families. They also may nit want handouts like her

DennisBSr
DennisBSr

Dear Dennis, Under Florida Law "defamation" is someone publishing a false statement about another person to a 3rd party and the falsity of the statement causes injury to the plaintiff. Everything in this article came from your website, your comments, or from public record. Where are the false claims?  What injury have you suffered other than a blow to your ego (see Ekhart Tolle)? Have you lost any advertising dollars (insert stifled laughter here)? I would tread lightly on the subject of defamation being that you seem to specialize in it.On another note, your mother keeps asking when you're going to start paying GoDaddy to keep your website in operation. She is tired of footing the bill.Love you, Dad

Jezebel
Jezebel

Richer,

You don't know proper grammar or the law. Two grammar errors in 15 words and a ridiculous assumption about criminal law? You're as qualified to comment as Dennis is to write a blog.

SoFla Attorney

Hootinany
Hootinany

kind of like Melissa McCart?

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

It's my opinion -- and the opinion of credible journalist -- that you put your name behind your writing. Anonymity allows people to say nasty things that they wouldn't say otherwise. And while that's the norm for a lot of websites, that shouldn't be the way it's done on a site claiming to offer restaurant critiques.

Frank
Frank

Anyone can comment on his blog, just as anyone can ignore his comments, or take them with whatever amount of cynicism they want. 

I am not sure what personal information he has disclosed or about whom, but that seems kind of irrelevant, unless the New Times sees itself as on the same level as Dennis. They have certainly sunk to the low level they perceive him to be at.

TheChowfather
TheChowfather

Hey, I'm the only one allowed to "troll" about The Dosster... Lay off her. Her posts are what they are, fluffy and in abundance but she's harmless.  What I don't understand is why Clean Plate would give this Insider guy publicity.  I never heard of him prior to this post and I've been actively follow the South Florida scene for years now.  I actually went to his site b/c of this post.  I'm not at all familiar with what he's been posting so I can't comment on that. 

DennisBsMama
DennisBsMama

In case you were wondering folks, Dennis is now going by the handle Vpe. Two words-psychological mirror. You are the laughing stock. You are the one who needs to get a real career since being a nasty troll doesn't see to be paying the bills as evidenced by your advertisement-free website. Why don't you just apologize for being a miserable tool and let the world embrace you for once...I mean, again. I think all you need is a hug...and an enema. Good Luck, we're all rooting for you Dennis.  I love you son.  Love always, Mom

No More Hiding
No More Hiding

Dennis,

Good luck with that lawsuit.

Your Secret Admirer

Review U
Review U

You're lying right now, Eric, regarding printing the truth. I know this for a fact. You pull truths written about others in the restaurant business after you email these friends of yours and ask them if you want them to pull it. So climb down off of that ivory tower. Do not think for one minute i am supporting Dennis. I am simply saying you and New Times do not allow honest information to be posted when it might offend one of your restaurant friends.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

When speaking to Baasch today, he mentioned this issue about whether New Times won't attack advertisers. It's ridiculous to suggest it, considering that we have printed many tough reviews over the years about our advertisers. Talk to someone in our business department, and they'll tell you about the many accounts they've lost because we don't shy away from telling the truth. This is a fundamental belief of both this paper and the people who work here -- and it won't change.

Loot101
Loot101

"Frank," you're right on a couple points -- that Dennis is largely irrelevant and that he has a right to voice his opinion and be a nasty person if he so chooses.  But you're wrong about people being able to comment on his blog. There's no comments field or email address for him. That's why so many people have a problem with this guy. He accuses people of pretty harsh stuff, and they can't even respond to it. 

I've read a few of his blog posts because I know people who were hurt and incensed by what he wrote. In one, he insinuated that YOLO was pocketing money from the ticketing at a charity function. And in posts about food festivals or battles, he gets his facts wrong (almost always concluding that it's not worth the ticket price) and/or accuses them of rigging the awards.(As though anyone has the time or motivation to rig the awards!  It's totally lost on Dennis the Conspiracy Theorist that people throw and participate in these things for FUN and usually to raise money for a good cause.)

And Dos Caminos... I just went and read that review to see whether there's any validity to your comment about the New Times being in the pocket of advertisers. The reviewer wrote that after eating there she "spent 14 hours near the toilet while my bowels emptied faster than Speedy Gonzales can outrun a clowder of cats"  .....   If that's a "glowing" review in your book, I'd hate to see a bad one!   

http://www.browardpalmbeach.co...

Laine Doss
Laine Doss

Thank you Chow...That's right - we're going steady. 

Amused Observer
Amused Observer

Well to be fair, he does actually have one ad on the site, for Sea, which coincidentally just happens to be the only restaurant he's given a glowing review of.

DennisBsMama
DennisBsMama

P.S.-When are you going to start paying your own GoDaddy bill? I'm tired up them charging your monthly service to my card. Also, please cancel your bodacious buns membership. What is that anyway? You told me it was a baking group but when I looked at the site it looked like a porn site to me.

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