Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday rerun: High-end Low

Here's a perfect example of that New York mentality that we down here find so quaint. A story appeared in the New York Times the other day, and here is the gist of it: a guy was having dinner in a "high-end" restaurant on a Saturday night, when the chef came out of the kitchen to holler at one of the waiters. So disturbing and annoying was the chef's scolding that the guy (who happens to be a writer for the Times) got up, went into the kitchen, and told the chef that he found the outburst to be disturbing and annoying. And then he went back to his seat.

And then the chef came out and told him he thought it was time for the man and his wife and the other couple with whom they were dining to hit the bricks. Vamoose. Scram.

And then the guy called the chef the following Monday and told him he was going to write about it all in the New York Times, and what did the chef have to say for himself? Here it is, right from the Times:

(He) said that I had scolded him like a child on Saturday night. “First and foremost, you came into my kitchen and spoke to me very disrespectfully in front of my cooks,” he said. “The kitchen is a sacred space.” He told me that my reply to his attempts to explain why he was yelling, while I was in the kitchen was, “We’re not interested.” That sounds about right, since we hadn’t come to the restaurant to listen to him yell repeatedly at his staff about whatever it was that he thought they were doing wrong.
That wasn’t what got us kicked out though. He claimed that he didn’t decide to ask us to leave until he explained to us tableside that his yelling was all in the interest of making everything perfect. “Well you aren’t,” he remembers me saying. “And then,” he continued, “you waved a hand in my direction as if I was an annoying bug. Someone who acts like that in my restaurant, I would never serve.”
Now, then. Let's look this thing over before the fists start flying. The kitchen is a "sacred space"? It's a place where the profane, the impure, the fallen dare not tread? Perhaps that's why the chef chose to berate the waiter out on the dining room floor, so as not to sully someone's omelet or curdle a souffle with his rancor. And, while I'll admit that my taste in restaurants runs more to the diner than to places named for the chef himself, I have been served plenty of eats in my day that had nothing sacred about their origin, I'll tell you that right now.

But not even the grave offense of telling the chef to cool it in front of his prep chefs, as they busily filleted parsley for a chiffonade, was enough to get the boot. No, that came because he made a dismissive hand gesture to the chef. Can you just picture it? The fully extended arm, hand up, and then the fingers quickly point down...that same gesture that Billy Crystal used to describe how his grandfather would tell customers at his clothing store, "We're closed, gawdammit! Get outta heah, you stupid baaaaaaaastid!"
Oh, New York. They say that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But here's this guy who won't even make dinner for you if you tell him to knock off the pre-meal hollering! And here's this writer who runs into the kitchen to make that knock-it-off complaint!
I don't want to be a part of it, New York, New York. It's up to you.

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