NYTimes article- Dining Out 1-17-07- Daniel Boulud
- Tal Jan 17, 2007 02:00 PM
While I haven't finished the article (to be honest, only read about a 1/3 of it and plan on finishing it during my lunch hour), it certainly made me think about highbrow dining in New York City. As a NYC foodie AND a Social Worker, maybe I should be more attentive to the treatment of workers at the restaurants I frequent AND the restaurants I would love to try just once. Then again, as such a public figure, I wouldn't put it past Boulud for being an easy target.
Thoughts on the article?
I am admittedly biased, as when I lived in New York I frequented Daniel and got to know Chef Boulud a little. He is NOT a racist. He IS a perfectionist.
To me, the most telling line in the article was, "At one point, they say, Spanish was banned among employees; only English and French were allowed."
Uh, Daniel is a French restaurant in an English-speaking country.
Many French restaurants ONLY allow French to be spoken in the kitchen.
Hang in there, Chef Boulud. Don't let the a-holes get you down.
That's the protesters' story. Later in the article, it says:
"A manager did tell workers they shouldn’t speak Spanish at the restaurant, but that was a mistake and was corrected the same week, said Brett Traussi, director of operations at the Dinex Group, which oversees Mr. Boulud's five restaurants and his catering company."
Also: "Many Bangladeshi staff members at Gramercy Tavern, where Mr. Colicchio used to be the chef, had the potential to be excellent waiters, but were not familiar with wine because, as observant Muslims, they didn’t drink it."
Agree. The chef is a perfectionist. Something that most minimum-wagers can't deal with. If he were a racist he wouldn't be hiring the people who are whining in the first place.
restaurants, especially chef-owned high-end dining, (in which i've worked for the last 17 years) are notoriously difficult and demanding environments.
i finished the article, and yes it sounds like they're picking somebody who is high-profile to try to make a point. sorry, but i don't think it's a restaurant's responsibility to teach someone english. if a worker shows initiative and drive, they get promoted. often times that means learning things (like english) as quickly as possible.
i worked with a breakfast waiter who constantly complained because he never got promoted to dinner. he was a very strict muslim and refused to touch or serve alcohol. um, how could he effectively wait tables at dinner?
if boulud is a rascist, he wouldn't be ultimately hiring native spanish speakers. he's french, it's a french restaurant. diners "like" hearing french accents in that environment. further many of these european waiters have been to school, and/or have experience with far higher levels of service. sorry, but yes, they will get moved up the chain more quickly than those whose skills are not as polished.
No one here can truly judge whether Daniel Bouloud is a racist or not (especially based on a newspaper article), that's why there's a court case, but I agree with the OP, about thinking more about what is transpiring in restaurants.
Another good quote from the article:
“Sometimes the Europeans have been given a free pass,” Mr. Fernandez said. “They’re in this high-end restaurant doing very sophisticated food, and they’ve kind of been under the covers on these issues. People haven’t held them to the same standard like a T.G.I. Friday’s or some other national chain that has had to take a hard look at this stuff.”
I don't think I need a judge to know that the charges are bogus.
"Miguel Albarado, an Ecuadorean ... started as a buser at Daniel in 1999 and in four years worked his way up to a position as a waiter ... [He] said the suit was a misunderstanding. 'There are people who are really motivated, and they get promoted,' he said. 'They build trust with the owners. Others are not motivated, and they don’t get the trust.'"
I can say with certainty that if I were in NY, I would frequent his restaurant as often as possible just to prove to these whiners that their whining doesn't do any good. I hope Boulud pulls through this unscathed.
I read this with a different POV. I'm not coming down on one side or another here. But in running a business in these diverse time one needs to be ultra-sensitive to multiple languages, religious requirements etc. When you balance this against a perfectionist management style you've got a formula for a huge misunderstanding. But there's clearly some offended folks. Folks, it's a quagmarie here in the U.S. workplace. We can't say he's a racist (and I agree with the article that it is too easy to say so and so difficult to defend against this statement).
One does wonder if Chef Boulud couldn't benefit from a little leadership coaching. I'm available and will work in trade!
Perhaps his employees could do with a little "Daniel is the boss" coaching.
That doesn't mean he can do anything he wants. It means his employees have to live up to his high standards.
If he wants them to speak Slovenian and carry sheep heads around the dining room, that's HIS decision, not theirs.
i have worked with american cooks who have gone to work in spain and france in extremely high-profile kitchens under very famous chefs. (2- and 3-star michelin.) most did it either for free or slave wages, but went for the invaluable experience. special considerations were not made if they didn't speak the native language of the kitchen. they worked 60-70 hours a week and learned the language pronto.
Anyone who eats in fine dining establishments with any regularity should be able to see evidence of the "glass ceiling" mentioned in the article; a subtle form of discrimination, but still discrimination.
In my city, Los Angeles, an extremely diverse city, the service industries are dominated by women and people of color, with the exception of high end restaurants, where the wait staff are disproportionately white men, while the bussers are disproportionatley Latino. While this is not true across the board, it is defintely a pattern.
This doesn't mean that the owners of these restaurants are KKK grand dragons or racist brutes. Bias can be subtle and unconsious. For instance, the Captain who is looking for a certain "type" of person to appeal to clientele and ends up promoting white men, the chef who doesn't like the sound of Spanish or Chinese chatter in the kitchen and makes an off-color remark or tells people to shut up, the owner who would rather promote Europeans to give the restaurant that European flavor. These acts may not be intended to discriminate, but they allow bias to control decisions and can result in discrimination.
It wouldn't hurt the high end restaurant industry, as a whole, to take on this issue, as many other industries have, and discuss ways to eliminate bias in hiring and promotion.
This is clearly a case of people tying to shove political correctness onto others. Shouting racism is the easiest thing to do. Good for Mr. Boulud for taking a stand; good luck to him!
Any boss should be allowed to conduct the running of his business in the language of his choosing. In a busy kitchen the chef has to be everywhere see and hear everything. Not having people speak Spanish probably makes his job a little easier. But telling people to learn English is insensitive these days.
A lawyer out to make a name/buck for themselves. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go make reservations at Daniel.