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Why I Got Kicked Out of a Restaurant on Saturday Night

I read Ruhlman's blog, and it directed me to this piece, which I missed, by New York Times writer Ron Lieber:


Forgione yelled @ employee; Lieber walked back into the outskirts of the kitchen and yelled @ Forgione; Forgione tried to apologize; Lieber waved him away with a dismissing hand movement -- and Forgione asks Lieber to leave!

I think they were both being grade-A idiots and hot-heads. You don't scream at your staff in front of the customers -- ever. However, you never, ever, ever get in-between a chef/owner and his/her staff, particularly on a Saturday night.

What would you do?

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  1. I think they were both in the wrong. He was yelling "to maintain quality"? Doesn't the quality of the *entire* dining experience count for anything? To have the entire dining room fall silent as he berated a staff member is pretty telling that most everyone was very uncomfortable about what was going on.

    I'm not defending the writer/diner either. He shouldn't have gone in to speak to the chef. He should have left, letting the GM know why he was leaving. And perhaps called on Monday to explain why he left. Not sure that would have sunk into Forgione's consciousness as much as being addressed directly by a patron of the restaurant.

    Either way - Two Fouls on both their parts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaWhit

      The chef sounds like a real jerk. Kudos to Lieber for having the guts to say something. I probably would have just left.

    2. He walked into the kitchen? Isn't that a health-code violation? He should've been thrown out right there, disregarding anything beyond that point.

      5 Replies
      1. re: stet

        His reply to some of the commenters on his blog said he didn't think he ever actually stepped foot into the actual kitchen. Probably just shy of being inside.

        1. re: LindaWhit

          i think he's covering his ass retrospectively. the blog post says "I pushed back my chair and walked through the open doorway of the kitchen." the author goes on to say he doesn't remember exactly what he said but that it couldn't be heard by those outside of the kitchen. seems contradictory-- so what is it: marched right in there into the midst of things and spoke in normal tones to the chef, or stood just at the threshold and yelled at a person over the sound of running water, hood vents, convection ovens, clattering pans and a hobart--in front of his whole boh crew, presumably working their butts off on a sat evening? un.likely.

          hmm an aggressive customer with a spotty memory. forgot to leave any tip for his server who had nothing to do with the debacle, too. wonder how many martinis he had before dinner, on the nyt's dime.

          i agree with comment # 45 to the blog (didn't read much further than that), and also with Shaogo-- they both behaved like jackasses. when boors collide.

          1. re: soupkitten

            i agree with comment # 45 to the blog (didn't read much further than that), and also with Shaogo-- they both behaved like jackasses. when boors collide.
            And what I originally said - they were both in the wrong here. (And did he really forget to leave a tip? I didn't read that, but didn't read through all of the comments either.)

            1. re: LindaWhit

              yes, i agree with you also, Linda!

              comment #26 asks about the tip & the author responds: "In our haste to collect ourselves and leave, we forgot to leave a tip and it haunted me all weekend. How best to make that happen without entering a place where I'm probably not welcome? Maybe I'll just put some money in the mail and hope for the best." :(

              1. re: soupkitten

                I didn't spot that one.

                Soupkitten, you're the best!

      2. I don't think just getting up and leaving would have had any impact. I'm glad that the author said something to the chef directly, about it and how awful he was making the experience for his customers, though I agree that he should have said something to the chef and then left (though, since he was with a party of people, that likely made it more difficult to coordinate).

        1. Maybe the situation was not handled properly, but Lieber was PAYING to have a nice dinner and probably a very expensive dinner, the chef ruined the dinner, was inconsiderate of his clients as well as his staff. .Even if he didn't handle it right, I side with Lieber

          1. This reminds me of a popular Japanese proverb. A good English translation is

            "In an argument, both sides are wrong."

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tripeler

              Or, how about this one ... (no translation needed)

              "Two wrongs don't make a right."

              1. re: Tripeler

                I really like this proverb tripeler - the truth is somewhere in the middle.

              2. this makes me wonder if LA Chowhounds are discussing the Mark Peel-and-wife vs. blog review episode -- Lindsay William-Ross' review of Tar Pit's Happy Hour?

                4 Replies
                1. re: runwestierun

                  i think the Peels' responses (her blog post and her friends' comments and his comments on the LAist) are really kind of jaw-droppingly juvenile.

                  1. re: runwestierun

                    Wow! And I thought I had it bad with local self-styled "reviewers" (Yelp) and "food bloggers" (actually the locals have been rather kind to our restaurant).

                    This reminds me of another restaurateur in town. He *never* brought his kids to his upscale seafood restaurant. Instead, his wife'd take them next door -- to my wife's little Japanese restaurant -- where they'd squeal and shriek (at dinner hour) and carry on for 2 hours at a time. The father would come over from his restaurant to "make an appearance," have a bite, (tip very generously) and then leave. Well, that's *one* way to avoid what's described hereinabove...

                    1. re: runwestierun

                      I think both parties were in the wrong here. The blogger seemed like she expected food to be just so and was annoyed when it wasn't exactly how she liked it.

                      On the other hand, if the kids were at the bar during happy hour, I can see why the blogger be annoyed. I think when people go to a bar/supper club during happy hour, they expect adults only. I think there are other options if you want to be able to take a few kids out so one can stay home and study.

                      1. re: queencru

                        For the other six days of the week I would completely agree with you but, generally, Sundays at 5 are pretty quiet times for bars. You don't have the post work crowd that you have during the week days so I can see bringing children into a bar for a quick bite at that hour on Sunday.

                    2. Doesn't matter what I would do....clearly Lieber is MASSIVELY UNPROFESSIONAL. As a food writer for arguably the most prestigious newspaper in the country:

                      1) His cover is shot -- real food critics keep it on the down-low. By grandstanding, he blew his cover. How can you trust that a critic with a high-profile will have a dining experience comparable to anyone else? (Consider: The first time the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel published longtime food critic Dennis Getto's picture was with his obituary!)

                      2) He stopped being a real journalists. Real journalists (even columnists) understand that it is not their job to BE the story. If a journalist inadvertently gets tangled up in the story, they have a duty to report the story, including their own involvement. But the emphasis should be on avoiding entanglements and conflicts of interest if at all possible.

                      3) His credibility is shot. Whatever his qualifications and experience are as a food critic, he has also proved to be a moron and a hothead, completely willing to air it out in the papers. (Frankly shocked that the NYT didn't kill this story). When I read a review, how do I know whether the review is based on the dining experience, or based on some past grudge.

                      FWIW, Alan Richman has put himself in a similar spot by drawing himself into a feud with Anthony Bourdain.

                      Maybe this cr@p passes in NYC, but it's pretty sad.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MikeB3542

                        Lieber isn't a food writer. He's a finance writer. He has no anonymity to protect but to be honest in this day there is no chance of keeping your appearance a secret.

                      2. I know this is about food, but, if you were at let's say your lawyer or CPA's office and you were sitting in reception waiting for an appointment and suddenly you heard a big commotion in the office and your lawyer is screaming at his secretary or mail boy or whoever, in earshot of all the clients and other staff, would you go in and tell him that was disgraceful? Or would you quietly leave and tell the receptionist you are not coming back because of the way the boss spoke to his staff?

                        A restaurant is a business like any other, we should not hear staff issues in a public area of any business.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: smartie

                          I totally agree. Pulling one aside out of earshot of patrons and criticizing their job performance is one thing. Doing it in front of patrons(if patrons can hear it, it's public) is unacceptable. While the kitchen is Mr. Forgione's castle, that castle resides in a restaurant that is supported by paying diners. Mr. Lieber did the right thing and hopefully the berated employee has found a job elsewhere.

                        2. I would have left the restaurant on the spot; the situation made the whole dining uncomfortable.

                          1. Read this post late. A nice story. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.