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Jun 30, 2012 07:56 AM

rein in that ego!

Curious, fellow 'Hounders: what restaurant needs to re-assess how good they REALLY are, vs. how good they THINK they are? I ask based on a dinner I had last night at a restaurant I won't throw under the bus just yet, but whose owner/chef needs to tone down the attitude because, uh, your food and service aren't all that...

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    1. re: shanefink

      Hah! Good one Shane, a candidate for sure. Well, my experience: chef sent waiter out from kitcehn to announce the wine I'd brought would not be opened. Incredulous, I asked why, as I'd brought in a very good bottle and already ordered from their list. "Chef says in the past people have brought in wines that didn't go with his food and then blamed him for not liking it." I digested that comment, assured him after years of eating "Chef's" food that I would be more than pleased. Rebuffed. I guess sensing there could be a problem, Chef came out, said JUST THIS ONCE!, and opened it. I still marvel at the arrogance!

      1. re: sanglier

        Interesting. I have not heard of such, but then almost never do BYOW, though my cellar contains wines, that "would have" fit better with many, many dishes, that what was on the list.

        I only ask for BYOW on very, very special occasions, at very special restaurants, and then, only with very rare wines, that do not appear on their list. To date, with a call, I have never even paid a corkage charge, but you have to understand that I am talking 1:5000, or more here.

        Only place that I have had an issue was on the Island of Maui (different BYOB laws, than all other islands), where I had two great, rare DRC's, that I wanted to share with friends. The top Burgs on the list were worlds away from mine, but they refused. OK, we went with their list, and made do.

        In NOLA, the one restaurant, that comes to my mind, based on your OP, would be Commander's Palace. They were once great, but in MY estimation, have slipped badly, though I have not done lunch/brunch there in some years.

        About the time that they were internationally recognized in the Top-100 restaurants in the world, by a few magazines, things started to go down. It was soon after, that they opened the ill-fated CP in Las Vegas too.

        It can be tough to not read your own press-clippings, but one should take those with a grain of salt - things can change, and in a hurry.

        I will be curious to hear which restaurant, YOU are referring to. So far, the clues do not help me, even to guess.

        Were I a chef, and even with a great sommelier, and deep cellar, if a patron had a wonderful bottle (not on my list, or from Sam's Club), and wanted to drink it with my dishes, I would try to accommodate them, in any way possible. Maybe that is why I am NOT a chef?


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Bill, the best part is there is an $18 corkage fee, so it isn't like I wanted it opened for nothing!

          1. re: sanglier

            The $18 corkage is at the lower-end, of what I have seen, though listed, or posted, as I seldom do BYOW. The US "norm" seems to be about US $ 25, though some restaurants have a "punitive" corkage fee, and I have seen that up to US $ 250 / 0.75 btl.

            I can easily see a corkage fee, as there is something that goes into wine service, either your wine, or theirs, but some restaurants go overboard, at least IMHO. Again, please remember that I am NOT an expert in this area, as I seldom do it, and then, only with communication with the restaurant.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              ive never BYOW. is that corkage fee structure generally the same for restaurants that do not serve alcohol at all?

              1. re: kibbles

                There are many differences. They might differ city to city, county to county (Hawaii is a good example of this), or state to state. BYOB laws can be very obscure, and are often applied by a "seat-o-the-pants" basis, restaurant to restaurant.

                One needs to be 100% specific, regarding such, as what might play in NOLA, might not in St. Tammany Parish.

                In Metro-Phoenix, it sort of boils down to No liquor license, and X number of seats. Both aspects seem important. OTOH, I have hosted wine parties as some unnamed restaurants, where those "laws" should have precluded doing such, though not often.

                In my few personal forays, I am always bringing a wine (very special), to a restaurant that knows me, and have never had an issue, and nor have I ever paid a corkage charge.

                I feel that the vast majority of people, hoping to do BYOW, are trying to do so, to skirt the markup on wine lists, at least based on how many talk of stopping by Costco, or Sam's Club, on their way to the restaurant.

                Now, there ARE people (like me, on those very, very occasions), who DO have a very special bottle of wine, that is NOT on the restaurant's wine list, and it is usually desired for a "special occasion," like a big birthday, or anniversary. Even in such cases, there can be local laws, that preclude such. It just depends.


    2. what kills me is that they'll take the primadonna attitude of "but your wines don't go with my food" -- but they're all too happy to stand back and let someone order a wine pairing off of the wine list that is so bad as to border on the obscene -- or to keep the open mind that "hey, there might be a wine out there that goes with my food even better than what I've chosen!"


      3 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        While I have not seen both sides of THAT coin, I have seen way, way too many wine lists, with horrible choice wines, for the fare. I have also heard wine suggestions that would be "death" with the items, and preps, on a menu.

        Wine programs are rather odd birds - some are excellent with but 2 pages, and others are horrible with 300 pages. I've had sommelier's pairings, that were bad jokes, and some, that elevated the wines, the food, and my knowledge, to new heights. Obviously, I enjoy the latter.

        Now, this is a very, very, very general assertion, but I find too many wine lists in the Deep South, to be horribly top-heavy with "the usual suspects," where if the program director just quit letting the distributor write the list, and actually tasted some wines with chef's food, things would not be so bad. Not saying that that is the case here, but it IS in far too many restaurants. Most distributors know almost zero about wines. I have been in many trade-tastings with too many, and they prove that assertion, time and again. Most only know price-points and profitability - nothing else.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Back in the 1980's a well-known restaurant, celebrated for its wines when few other places had a decent cellar, got a new beverage director, trained at Some School. We were having a party and one fellow was going to ask his now-wife to marry him. I had a bottle of wine that was significant to several of us and I told teh restaurant I would like to bring it and have a corkage fee. I was told that the fee would be based on (A) the price they charge for the bottle if they have it in the cellar--this would be a 200% mark-up..or (B) they'd look for it on the market, buy it, and mark up or (C) if they couldn't find it, they'd guess at what they had to pay if they could find it and mark-up from there. This was clearly designed to stop patrons from bringing their own wines and I have no doubt it was a response to people abusing the corkage system. I had a word with an owner and we got around it...the particular bottle was a matter of sentimental value as well as being a great wine...but ti struck me as a sign of a deterioriating restaurant world. And the patrons are as much to blame as any.

          This was the same place that a friend of mine and I destroyed all their Nuits St. George '69 in the course of about a year.

          1. re: hazelhurst

            That is a very interesting approach, and one that I have never encountered - thankfully.

            I find that policy to be rather a slap in the face of the patron, and not at all ingratiating, in any way.

            I think back to my wife's 50th, and also our "going away party" at our favorite Denver restaurant. I had long before, purchased a bottle of Taylor-Fladgate & Yeatman 1948 Vintage Port, and had stored them for many years, with this one intention. I called the restaurant, and discussed the situation. We were hosting 16 total. Because of the number of attendees, I was concerned about the one bottle, as the sommelier, the owner, and his father needed to toast with us, and the wine. I looked on-line, around the globe, and a second bottle would cost me US $ 3,200, plus shipping. The sommelier searched too, and his best price was $'s from mine. He told me that he could do the pours (we WERE talking VP, after all), and he did, plus my wife got a second pour.

            Now, this WAS a restaurant, that we dined at, at least once per month. We also attended many of their wine and culinary events. My wife was flying back from Arizona, just to dine and party there, as they WERE very special. No BS, no attitude, no ego, but then they knew us very, very well. One of my very few BYOW episodes.

            Sorry that you had such an attitude. Were it me, I would have declined, and moved on, if at all possible.


      2. I am currently reading an older book called Burgundy Stars (William Echikson) which tells the story of bringing a Burgundy restaurant from 2 to 3 Michelin stars. As part of the story there is a section on how the Michelin Guide works. The intersting point is that it can take 10 years for Michelin to move a restaurant from 1 star to 3. It isn't what the chef does today, or this year, but what he does long term that is the measurement.

        In todays U.S. restaurant world the churning of restaurant names and chefs gives us a skewed view of competence and ego. From some of the latest reviews we've been reading here on Besh restaurant quality, particularly service, even a good Chef can come face to face with the Peter Principle.

        1 Reply
        1. re: collardman

          In my limited experience, gaining, and then maintaining 3 Michelin stars is a very long road, just as you describe. Not sure exactly how that now applies in the US, since stars have been awarded. I rather feel that more of those are awarded on the basis of prolific chefs, where there are many restaurants in the group - but I do not know that to be true. I also feel that "starred" Chefs from Europe, and elsewhere,*might* get preference, for their US operations.

          While I do not actively "collect" stars, I have had the great fortune to dine at many 1 - 2 & 3 Michelin starred restaurants, around the world. I can seldom find many faults with those awards, and can honestly say that there IS a difference, although it might be rather small to a casual diner, such as myself.

          I cannot help but believe that ego plays a role, resulting from various awards, stars, forks, whatever. OTOH, if one ever watches "Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares," they will see where ego, alone, can get one - or not!

          Fairly recently, we have done some 1, 2 and 3 star restaurants in the UK and Europe, but also some in the US. I have to say that Restaurant Daniel, NYC (Chef Daniel Boulud) blew the doors off of the best in the UK and Europe, and by a great deal. Predicated on his service, food and wine, if some of the others are Michelin 3-stars, he deserves 4! Of course, with restaurants, there are ONLY 3 stars at the top.

          Thinking of only NOLA, I would award 1 Michelin star to some, but not any more than that. Not that the food is not good - it is some of the best in MY world, and surpasses San Francisco, Chicago, and much of NYC, but then there are a few places, that do raise the bar, for the overall experience, like Restaurant Daniel.