Ron Leiber writes the “Your Money” column for the New York Times. On Saturday, he, along with his party, was ejected from a restaurant by the chef. Mr. Leiber wrote about it on the Times food blog and now the restaurant is getting crank calls according to Gothamist.
The nonsense began when the chef started yelling at an employee. That the yelling occurred neither man disputes.
Here’s how Mr. Leiber describes the incident:
And without much forethought, I pushed back my chair and walked through the open doorway of the kitchen.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, though I did not raise my voice to the point beyond where people in the kitchen could hear it. I told the chef that his behavior was making me and others uncomfortable. I let him know that I thought it was mean. And I asked him to cut it out. I don’t remember exactly what he said in response, but whatever it was, I found it irritating enough that I reminded him that I was paying to eat there and told him again to stop berating his staff at that volume.
Maybe 20 seconds after I had returned to my seat, he approached the table. He apologized, barely, and then let me know that he thought it was incredibly rude of me to come into his kitchen and tell him how to do his job. I repeated the fact that he had been ruining my dinner. But his yelling was all in the interest of maintaining quality, he said.
“I think it’s time for you to go,” he said.
“Are you kicking me out?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
And now the chef, who did not know Mr. Lieber was a reporter, tells his side to Gothamist:
The picture that people are getting is that of me standing over a helpless animal screaming and kicking and [Lieber] comes into the kitchen and prevents all this from happening and saves him. That’s not what was happening at all… While I was yelling I slammed my hand on a kitchen table and the rack that holds the tickets was loose and came crashing down, which probably made it more dramatic. Then he came in to tell me to keep it down because I was bothering him, not because he was trying to protect anybody. And he’s turning into a martyr here. And I just want to make it clear that I am not a bully. I am not a psycho or a bully. Am I passionate? Yes.
And now Lieber again:
When I called him on Monday to tell him I was writing this post about the evening, Mr. Forgione, in fact, 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, according to Mr. Forgione. 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.”
Gothamist asked the chef if he would apologize:
No way… He just decided it was okay to come into the kitchen. It has nothing to do with it being “sacred.” It’s just employees only, it’s a kitchen. He stuck his head into doorway, waved his finger at me, and told me to keep it down because he wasn’t interested. And I’ve never heard my kitchen so quiet! Everybody just kind of looked at each other like, ‘What the hell was that and who the hell was that guy?’ It was the most bizarre thing, just like six seconds of silence, like a record screeching. I took a deep breath, calmly walked to the table, and politely tried to explain why I was so upset. And he waved his hand at me and said, ‘Whatever you’re doing in there it’s obviously not helping.’ I apologized to all three of his guests and said, because of him, all three of you have to leave. I did not apologize to him and I will not apologize to him.
We’re just going to stay out of it and put up a poll.