Former Gilt pastry chef Nick Morgenstern has given us the inside dope on his firing last week. According to Morgenstern, chef Chris Lee and hotel management are pinning the move on each other: “They’re doing a little dance, pointing at each other,” he tells us. Meanwhile, he’s heard that Lee’s pastry-chef buddy David Carmichael (formerly of Oceana and the Russian Tea Room) was seen checking out Morgenstern’s kitchen while the chef was out of town. But why did he get canned, anyhow?
Morgenstern blames his association with former chef Paul Liebrandt, himself fired for personal and creative differences with Gilt’s pooh-bahs — the two had worked together at Atlas, and Liebrandt stole Morgenstern away from Gramercy Tavern to do dessert at Gilt. “I was told I reminded them of Paul a lot,” the pastry man says. “How could I not? I signed on to the project to work with Paul. Ten days afterwards, they fired him, and at this point I'm 99 percent sure that they knew they were firing him when they hired me. That’s the crux of my frustration — they’re not honest in what they do.” Chris Lee sees it differently. “Nick can say whatever he wants, but his problem is his mouth. He had fits of rage against the wrong people. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you think you’re larger than life and won’t work with management.” (Maybe he and the notoriously prickly Liebrandt aren’t so different after all.)
Not that Morgenstern doesn’t seem to think he made it out just in time: “It’s very slow — maybe 20 or 30 covers a night, where in a 50-seat dining room, you would want to see 70. They’re on their third pastry chef, their second chef, their second GM, and their second service director. That’s a lot of movement for a place of that caliber. No one is promoting the place; no one knows it’s there.”