Chef Roman à Clef Continues; Keith McNally Pilloried

Keith McNally, or George Wentworth? Photo: Patrick McMullan

Yesterday we treated you to the first chapter of a story seemingly based on Sam Mason and his trials and travails with Tailor. We can now confirm, after contacting the author — who is remaining anonymous (even to us!) because he or she is “notorious within the industry” — that the story is based on Mason and Johnny Iuzzini as well as other players. “Yes, I plan on continuing,” assures the well-connected scribe, “and yes, I have inside info. I’ve been getting a lot of mail, but I would never run anything that I hadn’t triple-checked to be true.”

What’s more, Sam Mason isn’t the only one fictionalized. We’ve learned that the first story, about a young, egomaniacal (or is he just misunderstood?) star chef is based on Paul Liebrandt. (By this account, Liebrandt caused his GM to quit when he threw a knife at him.) Another installment about a blogger named Restaurant Bitch is the thinly veiled story of PXThis blogger Abbe Diaz’s head-bumping with Jody Williams, presented here as Heloise Liebman, who uses her “devil powers” to “torture everyone in the restaurant” and threatens to sue ex-Morandi employee “gabby” (Abbe) for libel over her blog posts.

But the most enticing development yet has to be the appearance in the most recent chapter of George Wentworth, who is clearly Keith McNally — the “hippest restaurant emperor in New York City” — based on passages like this:

“Nonsense,” said George. “I’m the man behind the curtain, and not even dressed as well as he.” Studied schlepper was his sartorial statement: pilled cashmere sweaters of the highest quality, bespoke shoes that were as worn as his craggy face. George seemed to be completely unaware of the vast fortune he commanded, and when he visited his restaurants, there was no difference in the way he spoke to anyone: busboy, chef, Nicole Kidman.

As you’ll see, Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry has very little sympathy for McNally’s, er, Wentworth’s assistant, another torturer who “pees all over the seat and never flushes.” And we can assume that’s been triple-fact-checked!

Given the Morandi fascination, we have to wonder whether the author is Diaz herself — after going the self-published memoir route, is she angling for an honest-to-goodness book deal? We’ll get our triple-checkers on the case.

The Price of Admission [Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry]
Earlier: What to Read While You Wait for Tailor to Open — Sam Mason: The Novel