Earlier today on Diner’s Journal, Times financial writer Ron Lieber complained about Marc Forgione’s kitchen and dining-room manner, and now the restaurateur shares his thoughts with Grub Street. According to his account on Diner’s Journal, Lieber was dining at Forgione’s eponymous restaurant when he heard the chef-owner dressing down a kitchen staffer. Fed up, Lieber up and walked into the kitchen and “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.” Forgione immediately went to Lieber’s table and, per Lieber, “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.” He then asked Lieber to leave. Yesterday, Lieber called Forgione for his version of the story (“you came into my kitchen and spoke to me very disrespectfully in front of my cooks,” Forgione is quoted as saying. “The kitchen is a sacred space”). But Forgione has more to say, and he tells Grub Street he's not happy that Lieber is “making me sound like I’m some psycho.”
First of all, Forgione isn’t bothered by the story itself — “I was kind of excited to find out that he wrote for the New York Times,” he says, “because I wanted people to know about the way this guy acted.” And how was that, exactly? Well, poorly enough that Forgione tossed him without asking him to pay for dinner. “I wouldn’t take his money,” he says. And Forgione has only kicked two diners out of his restaurant before — both of them for insulting female staffers.
Forgione’s account of the incident is basically the same as the one on Diner’s Journal, but he resents the implication that he’s been watching too much Gordon Ramsay. “The guy wants to tell a story, that’s fine, but the guy wants to make fun of me — that’s two different things. The guy got kicked out because of his behavior, not because I watch Gordon Ramsay, whether I do or not. I don’t.” He also describes one line in particular (“I imagine his manhood suffered enough that he had no choice but to kick us all out”) as a “cheap shot,” and is incredulous that Lieber walked into the kitchen in the first place. “In a New York City place of business, if your boss is yelling at you, do you think someone off the street is going to come in and tell you to keep it down I can’t imagine it, whether it’s McDonald’s or Daniel.” Forgione thinks he handled the intrusion well: “There are a lot of chefs that would probably be in jail right now.”
So what got him so worked up in the first place? It turns out, apps were ready before the amuse bouche — when Forgione reprimanded the person responsible for the critical error, that person spoke back to him, hence the dressing down. “It doesn’t work when you say calmly, ‘Can you please not do that again?’ You don’t see that from coaches on the sideline of a big game, and Saturday-night service is a big game.” But in the end, things were smoothed over with the responsible party (“at the end of service, I sat him down and offered to buy him a drink”), as well as with the staff (after he became aware that a Diner’s Journal post was in the works, he announced that he “wasn’t happy or proud of what happened and hopefully we can avoid it ever happening again”). And he says he also bought desserts for the customers who were within earshot of the kitchen, some of whom sympathized with him. “If I can give advice to anyone reading,” Forgione says, “it’s this: Next time, tell your waitress or manager. Stay out of the kitchen.”
Why I Got Kicked Out of a Restaurant on Saturday Night [Diner’s Journal/NYT]