The New York Press today runs an "open letter" in which food blogger Joshua David Stein accuses Brooklyn Fare chef César Ramirez of swearing at him in front of the rest of his customers, and on his wife’s birthday no less! Stein claims that his note-taking below the bar enraged the chef to the point that he came out from behind the counter mid-meal to admonish his customer: "I don’t know where you fucking cook, but you’ll never replicate this. I’ve been watching you disrespect my kitchen all night. You’ll never do what I do." Stein writes that he apologized and that the chef left him alone shortly thereafter, but that the embarrassing exchange left his wife "cresting into tears" for the rest of the evening.
We called Ramirez, who completely denies swearing at a customer and claims no memory of Stein’s visit: "I would never speak to a customer like this … I don’t know who this guy is, but it’s ridiculous. Ridiculous. I don’t act like that." The restaurant does have a no pictures, no cell phones, no note-taking policy, which Stein violated. These things are verboten because it’s such an "intimate table," owner Moe Issa tells us. In Stein’s piece, he points out that a waitress took a photo of some Australian tourists, and one woman texted throughout the meal. According to Issa, photos of customers with the chef are permitted, but not of the food, and the woman texting was probably not overdoing it. (Stein writes that he took notes throughout the meal).
Stein claims the man ruined his $300 meal and his wife’s birthday, but Ramirez insists, "I don’t remember who this person is. I do not remember me squeezing him or swearing at him … it’s absurd. You know, they put you on a pedestal, and then they wanna take you down. I never yell. I said very kindly, ‘We don’t allow this.’ I mean, why would he wait so long to do this? Why wouldn’t he just post it the next day, if this happened?" When asked if he had anything else to say, he replied, "I don’t know what to say about this issue because it’s totally false … His wife cried? I don’t remember someone crying there."
Stein, back to you. All we know for sure is that the Press is certainly into "open letters" these days.
Update: Stein responds thusly.
Essentially, that Ramirez does not recall the incident isn’t surprising. I am sure he also doesn’t recall the numerous previously reported incidences of his mistreatment of customers. Furthermore, for him, Ana and I were just two covers two weeks ago. For Ana and I, however, Chefs Table was truly a once in a lifetime experience. At any rate, I think his lack of recall says less about the veracity of my account and more about how attuned and aware he is (or isn’t) of the experience of his customers. It just further underscores his narcissism.
For the record, we ate there October 14th at 6h30pm. His other defense, that if this did actually happen I would have written about it the day before, is patently ridiculous. The reasons are twofold. One, that isn’t how newspapers work. Two, it took some time for me to order my thoughts. Unlike Ramirez, I try not to act impulsively or rashly. That, as he knows, doesn’t reflect well on anyone.
Brooklyn Unfare [NY Press]