If Jason Bell thought he was going to have the last word, he was mistaken. Alex Stupak writes in to let us know that he thinks the Columbia student who staged with him for a day and went on to pen a vengeful review of Empellón “is a liar.” During a telephone conversation, Stupak told us that Bell entered his kitchen “under false pretenses” (Stupak apparently didn’t realize he was a budding journalist — “but fine, I was okay with that,” he says). After the first night, Stupak asked the intern to stay away from the kitchen while he was on a three-day trip to Spain (with the kitchen short-staffed, Stupak was worried Bell, who he says had already cut and burned himself, would hurt himself further). Bell then threatened to sue him for the cost of a hotel room he had booked in order to stage at wd~50. Here’s Stupak’s side of the story, via e-mail.
This person showed up at wd~50 and cut himself on a brand new knife from Korin that his daddy probably bought for him twice in the first 45 minutes he was there. He had to be looked after because he was clearly a liability. I asked him to stay away from the restaurant for the 3 days. I had to be absent and I was concerned that he was going to hurt himself seriously. He threatened to sue the restaurant for damages and slandered me.
I never asked this person to do anything in my kitchen that I and my team don’t do. He felt that cleaning things was beneath him which obviously I and any chef would have a major problem with.
This person has a chip on his shoulder. I’m very proud of how much we have accomplished in only 8 days of operation. This person has no idea what it means to actually work.
Update: Surprise! The College Critic has more to say. Jason Bell sends Grub Street the following e-mail.
This response isn't about getting the last word. Alex Stupak has articulated his perspective on what happened at wd-50; I have articulated mine. In fact, this was all hashed out last summer. I only referred to that particular incident in my post to contextualize and qualify the commentary on Empellon. Further, the wd-50 incident doesn't particularly pertain to the heart of my commentary on Empellon, except as a vehicle to understand the reasoning behind the commentary.
I take offense at Alex Stupak calling me a liar. Throughout this process, I have reported nothing but the truth to the best of my ability. I did not enter his kitchen under false pretenses—I applied to the stage with a resume that clearly indicated my involvement in the world of journalism. I wanted to spend time at wd-50 to see how a restaurant, a restaurant that I deeply admired, operated on a day-to-day basis. I wanted to learn more about the real life of a chef. I had no intentions of writing about my experience when I walked through wd-50's doors.
There are inaccuracies in Stupak's version of the events, but I'm sure he disagrees with me or remembers those events differently than I do. Playing "he said she said" isn't particularly productive, especially since these details were settled months ago. At no point have I defamed or slandered Mr. Stupak. My new post intended to frame those events as past and try to move forward towards new beginnings. As I state, the visit to Empellon and the post itself were cathartic. I wish Mr. Stupak had spent more time thinking about and responding to my commentary about Empellon rather than hedging his response in a rehashing of past (and concluded) arguments.
I do not believe cleaning is beneath me. I do not believe hard work is beneath me. But I did have a chip on my shoulder, which I'm willing to (and do in my post) admit. Now, however, I feel like I've moved past that chip. The catharsis is complete, and I have no regrets.