The New York Times Goes Upstairs/Downstairs on Menton

Photo: Justin Ide

This might seem shocking, but the people who work at Barbara Lynch’s Menton probably can’t afford to dine there. The Times once again shines a light on the Lynch empire (their last article revealed juicy details about her life of teen crime), this time going behind the gilded curtain at Menton to reveal tattoos, class warfare, and cheap beer.

All that separates the hoi polloi in the kitchen from the elites supping in the dining room is a symbolic electric door, which is apparently Menton’s version of the glass ceiling. “Through it, you leave this kitchen of tattoos and beer for a room of Riesling and pearls. The waiters repeatedly line up at the door, shivering with nerves like children in a play; then a button is pressed and the electric door opens and they’re off, totally poised, even a little superior, to deliver your dish or clarify whether your allergy extends to truffle dust.”

So are Menton’s staffers impostors or just really good actors? The piece hints that the once blue-collar, now wealthy Lynch might not have much empathy for her staff, many of whom share her hard-luck background: “This is America’s economic reality writ small: as Ms. Lynch has thrived and Boston has become a more worldly and expensive place to eat, it has become a worse place to cook — unless you own the place…Consider her line cooks. She pays them $10 to $12 an hour, what she says she can afford.”

Do we detect a whiff of skepticism? We have no first-hand knowledge of Lynch elitism, but in fairness we should note that she lets inner-city high school kids intern with her, so she hasn’t totally forgotten her roots.

After the dinner service witnessed by this writer, “The nightly pantomime was done, and the relief palpable.” Out came the pizza and beer.

It should be noted that this service was a special event, a dinner for Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm. So maybe they just wanted things to go exceptionally well? It seems hard to believe that, income gap aside, Menton’s experienced staff quivers nervously in the kitchen, intimidated by the fancy people beyond the electric door. What do you think?

Two Classes Divided by a Kitchen Door [NYT]

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The New York Times Goes Upstairs/Downstairs on Menton