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Doug Psaltis

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#31 zilla369

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 12:20 PM

*crosses chicken fingers*
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Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

#32 bourdain

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 12:22 PM

stay tuned
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#33 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 12:51 PM

I read the FL chapter in a bookstore the other day and found it compulsively readable. I’m a huge fan of chefs and cooks who write and encourage it in any way I can. I was also interested to read the blurbs by some of the great culinary lights of today, pepin, batali, trotter, recommending the book. And I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Subsequently I’ve listed to other accounts about Doug Psaltis’s time at The French Laundry--I've never met him--and I’m very curious now.

One of the great strengths of egullet is the integrity with which it is run. The internet has become a form of citizen journalism. As with print journalism, it will live or die by its integrity, honesty and impartiality (or at least full disclosure, when impartiality may be in question). I hope every one who posts on this site remembers that. And I encourage anyone who posts comments on this situation in particular to offer their name and affiliation if it is significant.

I am not part of the French Laundry company but have worked closely with Keller and many of his staff for the past eight years. As I’m sure is no surprise, I keep in touch.

I’d like to ask Doug Psaltis if we’re getting the whole story. Is there anything you’d like to add or offer? Now would be the time.

Edited by Michael Ruhlman, 21 September 2005 - 02:43 PM.


#34 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:12 PM

I’d like to ask Doug Psaltis if we’re getting the whole story.  Is there anything you’d like to add or offer?  Now would be the time.

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Michael, if somebody asked you a question like that, would you answer it? "Now would be the time" sounds like what a police interrogator or prosecutor would say.
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#35 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:22 PM

Steven,

You're absolutely right. I apologize for that and apologize to Doug Psaltis. I didn't mean to be so accusatory. Objection sustained.

I have info that questions his story in a serious way--if it's true, it would throw all that he said into question.

It's all hearsay at this point. I would like to hear a response, though, so I'll rephrase:

Doug, is there anything substantial about your time at the French Laundry that would shed a clearer light on your particular experience there?

I honestly do apologize for the accusatory tone. Not justified. Part of the nature of this immediate format.

#36 bourdain

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:26 PM

For the record:

I would like to publicly eat my words. I regret my earlier, more measured comments on this board.

When you take on big game like Thomas Keller you better kill him with one clean shot--and from an unimpeachable position. A reminder of "who's talking" and "what kind of history" there might be would have been appropriate--especially when casually slagging one's betters. And slagging one's betters is something in which I have some experience.

The alleged "missing elements" of the Psaltis story throw a queasifying light on the other chapters.



I have serious reservations about Psaltis' earlier "limited hang-out" on this thread. Too little. Too late. And I don't buy it.

And I don't find Brother Ruhlman's question inappropriately prosecutorial. He is being, I believe, carefully carefully diplomatic.

Edited by bourdain, 21 September 2005 - 02:39 PM.

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#37 JPW

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:30 PM

I don't think that Michael had to apologize.

The nature of people is that the longer it takes Doug to respond to the questions raised, especially now that he has already posted in the thread, the more people will think that he has something to hide.

I saw it more as a piece of well-meaning advice.

However, Michael, now that you've mentioned other information, you know that people will be bugging you for the other side of the story.
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#38 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:36 PM

I'm not going to reply here unless I think it's urgent or unless someone directly involved asks me to.

#39 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:38 PM

I guess I just don't understand why so many people aren't willing to post what they think they know, rather than get bogged down in all this innuendo. Michael and Tony, you obviously think you have information, so why not post it? I think it would be entirely appropriate for either of you to post the alleged facts of a conflicting account. However, it seems extremely uncool for you to be harping on Doug while refusing to say why.
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#40 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 01:47 PM

I don't want to make accusations or explicit queries in this public forum.

I'm disturbed by all of this. I strongly want to know what Psaltis has to say.

After he responds--if he wants to, if he has anything more to say--then I'll say what I can.

#41 robert40

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:20 PM

I have been a member of this site almost from the beginning, and anyone who knows me can attest that I avoid controversial topics like the plague.
Now looking in hindsight I wish I did not start this thread, but there is nothing I can do about it now.
My last comment is that I truly believe in my heart that if there is a impression that some are holding back it is out of respect for Thomas Keller, Steven Shaw, and all parties involved.
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#42 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:21 PM

I deeply regret blurbing a book whose veracity on some key points has been seriously (and to my satisfaction) called into question.

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Tony, are you sure you blurbed the Psaltis book? I don't see a quote from you on the jacket. I see Pat Conroy, Mario Batali, Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter, James Villas and Publishers Weekly.
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#43 Jason Perlow

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:31 PM

Yeah Tony, I think you blurbed Steven's book, not Doug's.
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#44 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:32 PM

Tony, please don't retract my blurb! It still needs to go on the paperback!
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#45 sammy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:33 PM

Maybe brother Michael has him on retainer and he is just confused. :hmmm:
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#46 bourdain

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 02:38 PM

Really!? Fantastic!

I know I got a galley--and wrote something for it (I'd thought). Then heard from a fan that it was on the book. Positively delighted to hear otherwise.

Guess that's what happens when you turn into a Blurb-O-Mat.

My feelings on the contents of the Psaltis book are unchanged--though I do feel a palpable sense of relief. Can't wait to bust Mario's balls.

Going back to edit my previous posts.
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#47 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 03:18 PM

Messrs. Ruhlman and Bourdain, with all due respect, this is beneath you. If you've got something, spill it. The implication that Psaltis is hiding something seems pretty dodgy when it's accompanied by "I don't want to make accusations or explicit queries in this public forum." Don't you realize you've already made a loud accusation in this public forum? I think it's only fair, at this point, to say what it is. Psaltis says he slapped a guy's hand. Was it really the guy's knee? If there are truly horrible revelations about Psaltis that have not yet come out, let's get them out here -- that's what eG Forums discussions are about. My desire to get the truth out outweighs my desire to defend my friend, but at this point there's nothing to respond to but innuendo.
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#48 divalasvegas

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 04:15 PM

What a fascinating and enjoyable thread. And, no I'm not being sarcastic, I really mean it. BTW, the strong hint of testosterone in the air is positively intoxicating. I'd love to participate in a more substantive way but, being a girl, I don't think I have the anatomy to keep up.
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#49 bourdain

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 04:45 PM

"After asking a few times, I slapped his hand away. It was stupid of me to allow myself to be baited into crossing that line, but to me it was a very light slap and when things calmed down I apologized for doing it and I meant it. Was it not the right thing to do, yes. But it was hardly the dramatic event it is being made out to be. I was several steps out the door when this happened, and this helped me to realize that I needed to get out of there."--Doug Psaltis

So, Shaw. You're comfortable with this account? Untroubled by the after-the-fact admission that well...yes..there might be a little bit of history there?


How about this line?

"And this helped me to realize that I needed to get out of there."

"Helped?" I'd think so. Most employers--hypothetically speaking of course, would have "helped" him right out the door.

They must be a really really understanding bunch out there in Napa. Of course, they're famous for tolerating that sort of behavior out there--aren't they?
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#50 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 04:56 PM

Tony, are the folks at French Laundry saying, in essence, that "Doug slapped the guy's hand and we fired him"? I would find that hard to believe, wouldn't you? I could see the HR apparatus swinging into action and putting an employee on notice that nothing of the sort will be tolerated. But fired? I've never worked for or represented a company that would outright fire somebody for that. And unless somebody can document the timeline -- that the incident happened on Psaltis's last night -- then it's hardly credible as anything but an after-the-fact explanation of Psaltis's departure, dredged up now that French Laundry has felt the sting of criticism.

More importantly, I would find it irrelevant. We already know about the incident. The spin -- was he forced out or did he leave; was the slap one of many reasons or a primary reason and from who's perspective -- seems incredibly trite beside the overblown innuendo.

Do I believe Psaltis was dissatisfied at French Laundry? Absolutely. I know he was, because from his first days out there I spoke to him on his cell phone pretty often. Probably ten calls in all. And he was saying the same things about it then that he says in his book.

Do I believe he told me everything, or that the book says everything, or that he says everything in his one post here on this topic? Of course not. It's not that book where the guy photographed everything he ate for a year. For all I know there was another incident that I don't know anything about -- if so I beg you say what you know because this is getting ridiculous. I'm sure the slapping incident caused the folks at French Laundry much consternation. But now it seems like it's being used as an excuse: Psaltis slapped a guy's hand, therefore our walk-in was never disorganized. Whatever.
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#51 Silly Disciple

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:07 PM

Tony, are the folks at French Laundry saying, in essence, that "Doug slapped the guy's hand and we fired him"? I would find that hard to believe, wouldn't you? I could see the HR apparatus swinging into action and putting an employee on notice that nothing of the sort will be tolerated. But fired? I've never worked for or represented a company that would outright fire somebody for that.

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Why would you find this something hard to believe? Maybe US law is more stringent in this sense, but I've heard first hand of several episodes of immediate dismissal here in Spain for (physical) fights in a kitchen during service.
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#52 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:09 PM

Because there's a big difference between a fistfight and a slap on the hand. One is something you fire people for; the other is something you demand an apology for.
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#53 touaregsand

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:15 PM

Slap of a hand?

That's nothing compared to Ramsay.

Edited by touaregsand, 21 September 2005 - 05:16 PM.


#54 rancho_gordo

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 05:53 PM

Because there's a big difference between a fistfight and a slap on the hand. One is something you fire people for; the other is something you demand an apology for.

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IN California at least, I think if someone gets physical in any sense, they can bypass the whole HR, probation thing and show him the door.

Don't know what happened of course, but the big cheese should not be slapping the staff under any circumstances. Even if he's very, very upset!
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#55 slkinsey

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 06:09 PM

Slap of a hand?

That's nothing compared to Ramsay.

That's what I was thinking. Unless it came to fisticuffs (and perhaps not even then) I can't imagine a restaurant firing someone for slapping a runner's hand off the pass.

Now, can I imagine that Psaltis was a bad fit for French Laundry, and that this caused some mutual dissatisfaction? Absolutely. Can I imagine that Psaltis' departure from French Laundry was mutually desired? Certainly. Can I imagine that the slapping incident was the beginning of the end, and a moment that led to this parting of the ways? Sure. Can I imagine that Psaltis had motivations for leaving this incident out of his book? Yes. But I can also imagine that people at French Laundry, people fiercely loyal to Keller and who have heavily bought into his unassailable sacred cow mystique, would spin the incident and Psaltis' departure in the opposite direction, and that the rumor mill would really get going. These are both natural and indeed expected reactions.

I'm quite sure that if Keller feels that Psaltis' book -- and surely he is aware of it -- is unfair to him and French Laundry, and if he feels that it is connected to this incident, or that the story needs to be clarified with a description of this incident (or whatever the hell it is that Mssrs. Bourdan and Ruhlman are getting after), he is perfectly capable of saying, "Doug Psaltis slapped a runner at French Laundry and I shitcanned him" or "I thought Psaltis was a bad, cocaine-addicted chef, and when he punched a porter in the face it gave me the perfect excuse to fire him" or whatever. Having friends of the house and/or employees making insinuations and spreading rumors is sleazy, and beneath someone of Keller's stature. Frankly, I hope he wouldn't approve.
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#56 Silly Disciple

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 06:42 PM

That's what I was thinking.  Unless it came to fisticuffs (and perhaps not even then) I can't imagine a restaurant firing someone for slapping a runner's hand off the pass.

I don't find it hard to imagine at all. As I pointed before (and I think FG agreed), it is not unheard of at all for people to get fired if they are involved in kitchen fights.

Now, can I imagine that Psaltis was a bad fit for French Laundry, and that this caused some mutual dissatisfaction?  Absolutely.  Can I imagine that Psaltis' departure from French Laundry was mutually desired?  Certainly.  Can I imagine that the slapping incident was the beginning of the end, and a moment that led to this parting of the ways? Sure.  Can I imagine that Psaltis had motivations for leaving this incident out of his book?  Yes.  But I can also imagine that people at French Laundry, people fiercely loyal to Keller and who have heavily bought into his unassailable sacred cow mystique, would spin the incident and Psaltis' departure in the opposite direction, and that the rumor mill would really get going.  These are both natural and indeed expected reactions.

In my opinion your argument is slightly misleading. You "can imagine" a number of situations Mr. Psaltis describes in his book, and you add to it something that comes indeed from your own imagination, thus puting a factual account of the events by an involved party and your own non-facts at the same level.

I'm quite sure that if Keller feels that Psaltis' book -- and surely he is aware of it -- is unfair to him and French Laundry, and if he feels that it is connected to this incident, or that the story needs to be clarified with a description of this incident (or whatever the hell it is that Mssrs. Bourdan and Ruhlman are getting after), he is perfectly capable of saying, "Doug Psaltis slapped a runner at French Laundry and I shitcanned him" or "I thought Psaltis was a bad, cocaine-addicted chef, and when he punched a porter in the face it gave me the perfect excuse to fire him" or whatever.  Having friends of the house and/or employees making insinuations and spreading rumors is sleazy, and beneath someone of Keller's stature.  Frankly, I hope he wouldn't approve.

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Again, your argument seems misleading to me. The fact that Mr.Bourdain and Mr.Ruhlman express their opinions here about Mr.Psaltis, based on information they apparently have, is, as far as the first hand information in this thread goes, not related at all to the opinions or PR maneuvers Mr.Keller might be involved in, yet you seem to imply that they are.
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#57 bergerka

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:13 PM

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book, and I don't know Thomas Keller, although I'm dying to eat at Per Se. I have met Doug Psaltis probably twice and talked to him briefly.

However, it occurs to me that this could be a case of one incident seen from different perspectives, no? For example, I have a former friend, to whom I no longer speak (and vice versa). Were you to ask the two of us why we no longer speak, my version would most certainly put her in a not-so-good light...and I am quite certain the reverse is true as well. Isn't it possible that this is no more than that kind of situation?

I do agree that whoever's insisting there is "more to the story" needs to quit being mysterious and spill already.

and with that, I'm off to join divalasvegas in the cheap seats.

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#58 dvs

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:19 PM

sorry to be so juvenile, but...

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#59 WHT

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:30 PM

Because there's a big difference between a fistfight and a slap on the hand. One is something you fire people for; the other is something you demand an apology for.

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A lot of places have zero tolerance for any form of violence and knowing how California law is it would not surprise me that this is the case. There are a few other HR areas that I have personally seen this to apply; Weapons, drugs and stealing. It is seen by some as a way of curbing law suites of many types from occurring.

Your analogy being a prime example of why some companies adopt zero tolerance policies. In most states showing you have a written policy can head off lots of legal situations.
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#60 robert40

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:44 PM

My God People!! Has anybody ever thought of the 'POSSIBILITY' that those who may have or may not have another story are waiting for the 'OK' from French Laundry management before they disclose personnel business?
Of coarse that may or may not ever come.

Just a thought that sound's feasible to me.
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