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Doug Psaltis

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#61 Marlene

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:46 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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That is entirely possible, however, one would also think that they would have obtained that ok before posting insinuations that they may never be "allowed" to back up.
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#62 Fat Guy

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:47 PM

Yeah. Weapons, drugs, stealing . . . and slapping an obnoxious runner's hand off the pass. All of a kind.

Of course I think it was, as Doug Psaltis himself says, pretty damn stupid for him to slap that guy's hand. I think it was even stupider, as I'm sure he by now realizes, to leave it out of the book -- he'll surely pay for that in terms of credibility. That omission was a great gift to those who refuse to accept criticism of Keller and French Laundry -- they now have their (bad) excuse to write off everything Psaltis says.

But I've got to say, as between hand-slapping and character assassination, I consider the latter to be the greater sin.

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#63 robert40

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:53 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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That is entirely reasonable, however, one would also think that they would have obtained that ok before posting insinuations that they may never be "allowed" to back up.

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Seemed to me the very first person that read between the line's was Doug himself.

Edited to add.
I don't recall anyone insinuating anything prior to Doug's post admitting a hand slapping incident. As a matter of fact we would not be having this conversation if he had not made that post.

Edited by robert40, 21 September 2005 - 08:09 PM.

Robert R

#64 Laurie Woolever

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:58 PM

does the passion and anger inspired by psaltis' book not uncover a larger issue in the world of canonized chefs, 'our' closest thing to celebrities or papal personnel?

some are angry that keller has been 'slandered.' some feel psaltis has a right to tell his story. there is a clear rift between the handful of chefs who've risen to the level of food & wine in aspen guest chef/lecturer, for example, and the vast majority who toil in greater or lesser proximity to the star-power of said handful.

(this is not meant to pose a challenge to anyone's post, but possibly to get the whole thread relocated to the 'existential navel-gazing' section of egullet, if it hasn't already been moved there.)
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#65 srhcb

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 08:00 PM

WOW!

Junior high flashbacks!

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#66 Bux

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 08:01 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.

When I accepted Doug's truth, I accepted it as I did each account in Roshomon. i have little doubt that there are other accounts, some of which may portray the move as somethig more than just a little unnecessary force. I have known restaurant employees to be fired for less than what would put you in the brig in army and with greater speed and no hearing. We live in a world

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 you imagine it as the end of the beginning, or as a moment that culminated the parting of the ways? I can.

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 can believe people will be selfserving in what they see, not only in what they say, but this notion of Keller as a sacred cow seems a misreading of the reason he's respected in the first place. If the man is untouchable, can you imagine it may be because he deserves the respect he's earned. I daresay Michael (Ruhlman) has a reputation as a journalist to protect, as much as he has a friendship with Keller, and his writing has earned him a reputation of trust.

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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He probably doesn't and I supsect he'd be just as happy not to have anyone appear to fight his battle, but the concensus I read and not necessarily from those who know Keller is that it would be silly for him to sully himself in relation to what's likely not to be nearly as important a book as some make out. Of course horse races are easier to predict than how people will ultimately react. That's why I thought Tony was on target in his first post and while I understand where the innuendos are coming from, I suspect they don't help either. The simple fact is that whatever negatives we might learn about this or any other incident, or anything about the Psaltis character that's not positive, may untimately hurt Keller if it questions why he put his trust in the wrong person in the first place.
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#67 Pan

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 08:09 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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That's very surprising. You've never been a teacher, right? Teachers get fired for much less than that, and I have no doubt that if I ever slapped someone, I'd be fired. I gather the corporate world is a little different from academia? You mean no-one doing office work would get fired for slapping someone? Really? Granted that kitchens may be different, but you made a pretty broad statement there.

#68 winesonoma

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 10:48 PM

Touching someone is the kiss of death. Your gone, period. It's called battery, as in Assault and Battery.

"A battery is the willful or intentional touching of a person against that person’s will by another person, or by an object or substance put in motion by that other person. Please note that an offensive touching can constitute a battery even if it does not cause injury, and could not reasonably be expected to cause injury. A defendant who emphatically pokes the plaintiff in the chest with his index finger to emphasize a point may be culpable for battery (although the damages award that results may well be nominal). A defendant who spits on a plaintiff, even though there is little chance that the spitting will cause any injury other than to the plaintiff's dignity, has committed a battery".

Edited by winesonoma, 21 September 2005 - 10:52 PM.

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#69 Bux

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 10:53 PM

Yeah. Weapons, drugs, stealing . . . and slapping an obnoxious runner's hand off the pass. All of a kind.

Of course I think it was, as Doug Psaltis himself says, pretty damn stupid for him to slap that guy's hand. I think it was even stupider, as I'm sure he by now realizes, to leave it out of the book -- he'll surely pay for that in terms of credibility. That omission was a great gift to those who refuse to accept criticism of Keller and French Laundry -- they now have their (bad) excuse to write off everything Psaltis says.

But I've got to say, as between hand-slapping and character assassination, I consider the latter to be the greater sin.

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Stupidity is not a sin, but mendacity may be. We're begining to uncover credibility lapses. First you'd have us believe criticism of Keller is to be trusted simply because Keller is so well respected and now we're asked to accept a loss of credibily as no reason to doubt the rest of Psaltis' story. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Other than your friendship and business dealings, do you have any reason to defend the honesty of either author? To put it another way, do you have a compelling argument why I should believe them or not supect it was a more psychotic incident that lead to his leaving the French Laundry. It seems more credible than a description of Keller's dirty walk-in. Quite frankly, I do have a problem with the authors' credibility.
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#70 Marlene

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 06:04 AM

We briefly closed this thread last night to allow time for administrative review and to allow participants the opportunity to reflect. The Society has always been dedicated to the principles of free expression. But we have never allowed the forums to be used for spreading innuendo or unsubstantiated accusations.

We have re-opened the thread. A reminder of the User Agreement:

If you make factual statements, you represent that you have confirmed their truth. Statements of opinion are, of course, unrestricted, provided they comply with the rest of this policy..

Posts containing hearsay or innuendo will be deleted.
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#71 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 06:28 AM

This thread does have the feel of things getting blown out of useful proportions. I don’t know of anything truly horrible that Doug Psaltis did. On one level this is all a tempest in a teapot.

I haven’t wanted to say what I’ve heard because it is only that, something I’ve heard and only one side of the story. And even what I’ve heard scarcely deserves to be remarked on at all.

But given first that Psaltis published a factual book casting The French Laundry in a negative light, and second, that there seems to be of a rumor that he was in fact fired from the FL and did not leave on his own accord as he suggests in the book, I felt there was enough justification to ask Psaltis to comment. To say, True, false or I’ll let my book stand for itself.

If the rumor is true, that he was fired by The French Laundry, that is neither here nor there in and of itself. People get fired all the time. Keller’s been fired.

But to paint a distinctly negative picture of The French Laundry, and not reveal that he had been fired, well, if that were true, it would throw everything the guy wrote into question. His authority becomes spurious, the book becomes counterfeit. And it’s something that Psaltis and his co-author and the publisher clearly intend to profit from.

So, in my original post, I was asking for a comment for Psaltis if he wanted to clarify his side of the story, because there are so many sides to a story. The truth in writing means a lot to me. If he’s going to be a writer as well as a chef, I’d kind of like to know where he stands.

#72 bourdain

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 06:38 AM

First of all, I'd like to applaud winesoma for reminding us what any responsible employer knows--and has to keep in mind when dealing with situations like the one alluded to. The kind of potential liabilities and implied and specific responsibilities one has. I'm surprised--and this is coming from ME fer Chrissakes, an old and old school graduate of the pro-hazing lobby--by the assumption that ANY physical contact which might be construed as angry or menacing could or would be acceptable.
There IS a line never to be crossed. And Doug--if I understand his post correctly--has said he crossed it.

That being said: I am NOT suggesting that people don't buy his book or read it.
I obviously have serious doubts about the reliablity or gravity of some of the contents. Doug's apparent disingenuousness--and belated hang-out invite caution.
I'm not saying that whatever's been said or revealed here means that his account of a "messy walk-in" isn't true. . Or that one omission or evasive statement necessarily should lead directly to believing the rest a lie.
But the author has apparently been coy with us about his own failings--until pressed. That does--and should--be a factor in the reading of the book and evaluation of its contents.

"WHO is this guy?"
"WHO'S talking?"
When you write a a book titled "Seasoning of a Chef" it would have been helpful--and more honest for the reader to have been provided a more candid picture of the author and his "seasoning" process. Author, subjects, readers--and supporters--would have been better served.
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#73 Osnav

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 06:47 AM

Thanks for reopening the thread.

This thread as been as interesting as Tony's, Michael's, Doug's and Steven's books. Tony has been great being Tony. Michael's posts were not quite his best nor most interesting(get some caffine in your system Michael and get back into the fray), Doug (he's opeing a restaurant so we have to cut him a little slack), and Steven has amply filled in as Doug's apologist (although a little whiny).

The supporting cast has been insightful (Bux, in particular).

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#74 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 06:59 AM

Michael's posts were not quite his best nor most interesting(get some caffine in your system Michael and get back into the fray)

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i'm staying purposefully undercaffeinated because I think this is serious, I'm not doing it for entertainment.

sheesh. everybody's a critic.

#75 pim

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 08:32 AM

and slapping an obnoxious runner's hand off the pass.

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(emphasis mine)

If you are going to delete innuendos you might as well begin with this one.
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#76 chefzadi

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 08:50 AM

Didn't I say on the Hell's Kitchen thread that all the pushing and shoving was not common, really unthinkable. And that I had only work under one chef who was like that?
Yet Ramsay's temper tantrums were glorified as some old school, old guard French thing much to amazement of this old school French chef.

Now a "slap of hand" is turning into "assault and battery"

I'm not saying I condone it at all. I'm pointing out the scale of it and a little bit of hypocrisy. When Ramsay pushes and shoves people on his TV shows people howl, please refer back to the other thread of all the posts that glorified this.

So there was a slap on the hand. It was a slap, how gentle or how hard? We do not know. But let's try to keep in on scale.
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#77 sammy

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 08:52 AM

I think a more important question than the degree of "the slap" is whether or not Psaltis was fired because of it. We're still waiting for that answer.
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#78 Basildog

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:05 AM

Didn't I say on the Hell's Kitchen thread that all the pushing and shoving was not common, really unthinkable. And that I had only work under one chef who was like that?
Yet Ramsay's temper tantrums were glorified as some old school, old guard French thing much to amazement of this old school French chef.

Now a "slap of hand" is turning into "assault and battery"

I'm not saying I condone it at all. I'm pointing out the scale of it and a little bit of hypocrisy. When Ramsay pushes and shoves people on his TV shows people howl, please refer back to the other thread of all the posts that glorified this.

So there was a slap on the hand. It was a slap, how gentle or how hard? We do not know. But let's try to keep in on scale.

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Does Ramsay really shove people on his US show?I'm sure he didn't on the UK version, only grabbing one contestants hand when she went to slap him.

#79 silverbrow

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:06 AM

It would also be good if Doug could reply himself.

I don't know whether Steve has been appointed as his official defender or is self-appointed, either way, straight answers to direct questions would be helpful and interesting.

#80 chezcherie

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:16 AM

Didn't I say on the Hell's Kitchen thread that all the pushing and shoving was not common, really unthinkable. And that I had only work under one chef who was like that?
Yet Ramsay's temper tantrums were glorified as some old school, old guard French thing much to amazement of this old school French chef.

Now a "slap of hand" is turning into "assault and battery"

I'm not saying I condone it at all. I'm pointing out the scale of it and a little bit of hypocrisy. When Ramsay pushes and shoves people on his TV shows people howl, please refer back to the other thread of all the posts that glorified this.

So there was a slap on the hand. It was a slap, how gentle or how hard? We do not know. But let's try to keep in on scale.

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but a slap (no matter where) is assault and battery. ramsay's temper tantrums on television are TV..entertainment, and yes, acting, in my view, even though they may be presented as "reality tv"...hitting (of what ever body part, at whatever velocity) can't be condoned in the real world workplace...imho.
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#81 tighe

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:19 AM

I think a more important question than the degree of "the slap" is whether or not Psaltis was fired because of it. We're still waiting for that answer.

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I think the more fundamental question is, why is it such an affront to a chef to have someone lean on the pass? Should I take offense next time someone comes to talk to me and puts a hand on my desk? This is the stuff that gives chefs the rep of being more high strung than thoroughbreds. Get over yourself for godsake.
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#82 Jaymes

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:21 AM

Didn't I say on the Hell's Kitchen thread that all the pushing and shoving was not common, really unthinkable. And that I had only work under one chef who was like that?
Yet Ramsay's temper tantrums were glorified as some old school, old guard French thing much to amazement of this old school French chef.

Now a "slap of hand" is turning into "assault and battery"

I'm not saying I condone it at all. I'm pointing out the scale of it and a little bit of hypocrisy. When Ramsay pushes and shoves people on his TV shows people howl, please refer back to the other thread of all the posts that glorified this.

So there was a slap on the hand. It was a slap, how gentle or how hard? We do not know. But let's try to keep in on scale.

but a slap (no matter where) is assault and battery. ramsay's temper tantrums on television are TV..entertainment, and yes, acting, in my view, even though they may be presented as "reality tv"...hitting (of what ever body part, at whatever velocity) can't be condoned in the real world workplace...imho.


Not to mention that the word "slap" was Doug's own. We don't know how the "slapee" would describe it. And, as anyone that watches Judge Judy can tell you, one person's "slap" is another's "sock upside the head."

I think that Bourdain/Rhulman and others, in so far as I can tell anyway, are just suggesting that we take Doug's chapter on FL with a grain of salt, understanding that it may be only one side of the story. I think that's good advice in this case.

Always, actually.

Edited by Jaymes, 22 September 2005 - 09:58 AM.

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#83 chefzadi

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:23 AM

Didn't I say on the Hell's Kitchen thread that all the pushing and shoving was not common, really unthinkable. And that I had only work under one chef who was like that?
Yet Ramsay's temper tantrums were glorified as some old school, old guard French thing much to amazement of this old school French chef.

Now a "slap of hand" is turning into "assault and battery"

I'm not saying I condone it at all. I'm pointing out the scale of it and a little bit of hypocrisy. When Ramsay pushes and shoves people on his TV shows people howl, please refer back to the other thread of all the posts that glorified this.

So there was a slap on the hand. It was a slap, how gentle or how hard? We do not know. But let's try to keep in on scale.

View Post


but a slap (no matter where) is assault and battery. ramsay's temper tantrums on television are TV..entertainment, and yes, acting, in my view, even though they may be presented as "reality tv"...hitting (of what ever body part, at whatever velocity) can't be condoned in the real world workplace...imho.

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Um... I made that point on the other thread as well. And I made similar points in the France forum.

So now we all agree not to glorify this stuff as some Frenchh old guard thing? And when I say it's not acceptable I won't get arguments from an American telling me that it's very old school French? Merci. :smile:


We're getting off topic.

EDIT: there was a physical scuffle that resulted in injury of one of the contestants and a settlement. Maybe this was not shown on the series. I do not watch the whole show. And to me shoving a plate of food into someone's stomach is aggressive.

Edited by chefzadi, 22 September 2005 - 09:25 AM.

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#84 D. Peckham

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 09:37 AM

I think that alot of people on here had let this thread get a little out of hand , but I think that it is justified sort of because some of you are quite close to the people being discussed. I am also very surprised a the view of some people have taken towards Chef Psaltis and the incident that is being talked about. Chef Bourdain I am sure that you know that life in kitchens is quite different then that of most every other industry that I know of. You yourself have written about drug use and physical abuse in your own books , but is now condeming a slap on the hand. I am not saying what Chef Psaltis did was right, and by all accounts niether is he. Yes he did ommit it from his own book, but given the fact that I know Chef Psaltis as a very intense and driven chef who wants nothing more then to be the best at what he does I am not surprised he left it out considering he must feel very bad and embarrassed about the incident itself. Lets not forget that it is his book and is free to write what he wants and it is by choice that you read it. Second of all why would Chef Psatis spend more time on here considering that he is about to open a restaurant in Manhatten when the last time he posted he was basically torn apart by certain members. I aslo think that Mr. Shaw was wrong in what he was saying for a couple of reasons. Isn't it possible that after this incident happened that by his addmission he was already a few steps out the door and he was very frustrated with the restaurant and vice versa, he and Chef Keller could have talked about the incident and said" You know what this isn't working out for either of use and maybe it's time we parted way" . Also calling the food runner in the incident obnoxious was a little narrow minded considering you don't even know him. I do know him and I wouldn't call him obnoxious more nieve then anything who' background isn't as disciplined and expierenced as Chef Psaltis. Can we possibly drop all this shit and focus on the book as a whole, which I might add is interesting to read.

#85 Mark Sommelier

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 11:22 AM

I think a more important question than the degree of "the slap" is whether or not Psaltis was fired because of it. We're still waiting for that answer.

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I think the more fundamental question is, why is it such an affront to a chef to have someone lean on the pass? Should I take offense next time someone comes to talk to me and puts a hand on my desk? This is the stuff that gives chefs the rep of being more high strung than thoroughbreds. Get over yourself for godsake.

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What I find bewildering is why DP chose to slap the kid's hand rather than, in the grand tradition of chefs since time immemorial, shout in a voice loud enough to be heard by the folks in the parking lot "Get your freakin' hand off the freakin' pass before I fire your freakin' freak-a-deak ass".
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#86 robert40

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 11:28 AM

Excerpt From:
"On the Road to Acclaim,a Chef Learns Lessons in Humility"
Marian Burros. October 16,1996


After a year and a half,he went back to New York and became the chef at La
Reserve. But he thought he knew more then the owner.
"I was arrogant" he admitted. "I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do-more contemporary- and it didn't coincide with the way the owner wanted to do things,which was traditional.
"One day, we had a argument in the kitchen and I told him to get out.
Ultimately,you can't throw the owner out of his kitchen. I was fired.


I found this old New York Times article.
Guess we have all been there at one time or another. Even Thomas Keller.
Robert R

#87 russ parsons

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 11:30 AM

if you'll forgive an unrepentant old-media guy, this is the kind of thing the web does worst. rather than providing any kind of light, what we've got is an overheated, over-caffeinated water cooler where a bunch of people with only second (or even third) hand information stand around and argue with each other about things that are in some cases the most extravagent supposition. what seems to happen is that each person involved in the debate, through some kind of accretion of imagination, builds up their own true story of what happened when the actual facts involved are few. we're arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (open-handed slap? closed-handed slap?) when none of us know for sure the existence of either the angels or the pin.

#88 iheartoffal

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 11:44 AM

I'm about halfway through the book right now, and while some of it does strike me as apocryphal (especially the chapter on TFL, based on what I know), I can't imagine him knowingly revising history to the extent that people are accusing him of. It would be one thing if we were talking about an isolated quote, but we're talking about a full blow publication, one which contains open criticism of several important figures in the restaurant business. I think Doug is well aware that it would be folly to make some of the statements he makes if they were untrue, and that the consequences of engaging in slander could end up backfiring and having serious implications for his career and his reputation. From what I've gleaned from his book, those are two very important things to Mr. Psaltis.
Nothing to see here.

#89 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 12:16 PM

Russ is absolutely right. It's pointless to go on at this point. Unless Doug Psaltis wants to comment or the strangely taciturn Fat Guy has a final remark, perhaps someone should start a new thread and leave this one lie. We can come back in a couple days and poke it with a stick to see if it moves.

#90 srhcb

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Posted 22 September 2005 - 01:25 PM

if you'll forgive an unrepentant old-media guy, this is the kind of thing the web does worst. rather than providing any kind of light, what we've got is an overheated, over-caffeinated water cooler where a bunch of people with only second (or even third) hand information stand around and argue with each other about things that are in some cases the most extravagent supposition. what seems to happen is that each person involved in the debate, through some kind of accretion of imagination, builds up their own true story of what happened when the actual facts involved are few. we're arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (open-handed slap? closed-handed slap?) when none of us know for sure the existence of either the angels or the pin.

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Yeah, like I'm waiting for the New York Times to cover the story.

SB (or maybe NBC/Dan Rather?)





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