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robert40

Doug Psaltis

532 posts in this topic

sizzleteeth - you make an excellent point. But, I wonder whether or not the issue here is less a matter of perception than a matter of deception (in the most minor sense of the word).

As a reader, I expect a non-fiction writer to be honest about including details that will help me understand and interpret the situation being described, as the author understands it. I don't expect the pure unvarnished truth - that's a matter of perception. However, if an author omits details that will help me understand things in the way s/he understands them, then the veracity of the rest is in question.

Its a niggling point, but that's my view from the cheap seats. I'll go back to my popcorn now...


Anna

------

"I brought you a tuna sandwich. They say it's brain food. I guess because there's so much dolphin in it, and you know how smart they are." -- Marge Simpson

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The point is, and I hesitate to even post any further, that the book no doubt contains both accurate and inaccurate information and that both the accuracy and inaccuracy are to varying degrees and subject to the perception of multiple parties.

All parties have their particular interests in mind and there is significance to why whom is on what side.

There is more to it being written than for it's sake alone and there is more to the reactions of defense than meets the eye - regardless of these specific instances are true or not - the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of something similar being true - whether experienced by this particular person or not.

edit:

I digress.


Edited by Marlene (log)

nathan gray

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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The turn of this thread is very sad.

As one of the few posters here who has read the book, I can say there's a lot more to it than the last chapter. It would be a shame to discredit the whole book over one omission, no matter how blaring it may be.

And frankly, as someone who has worked in a professional kitchen for a decade, I am not shocked by the hand slap. I've seen worse. The guy was a jerk and Psaltis slapped him. He didn't dump a bucket of water on him (seen that), punch him (seen that too), or grab him by the neck (saw that a couple times). He didn't call him a fucking idiot a la Gordon Ramsay. He slapped him and it sounds like the guy had it coming. Of course there are slaps and there are SLAPS...

As for the French Laundry bit, so Keller's kitchen wasn't as tight a ship as Ducasse's. I would never have thought differently. Are reservations being cancelled at TFL or Per Se over this?

I agree with Bourdain that it would have made the book better, to show the real SEASONING of a chef. Show off your warts, and you might even get some sympathy. That it's not there doesn't bother me. I guess I'm in a minority here.

I still recommend the book.

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my thoughts on the walk-in comments...

go to tfl tonight... any night for that matter. ask them for a tour & you'll get it. the place is clean. during service at least.

could it be that the walk-in comment was a bit of an exaggeration? or that during off hours, things are a bit disorganized?

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I think you would have to compare the walk-in at Ducasse to the walk-in at TFL to understand what he meant. Psaltis obviously has a walk-in fixation. He discusses it a few times in the book.

I think for people WHO READ THE BOOK that it's important to set the scene at the Laundry at the time. With Per Se going in NY he says a lot of the best chefs had gone and he was working with a kitchen in transition. It's all very clear IF YOU READ THE BOOK.

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I think you would have to compare the walk-in at Ducasse to the walk-in at TFL to understand what he meant. Psaltis obviously has a walk-in fixation. He discusses it a few times in the book.

I think for people WHO READ THE BOOK that it's important to set the scene at the Laundry at the time. With Per Se going in NY he says a lot of the best chefs had gone and he was working with a kitchen in transition. It's all very clear IF YOU READ THE BOOK.

ok.. i haven't READ THE BOOK. but i have a question... what was psaltis' position at tfl at the time? was the condition of the walk-in HIS responsibility? even if it wasn't his direct responsibility, at a place like that (and really, everywhere) its everyone's duty to keep the joint straight.

i'll read the BOOK eventually...

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I think you would have to compare the walk-in at Ducasse to the walk-in at TFL to understand what he meant. Psaltis obviously has a walk-in fixation. He discusses it a few times in the book.

I think for people WHO READ THE BOOK that it's important to set the scene at the Laundry at the time. With Per Se going in NY he says a lot of the best chefs had gone and he was working with a kitchen in transition. It's all very clear IF YOU READ THE BOOK.

Attention Michael Ruhlman! This should be the subject of your next book. Famous Chef's Walk-ins. Yikes!


Mark

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The turn of this thread is very sad.

.......

The guy was a jerk and Psaltis slapped him.

No, it is the rush to blame the victim that is sad. How do YOU know he was a jerk? Hitting someone is wrong. Period. Making it sound like the poor guy had it coming is just low.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I hope that Lesley was using "the guy was a jerk" rhetorically, rather than as a statement of fact, just as Shaw referred to "the obnoxious server"; I doubt he was saying he had personal knowledge that the server was at fault. But given sensitivities all round, let's try even harder to distinguish fact from opinion.

Of course a victim shouldn't be blamed; as most parents say to their children several times a day, "just because he did it to you doesn't make it OK for you to do it to him..."

I'm struck by Moby's comment, and some that Tony Bourdain and Farid made. It's clear that hazing and physical harassment were condoned in restaurant kitchens, not that long ago. Verbal and psychological hazing and abuse were not uncommon in professional settings (law firms, hospitals, etc.) as late as the early 1990s, and I'm sure there is still some of this around. In general, though, the last few years have seen increasing intolerance of hazing, shouting at staff, etc., at least in well run businesses. Those who suffer these things now have recourse to support, and those who do them tend to get coaching or dismissal.

Is that how it is these days in restaurant kitchens everywhere? Are they no longer the place of cursing and shouting and sticking colleagues with forks, as described in Bourdain's book? That seems like a positive development to me.

(For the avoidance of doubt: Lesley is no longer on the staff of eGullet, just a valued member of the Society.)


Edited by Jonathan Day (log)

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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No, it is the rush to blame the victim that is sad. How do YOU know he was a jerk? Hitting someone is wrong. Period. Making it sound like the poor guy had it coming is just low.

If the guy did what Psaltis said he did, he's a jerk. It was a jerky thing to do.

Anyway, jerk is a low-level jab in my books. I didn't call him an asshole or an idiot, I just called him a jerk.

So sorry if I offended you. :hmmm:

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No, it is the rush to blame the victim that is sad. How do YOU know he was a jerk? Hitting someone is wrong. Period. Making it sound like the poor guy had it coming is just low.

If the guy did what Psaltis said he did, he's a jerk. It was a jerky thing to do.

Anyway, jerk is a low-level jab in my books. I didn't call him an asshole or an idiot, I just called him a jerk.

So sorry if I offended you. :hmmm:

Even from the most perfunctory reading of Pim's post, it's entirely clear that she was not objecting the the term 'jerk', but to Psaltis' violence. Indeed, the victim of the 'slap' may even have been an 'asshole' or and 'idiot', but this doesn't mitigate the slap. Rather, it only serves to further humiliate the person who was slapped, by suggesting that he 'had it coming'.

Or would you accept that anyone who thinks of you, Lesley C, in these terms is entitled to slap you?


Edited by Dirk Wheelan (log)

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Yes, I could take a slap if I was acting in a disrespectful manner. Not a kick, mind you, but a slap. Violence is a strong word for what Psaltis said was a "light slap."

Look, I've had a greasy French pastry chef once push me against a wall and kiss me. It was violent and disgusting. And I didn't get him fired.

I just told everyone what he did.

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Yes, I could take a slap if I was acting in a disrespectful manner. Not a kick, mind you, but a slap. Violence is a strong word for what Psaltis said was a "light slap."

Look, I've had a greasy French pastry chef once push me against a wall and kiss me. It was violent and disgusting. And I didn't get him fired.

I just told everyone what he did.

Lesley, you may be a paragon of a kitchen employee, but no one has claimed the slapee got Psaltis fired. I don't believe Psaltis has said he was fired, nor would I be quick to believe any chef would fire a valued employee simply on the word of a runner. More to the point however is that you told everyone what happened. Had the chef, executive, or owner decided to fire the pastry chef on the basis of your tale would there be a different point to your story? What exactly do you believe this runner, assuming he was a runner--I don't know what to believe--was able to do to single handedly get the chef to fire Psaltis?


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Look Bux, at this point I don't know what's going on here, but the inuendo is as thick as creme brulee.

Some posters implied that if you touch someone, you're out. I just don't think a slap is a big deal. Gordon Ramsay shoves hot plates of food on people and you don't hear them complaining.

Others are saying Psaltis omitted this story on purpose. Does it matter enough to question his credibility? I don't think so, but to each his own.

What bothers me most here is that this thread has evolved from a discussion about the book, to a detailed analysis of Doug's hand-slapping story.

I read the book and I don't think Psaltis is smearing the French Laundry. There are some criticisms yes, but that's part and parcel of the book. Heck on page 209 he recounts being in Ducasse's Paris kitchen and seeing two chefs punch another in the chest. I'll bet Alain isn't too pleased to see that in there either.

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I believe there's a well-used, even hackneyed phrase, to the effect that all publicity is good whether negative or otherwise.

As regards hand-slapping - I've seen a burly Glaswegian sous threaten a waiter with physical violence : "If you don't get your hand of that pass, I'll fucking break it" - but in today's litigious, risk-averse and politically sensitive age, slapping someone's hand away, regardless of the force of the slap, isn't a sensible idea.

Now if that's the straw that broke the camel's back, as has been claimed, then I might dare venture that the camel was already pretty heavily laden. No kitchen is going to part company with a senior chef on that basis alone.

As to credibility as an author, selective memory, "editorial neccessity' amd the like - everyone tends to paint themselves in a favourable light, but there is a threshold. If that's been stepped over, than shame, scorn and approbrium should rightly follow.


Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Yes, I could take a slap if I was acting in a disrespectful manner. Not a kick, mind you, but a slap. Violence is a strong word for what Psaltis said was a "light slap."

Look, I've had a greasy French pastry chef once push me against a wall and kiss me. It was violent and disgusting. And I didn't get him fired.

I just told everyone what he did.

i am sooooooooooo extremely upset that you didn't get the person who did that to you fired. its the brush under the rug of that kind of horseshit that scares good women away from the industry.

i hope you're ok. that person should have been dismissed. not finger pointed at.

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So sorry if I offended you.  :hmmm:

I'm sorry you are still not getting it. It is not me you should apologize to. Just because you are willing to take abuse doesn't mean you should expect others to.

Whether the runner personally got Doug Psaltis fired was immaterial. The action itself -not to mention the liability it could incur for the restaurant- could have gotten him fired, regardless of what the runner himself might have wanted.

I still don't see a reason to call that runner anything, light though that "jab" may be in your mind.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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Funny, I thought I was standing up for a chef here.

I like this book, and I especially like seeing a chef writing about his life instead of a food writer doing it for him.

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I especially like seeing a chef writing about his life instead of a food writer doing it for him.

As the book is written by "Doug Psaltis with Michael Psaltis", I'd be interested to know how much was written by whom.

edited : to correct spelling


Edited by culinary bear (log)

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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Yes, I could take a slap if I was acting in a disrespectful manner.

How do you envisage the process of establishing 'disrespect'?

By this I mean, is it sufficient to merely feel 'disrespected' before lashing out, or should one firmly establish disrespect has been committed before slapping?

Also, which of these scenarios do you imagine most reflects the Psaltis incident?

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I haven’t bought the book yet, nor have I furtively read any of it at the Barnes & Noble around the corner. As far as this discussion goes, I don’t think it’s necessary.

For better or worse, “The Seasoning of a Chef” is a literary work, a memoir really. That Douglas wrote it in the first person and invested what had to have been a lot of sweat equity doesn’t necessitate an on-line or eGullet inquisition or to have contributors to the thread make these tantalizing, unspecified innuendos. What Psaltis did in the kitchen of the King of CliffNotes Dining, and if he was fired because of it, is a miniscule part of the Psaltis brothers work, and really not of much consequence. This book is about Douglas and his culinary life. Where it springs from is no different than that of any work of art or craft; i.e. the muse. As such it can be subjected to the Intentional ( or Intentionist) Fallacy, which is to say that it is not necessary for Douglas to say anything about his book, let alone defend himself from the Keller Cavalry Brigade. Like any memoir of substance, there will always be detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns who will go on the attack with a sense of revisionism and revenge. “The Seasoning of a Chef” can stand by itself simply as literature.

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“The Seasoning of a Chef” can stand by itself simply as literature.

This suggests to me that you're judging it more or less as fiction and as something that springs from the imagination. Yeah, there would be no point in disputing something like that. The thing about memoirs is that they involve real people other than the writer. If someone feels that one of those other people has been unfairly slurred in the memoir, then to raise an objection is not the same as being a mean-spirited detractor or knocking a work just for the sake of knocking it.

I usually allow for the possibility that a memoir will be about as self-serving as has been suggested here, partly because I know a couple of people who have written memoirs and I know how much they have-- deliberately or subconsciously-- put slants on certain events. If I was going to bother correcting them I probably wouldn't do it by telling stories on them but rather by trying to correct statements they actually made. Because, heh, god knows they could start telling stories about me.

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“The Seasoning of a Chef” can stand by itself simply as literature.

Indeed it 'can' stand alone as literature, but not until one can establish for it a literary genre. Superficially, this appears to be auto-biography, but given that Psaltis is hardly an A-list chef, and doesn't have an audience clamouring for his memoirs, then we can also assume it has a self-promotional value as well. When we couple this with Psaltis' iconoclasm and unwillingness to provide a balanced account of events at the French Laundry, the whole project comes across as a PR exercise designed to aggrandize Psaltis.

Knocking others, and being economical with the truth to make yourself look good belongs to no branch of literature that I'm aware of.

As for categorizing anyone who objects to this as 'detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns from the Keller Cavalry Brigade', well, that just makes you appear equally, but oppositely, partisan.


Edited by Dirk Wheelan (log)

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I haven't read the book either, and don't have a point of view for or against.

I will note, though, that a lot of gossip and behind-the-back criticism seems to surface in chefs' and food writers' memoirs.

Here is a review of Jeremiah Tower's California Dish. Excerpt from the review:

The book is about one-third memoir, one-third graduate course in food and one-third mean-spirited, tabloid-style gossip that will alternately embarrass and enrage. But for all its faults, it offers an interesting road map through an American food revolution ...

Richard Olney's Reflexions travels much the same road, taking shots at Claiborne, Julia Child, Simone Beck, James Beard and many other food world luminaries.

This, of course, doesn't excuse falsehood or economy with the truth on Psaltis's part, or anyone's. It does seem to be part of the genre of foodie memoirs, though.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I haven’t bought the book yet, nor have I furtively read any of it at the Barnes & Noble around the corner. As far as this discussion goes, I don’t think it’s necessary.
“The Seasoning of a Chef” can stand by itself simply as literature.

How do you know that if you haven't read it?

(Just to be clear, I have eaten at neither chef's establishment, and have no interest in being a "bootlicker" for either gentleman.)


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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