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Doug Psaltis


robert40
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Just so I’m clear on the story, this book is the memoirs of a 31 year old line cook and sous chef who has worked in a number of very well respected kitchens and left most of them either under unclear circumstances or was asked to leave.  Right?

He himself contributes to this thread that he assaulted a co-worker and that he has some issues with his temper. In the book he makes a number of claims about the kitchens in which he has been employed and neglects to mention any part of the story where he may have been in the wrong.

.....

Now what I don’t understand about the book is how a cook who has never run a restaurant gets his ‘life story’ published?  He went down in flames at Mix, he left the French Laundry under questionable circumstances, and he clearly didn’t play well with others at Blue Hill.  What’s the deal?  Just because he has something provocative to say doesn’t merit publishing a book without doing the appropriate fact checking.  Either he’s got astonishingly bad luck or he’s had a hand in at least some of the impressive failures he’s suffered as a cook.  Mimi Sheraton posed a very interesting question earlier in this thread - who will Psaltis blame if Country fails?  Maybe he’ll write another book about it.

My thoughts exactly. I have, over a period of time, been reading over this very amusing thread and it truly is amazing. I mean several people bought the book just to "be able to comment on it". Well, for me, the excerpts in the Daily Gullet were enough. Before this thread took off I read the first excerpt and my first thought was "thank God for tDG, this is one book I will not buy". It was not very interetsting and the writing was amateurish. Needless to say, I had no idea who this guy did so I did some research and found out. So, I will not be spending my time and money on this piece of work. On the other hand, and I say this just as an example, after reading the very first excerpt from "Turning The Tables" I wanted to read more and I ordered my copy! Needless to say I did not feel the same way about SOAC. Basically Mr. Psaltis' claims and accounts, whether true or not, were not presented in an interesting manner.

Another point I was mulling over and not sure if it will make sense to anyone, but here goes. Psaltis is entitled to his opinion of Keller, AD, or Barber (that fake "Peter" name business is just rediculous). He can say what he wants about anyone but I get this feeling that the reason he was so heavily criticized, is because he, in the resaturant world, did not earn his stripes. He is very young, he NEVER ran his own restaurant and has had trouble with some of the most respected culinary personalities in this country. I would think if he was a seasoned vet in the industry his comments might have been better recieved. Maybe that was why Jeremaiah Tower's "below the belt" comments were. No, I will repeat again that I have not read the book and I will not, but honestly he comes out (judging by both pro and anti DP comments on this thread) looking like a whiny brat who was lucky enough to have connections in the publishing industry and get his book published.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Wow, this thread is a trainwreck. Would you guys read the book already?

Melkor and foodman - no. You have the wrong idea. (Probably because you didn't read the book).

He did great work at March. He did great work for Bouley. He did great work for Alain Ducasse. So much so that he moved up from an assistant to an assistant to a line cook.... to the Chef of his kitchen at Mix.

This isn't some shady guy who keeps getting fired. This is an extremely talented hardworking cook who's not very bright and can't tell a good story. Or doesn't even have a story, really?

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I want to see the French version of this book:

L'Assaisonnement d'un Chef: the story of young, up-and-comer Jean-Jules who makes his way up the ladder of French haute cuisine behind the stoves of notorious hot heads, Joel Robuchon, Jacques Maximin, and Jacques Chibois.

Now THAT would make for some wild reading!

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Times article is number 2 story on the Apple RSS Visulalizer

"Kitchen Ruckus:A Chefs Memoir;Doug Psaltis has experienced an auspicious ascent in the culinary world and foodies are abuzz over his kitchen memoir"

New thread title :biggrin:

Edit:

For those who do not know if you have an Apple OS-X or higher machine go to your preferences/screen saver/RSS Visiulizer then go to the NYT and select "Dining and Wine" this makes your screen saver the top current headlines from NYT related to food etc then you use keys 1-5 to bring up the story, great thing about it is that it is free and does not require registration also check out bugmenot.com

Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)
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There's been plenty of wagon circling alright, but it didn't start with the 'culinary establishment'.  The wagons began to circle right here on eGullet, by its very own establishment, and it's still going on today.

Just pointing out the obvious.

Pim, if you have a point to make about how the "eGullet establishment circled the wagons" with regard to Doug Psaltis, his book, or this topic, please cite examples. If you are trying to make some larger point, the place to do it is eG Forums and Society Questions and Comments.

Dave, good point - here's the thread you suggested.

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The Psaltis fiasco proves that there is a ton of dirt in the world of Haute Cuisine that has yet to be exposed. And he has just exposed a tiny smidgeon of what's out there.  . . . .

Once more, I have to ask how you know that any of his allegations are true? Where do you get your information from? How are you so all knowing? I am offended that you expect us to take any of this as proof of anything. Why can't I enjoy myself in Venice with the firm knowledge that people know what they post as knowing. Why do you go on defending the allegations as truth while those who post otherwise are asked for proof? Is it not diingenuous?

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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This part of Alex Urena's account is particularly hard to swallow given the journalistic record. Urena says:
"He was helping us as a line cook," Mr. Ureña said. "We didn't want him to get the idea that he was going to be a sous-chef."

But in a Time Out New York article published in 2000, Doug Psaltis is specifically referred to as the sous-chef:

On the day I visit, sous chef Doug Psaltis arrives shortly after Urena.

Also:

Because Blue Hill is a relatively small restaurant—it has about 54 seats, bar not included—Urena, Psaltis and Barber do all of the preliminary prepping or "breaking down" of the vegetables, fish and meats.

The story is available online here: http://www.timeoutny.com/eatout/240/240.eat.ramps.html -- this, at least, would seem to be a bit of homework the New York Times didn't do.

You know I read that article, several times over the years. I have a couple of copies in my library. What it says is that Doug was sous-chef, not Alex's co-chef as he says in his book. It goes on to say that Dan is the chef chef since he’s calling out the orders and working the pass, which is what the top chef in any kitchen does, and that Dan clearly knows his way around the kitchen if he’s breaking down vegetables, fish, and meats. Even the title sous-chef may be questionable in a new restaurant opening on a tight budget. It's often easier to give a title than a salary to boost the ego of one of the guys in a new kitchen. The author of that article was one of the few people who would talk to me at all. What she had to say is that she didn't have much memory of Doug. It seems to me that he wasn't one with much responsibility or input into the restaurant that took off big, quickly. Alex apparently did have much to do with the origninal success, but even there I have some questions. You and I never shared the same opinion of the restaurant. I felt it was a destination restaurant from early on and you didn't. More to the point I seem to recall that when Alex left, your predictions were negative and you expressed the view that Alex was the talent. I wondered why you had that misapprehension then. I better understand that today.

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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I would think if the Times had done its homework it would have followed up on a claim like Alex Urena's: that Psaltis wasn't even hired until two weeks after the restaurant opened. Homework would have been saying, "So we requested evidence and this is what we learned."

This is the passage in question, from the Times piece:

Mr. Psaltis writes that he was hired to work as a co-chef at Blue Hill with Mr. Barber and Alex Ureña as the restaurant was about to make its debut. But Mr. Ureña, whom Mr. Psaltis thanks in the book's acknowledgments, said in a phone conversation last week that Mr. Psaltis was hired two weeks after the restaurant opened five years ago.

In terms of the first part, that isn’t actually what Psaltis writes on pages 126 - 141. He writes that he and Alex Urena were to run the kitchen, and that Barber (ridiculously called Peter in the book) stepped in as co-chef after the fact.

With respect to the second part, the claim that Psaltis “was hired two weeks after the restaurant opened five years ago” would certainly be damning to Psaltis. It seems a bit hard to swallow, though. Psaltis is quite specific about, for example:

-Recounting (pages 126 - 127) a dinner meeting with Urena and Barber at Peacock Alley during which the restaurant was discussed pre-opening.

-Specifying the month he came to the restaurant (January, page 129) and the month the restaurant opened for friends-and-family pre/soft-opening meals (February, page 130).

-Naming the people who were at the friends-and-family meals: his friends Laura, Jason and “Greenie” from Huntington, and his brother and co-author Michael (page 130).

-Giving detailed accounts of post mortem meetings held after the friends-and-family meals (page 132 onward).

Urena seems to be claiming that Psaltis wasn’t there for any of the above -- that it was a complete fabrication. Of course, specificity does not equal truth. But the detail provided in Psaltis’s book is compelling to me.

A well turned defense counselor, but Ureña didn't say Psaltis wasn't there at those meetings. It seems to me that perhaps he just wasn't hired until later. I have attended meetings for a project that was never undertaken and for projects that were undertaken, but for which I wasn't hired. I see neither smoke, nor a gun here.

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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Once more, I have to ask how you know that any of his allegations are true? Where do you get your information from? How are you so all knowing? I am offended that you expect us to take any of this as proof of anything. Why can't I enjoy myself in Venice with the firm knowledge that people know what they post as knowing. Why do you go on defending the allegations as truth while those who post otherwise are asked for proof? Is it not diingenuous?

Mario Batali was quoted in the Times piece saying, in effect, that Dan Barber doesn't rip off recipes. Has anyone insisted that he back that up with facts that he himself experienced? Just curious, not snarky. I mean it. :smile:
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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. . . .

Batali and Pepin can't take two hours out of their time to read a book by one of their industry peers so they can sound intelligent and with finality in their assessment of it? What the hell is the problem?

As has been pointed out by those more familiar with publishing than yourself, it's common practice and we don't even know if they were sent the whole book, or the final copy.

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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Once more, I have to ask how you know that any of his allegations are true? Where do you get your information from? How are you so all knowing? I am offended that you expect us to take any of this as proof of anything. Why can't I enjoy myself in Venice with the firm knowledge that people know what they post as knowing. Why do you go on defending the allegations as truth while those who post otherwise are asked for proof? Is it not diingenuous?

My assumption that he is telling the truth is just as disingenous as your belief that he is not.

Excuse me for giving him the benefit of the doubt.

You're all but calling him a liar.

And, BTW, so sorry to disrupt your vacation. :hmmm:

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He probably shot himself in the foot but more because of the lynching going on on the internet.

I read the book more as a tale of a journey made by a guy who wanted to learn as much as he could about cooking and who wanted to cook and be trained by the best chefs he could work for.

Still don't feel there was anything overly insulting to anyone, especially 'You-Know-Who'

Perhaps an insult is not the greatest harm that can be done via a book. Perhaps someday you'll have the experience of needing to staff a kitchen on a budget as does Peter who has only to turn to the CIA to see prospective employees reading that he has nothing to teach them. That's the way a hit man works. A few words of praise and a couple of kisses on the cheek before you put the knife in someone's back. The naiveté on this board about how the restaurant world works, just stuns me, especially when it comes from so called professional chefs. I wonder about the ivory tower in which they work and in what parallel universe that must exist. The twins know how to hit low and no one here gets it. It's like using a rubber hose. It leaves no visible mark. I truly believe neither the supporters nor detractors of the book have a really good sense of what's going on and just how calculating this whole book was.

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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Once more, I have to ask how you know that any of his allegations are true? Where do you get your information from? How are you so all knowing? I am offended that you expect us to take any of this as proof of anything. Why can't I enjoy myself in Venice with the firm knowledge that people know what they post as knowing. Why do you go on defending the allegations as truth while those who post otherwise are asked for proof? Is it not diingenuous?

My assumption that he is telling the truth is just as disingenous as your belief that he is not.

Excuse me for giving him the benefit of the doubt.

You're all but calling him a liar.

And, BTW, so sorry to disrupt your vacation. :hmmm:

No Lesley, you've repeated the same statment several times with no supporting post. I have, with each of my posts included back up explanations and supporting arguments. I expect no one to buy my opinions at face value. I feel I have to earn that support.

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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Since when is it a revelation that chefs at the top end are protective of their kind. It's been going on for as long as I can remember, which takes it back to the 1970s. They're just as hypocritical now as always. If a young chef with first-hand experience sees something in the kitchen of a great chef that's a negative, he has every right to talk or write about it. To say otherwise raises suspicions that "great" chefs might have something to hide.

Absollutely the right to talk about what he saw, but no right to be creatively harmful as I believe I've made a case for the way he told the story about Alex Ureña and the restaurant we know to be Blue Hill. The Psaltis version doesn't have to match the Ureña version or the Barber version, but there are facts that must be common to all versions for them to be seen as reasonable versions.

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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One does not typically get paid to blurb a book, and a blurb is not exactly journalism. It's basically advertising, generally done as a favor for a colleague, editor, agent, friend, etc. Most book blurbs are based on uncorrected proofs or sample chapters and the standard is to skim and blurb. Blurbing a book based on one chapter is not unusual. Retracting a blurb when the entrenched interests close ranks is.

The innuendo that Pepin, Batali and Bourdain are closing ranks to protect entrenched interests is a bit insulting to all concerned and no less so to our readers. It might be far more truthful to acknowledge that they retracted their blurbs on reading the rest of the book. You may, if you wish, insult them for writing the blurb before reading the book.

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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. . . .

Batali and Pepin can't take two hours out of their time to read a book by one of their industry peers so they can sound intelligent and with finality in their assessment of it? What the hell is the problem?

As has been pointed out by those more familiar with publishing than yourself, it's common practice and we don't even know if they were sent the whole book, or the final copy.

But with your assertions that the world of professional cooks at this level is full of people who may as well be hit-men, it seems like people with the chops of Batali and Pepin would be well aware of the dangers of blurbing based on a preview chapter. Perhaps we'll see less blurbing from them in the future since they have been burned on this one.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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He probably shot himself in the foot but more because of the lynching going on on the internet.

I read the book more as a tale of a journey made by a guy who wanted to learn as much as he could about cooking and who wanted to cook and be trained by the best chefs he could work for.

Still don't feel there was anything overly insulting to anyone, especially 'You-Know-Who'

Perhaps an insult is not the greatest harm that can be done via a book. Perhaps someday you'll have the experience of needing to staff a kitchen on a budget as does Peter who has only to turn to the CIA to see prospective employees reading that he has nothing to teach them. That's the way a hit man works. A few words of praise and a couple of kisses on the cheek before you put the knife in someone's back. The naiveté on this board about how the restaurant world works, just stuns me, especially when it comes from so called professional chefs. I wonder about the ivory tower in which they work and in what parallel universe that must exist. The twins know how to hit low and no one here gets it. It's like using a rubber hose. It leaves no visible mark. I truly believe neither the supporters nor detractors of the book have a really good sense of what's going on and just how calculating this whole book was.

:blink: Ahh... So it was deliberately engineered. Thank you.

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How is it that making good food, creative or not, and running a successful restaurant and gaining

a good reputation for both of those things makes you a good person whom performs the same

way in every other aspect of your life and therefore the same respect should be paid to the

statements you make in other areas or about other people?

Why is it if you've made a name for yourself in some small sliver of the expansion of life

and that small sliver happens to be the focus of attention of other people - that it is assumed

that you must be a good and truthful person?

I've known people, that are very successful and may be described as "one of the best" at what

they do - who are otherwise highly flawed, and in some cases complete fucks in other aspects of

life - especially in the propensity to be honest and really give a damn about anyone else - the

later of which, at times in my own life, could be applied to myself, may still be in the future and

possibly even in the present - which I may be blind to.

Why is it if you can make a good sauce, get some fucking raves about it, you are all of a sudden

elevated above normal human beings and think you can verbally and physically abuse people

without getting popped in the mouth? Say what you wish and it is taken as fact by default?

If nothing can be believed on face for one side - it cannot be believed on face for the other.

Period.

Until someone provides physical evidence to support or discount any claim made here - no one

has a valid argument for or against.

I personally find the assumption that those at or near the top, with good reputations for cooking

and/or running a business - must be good people - and not people just putting on a smile and

a show for on-lookers, pretty ridiculous.

They may go home and drown kittens for fun... for all we know.

"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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How is it that making good food, creative or not, and running a successful restaurant and gaining

a good reputation for both of those things makes you a good person whom performs the same

way in every other aspect of your life and therefore the same respect should be paid to the

statements you make in other areas or about other people?

Why is it if you've made a name for yourself in some small sliver of the expansion of life

and that small sliver happens to be the focus of attention of other people - that it is assumed

that you must be a good and truthful person?

I've known people, that are very successful and may be described as "one of the best" at what

they do - who are otherwise highly flawed, and in some cases complete fucks in other aspects of

life - especially in the propensity to be honest and really give a damn about anyone else - the

later of which, at times in my own life, could be applied to myself, may still be in the future and

possibly even in the present - which I may be blind to.

Why is it if you can make a good sauce, get some fucking raves about it, you are all of a sudden

elevated above normal human beings and think you can verbally and physically abuse people

without getting popped in the mouth? Say what you wish and it is taken as fact by default?

If nothing can be believed on face for one side - it cannot be believed on face for the other.

Period.

Until someone provides physical evidence to support or discount any claim made here - no one

has a valid argument for or against.

I personally find the assumption that those at or near the top, with good reputations for cooking

and/or running a business - must be good people - and not people just putting on a smile and

a show for on-lookers, pretty ridiculous.

They may go home and drown kittens for fun... for all we know.

huh?!! This makes no sense what so ever. Who ever said that there are people with no flaws? Psaltis made soem statements in his book and some people are refuting those statements. No one as far as I can tell said that Barber is a perfect human being.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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huh?!! This makes no sense what so ever. Who ever said that there are people with no flaws? Psaltis made soem statements in his book and some people are refuting those statements. No one as far as I can tell said that Barber is a perfect human being.

?

There are people here who assume one side or the other is telling the truth

and that their reputations precede them.

My comments go for either side and are not aimed at any particular person.

"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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They may go home and drown kittens for fun... for all we know.

But then we'd have to ask, did they braise, grill, or sauté the kittens? And with what sauce did they serve them?

:smile:

For all you know I may drown kittens for fun.

Braised kitten just falls off the bone.

"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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I just finished this book, and searched egullet to see if there was a discussion...WOW!  It's like reading the book that nobody read, and then not seeing the movie  based on same that was a blockbuster...read the book, people!

it's amazing the slap or whatever got this much attention here on egullet...there is SO much more to dislike about this contrived, whiney, legend in his own world author...I was actually grateful that I was just reading an account of his life, as opposed to being a part of all his negative views and energy....event the first chapters whcih could have made him likeable..he was judgemental and full of himself even then. 

I am really glad that this guy is not my friend.  I imagine that he is part of a circle of people who don't have an authentic, true bone in their body. He is a very contrived character.

Now, I might also point out that he might not be this way in real life..but someone should have warned him that he was going to appear this way in his book. 

To summarize, i can't say I don't like DP, but I certainly don't like the DP in SOAC.

Good summary - I felt exactly the same way after reading the book. He across a bit like Elizabeth Wurtzel or someone like that - a somewhat delusional brat. There seem to be a lot of memoirs being published at the moment by self-pitying privileged young people who seem to view their life as being a lot more compelling and full of fascinating moments then it actually is.

I wish him all the best, as I don't know him and imagine he's really not all that bad a guy, but it's not difficult him to imagine him joining Rocco DiSpirtio in the "It's too bad, they had talent" club in a couple of years time.

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They may go home and drown kittens for fun... for all we know.

But then we'd have to ask, did they braise, grill, or sauté the kittens? And with what sauce did they serve them?

well clearly you would braise the kitten forelegs and hindlegs.

i would saute the tenderloin and roast the breast.

and the sauce would probably be some sort of roasted kitten bone stock reduction, maybe fortified with butter, shallots, red wine, and thyme.

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