Dining trends came and went in 2009, but one seemed to practically define the year: Chefs and owners completely, and totally, losing their cool. Whether it be exploding at customers, telling off critics, or even graffiting their former restaurant spaces, in 2009, New York restaurant industry personalities ponied up a seemingly endless supply of outbursts and hotheaded reactions to issues both big and small. Here's a rundown of the 10 Best Chef/Owner Freak Outs of 2009.
10) Jim Lahey vs. Bruni: When former Times critic Frank Bruni filed a onespot review of Jim Lahey's pizza spot Co., Lahey made it clear that he wasn't pleased. So like any responsible chef, he took to the pages of the Observer. What resulted was an epic rant, covering everything from Bruni's thoughts on their Bianca pie to being reviewed too early: "What the fuck are we being reviewed by the New York Times for, you know, 90 days into being open? It makes no sense." Plus, he didn't even want to be reviewed (because, after all, that's how the system works): "Otherwise, I would have made the food a lot differently. I would have bought really nice plates and beautiful stemware."
9) Ryan Skeen vs. New York City: Before Ryan Skeen took to Twitter (certainly a major innovation in Chef Freak Outs this year) to vent about his latest woes, he was already known as a talented chef with an unlucky track record. A sure sign his latest gig at troubled LES spot Allen and Delancey was nearing an end, Skeen fired off a number of tweets about how much he disliked A&D and NYC in general: "Get me the fuck out of NYC I can't do it anymore I will always love this city but our industry here has become a fucking hollywood joke!!!!!" The restaurant fired him the next week.
8) Agua Dulce vs. TONY: When TONY filed their admittedly harsh review of Pan-Latin newcomer Agua Dulce earlier this year, they slammed the place saying it was “as inauthentic as it is spread geographically thin.” It wasn't long before Agua Dulce chef Ulrich A. Sterling himself weighed in on the action, by sending a letter to TONY and other magazines, calling out the review's alleged errors and inaccuracies. After an exhausting rundown of all of the ways that the review misrepresented Ulrich's restaurant, he noted "If anything else however, the only thing truly inauthentic, has to be this article."
7) Mario Batali vs. The King and Queen of Spain: One of the great originators of the chef outburst brought the artform to new heights of comedy, by completely losing his shit at a $1000 a head dinner honoring the King and Queen of Spain at the SOBE Wine and Food Fest. In an attempt to quiet the crowd, Molto Mario screamed "All you weasel f***wads in the back corners, can I have ten seconds of your time?" Mario continued to drop F-bombs in front of his rapt audience, later noting that Jose Andres has "The most motherf***ing stars of any Spanish restaurant in the US." Soundbites from the freak out inspired a line of ringtones that became popular in Spain.
6) Posto vs. Jimmy Fallon. Generally, restaurants love celebrity guests, but that was not the case with Posto and Jimmy Fallon. As a part of a pizza round up for Grub Street, Fallon remarked of Posto's sister restaurant Spunto, "I think they use a blow dryer on the cheese. That would be the best Ritz cracker pizza. I assume they have a place named Crusto." When Fallon tried to dine at Posto a few weeks later, he and his family were not only denied a table, but ceremoniously laughed out of the place by the staff, and banned for life at any of the group's restaurants. Thankfully, this freak out was broadcast in real time via Fallon's twitter.
5) Daniel Boulud vs. Adam Platt: Even some of the world's most esteemed chefs lose their cool every once in a while, and Daniel Boulud is no exception. After receiving a disappointing one out of five star review for DBGB's from New York Magazine critic Adam Platt, Boulud referred to Platt as "miserable" and "a bitch". Sam Sifton was smart enough to give D-Biggity a deuce when it was his turn.
4) Isabella's Oven vs. Their Landlord: At least one great freak out of 2009 incorporated actual implements of destruction. When the chef/owners of LES pizza spot Isabella's Oven were evicted and forced to close up shop, they left a parting gift for the landlords in the form of taking to the walls, pipes, and fixtures of the space with sledgehammers and spraying offensive and derogatory graffiti wherever they could. More than just your average freak out, this particular case of batshit craziness also paid homage to the LES' gritty past.
3) Paradou vs. Their Staff: Vadim Ponorovsky, owner of MePa restaurant Paradou revealed a few things in an email to his employees obtained by Gawker. Most importantly, dude likes to curse: "GET THE FUCK OUT YOU FUCKING LAZY DISRESPECTFUL ASSHOLES!!!!!" What could have warranted such a tirade? Servers weren't collecting enough customer email addresses! Lashing out on the media is one thing, but subjecting your own employees to this type of stuff on a regular basis takes a different breed.
2) JoeDoe vs. The Blogosphere: Joe Dobias, owner of East Village restaurant JoeDoe, graced the world with two major flare ups in as many years. Last year, he didn't take kindly to a few of the comments about his restaurant in this Eaters Journal piece, banning the Eater staff. Well, things must be quiet over at JoeDoe, because the outspoken chef hit the internet again, this time targeting small review blog NY Journal with a string of comments: "Stop your malicious bullshit and stop this site! YOU ARE NOT A FOOD WRITER AND WILL NEVER BE YOU NASTY LITTLE MAN!!...It is 9:30am time to cook brunch hopefully not for some nasty little bald men like you."
1) Neil Ganic and Lobster vs. Unsuspecting Patrons: In what is certainly one of the most bizarre entries on the list, we have lobster toting chef Neil Ganic of Petite Crevette. As detailed in a call to the Eater Complaints Department, Ganic didn't take kindly to a pair of diners sending back their lobster because they felt it wasn't cooked properly. He came out of the kitchen with a live lobster, threw it on the table and shouted "You think my fish is not fresh? Look how fresh this is!" Classic meltdown.
—Greg Morabito & Matt Duckor