Some chefs and servers at high-end restaurant Brooklyn Fare made a bombshell accusation in a lawsuit revealed last week. They say Chef César Ramirez was discriminatory toward certain customers.
Here’s how the Post described it: “And when it came time to distribute cuts of meat during the fusion French-Asian meal service, Asians — along with suspected Upper West Siders — were given inferior scraps, while preferred diners were given choice chunks, the suit says.”
Ramirez has responded, saying “these allegations are false.”
Upper West Sider Allan Ripp has a few things to say about this revelation, in a farcical column he calls “The Beef from Table 10025”.
By Allan Ripp
Like many New York restaurant-goers, I was shocked to hear reports that the chef at a Michelin three-star eatery in downtown Brooklyn may have been mistreating Asian diners – serving them inferior cuts of meat and not allowing them to be seated close to his high-performance open kitchen counter.
But allegations also surfaced that César Ramirez, who runs the lauded 18-seat Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, was abusing another group of customers yearning for his 20-course Franco-Japanese fusion menu. According to a federal lawsuit filed recently against Ramirez, the chef instructed servers to give “the worst pieces of meat to…Asian people, and to Upper West Siders.”
As a longtime Upper West Sider, I can’t decide whether to feel humiliated or honored by such demographic profiling – though if it were up to me, I’d prosecute Ramirez for a hate crime.
In fact, I’d heard rumors that the chef had a map of New York meat-cleavered to his pantry wall with a blood-stained outline marking the area from Columbus Circle to 125th Street and the words “SCUMVILLE” scrawled across it. An advisory warned staff to “Watch out for diners claiming to be from ‘Lincoln Center’ or ‘Morningside Heights’ – that’s just chi-chi code for UWS.”
Underground foodies tell me that Ramirez was especially skilled at spotting West Siders among his patrons. “Anyone caught discussing alternate side of the street parking or their drive times to the Berkshires was automatically suspect and given gristle meats,” one explained. “And those who said that Bill de Blasio wasn’t progressive enough for them got seated next to the bathroom.”
I tried to book dinner at Chef’s Table and even with advance notice was told that the only availability for my preferred night was at 9:55 PM. “I don’t understand,” I argued. “I followed the instructions on your web site and waited until Monday morning at 10:30 AM to call for six weeks ahead, and you’re telling me everything is already booked? How is that even possible? Can’t anyone else help me?” The reservationist cut me off. “Sorry, sir – I see the 9:55 slot is now taken. We are fully committed that evening – have you considered the Grocery on Smith Street? Good bye.”
At the time I thought it was a bizarre brush-off, though now I suspect that my UWS phone exchange was probably a giveaway. But I didn’t have any better luck when I called back on my cell. “It’s your voice,” a friend explained. “You challenged them, you didn’t debase yourself. You raised your voice like John McEnroe. Total Upper West Side response.”
Of course, McEnroe can regularly be seen skulking around Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues in search of a tasting menu, banished from Chef’s Table, along with Lloyd Blankfein, Tia Leoni, Bono, Diane Wiest, Matt Damon, Tim and Nina Zagat, Kevin Bacon and other celebrities foolish enough to live west of Central Park. I understand the only reason Alec Baldwin moved out of the neighborhood was so that he’d be allowed to sample Ramirez’ Kumamoto oysters with crème fraîche and Key Lime gelée, or maybe it was the Medai needlefish with sliced Mexican yams.
Ramirez, who was raised in Chicago, may have made a serious error in choosing his punishment. Anyone who has ever fought their way through Citarella or Zabar’s knows that Upper West Siders never accept a lesser cut of meat – or anything else they don’t personally choose to their own exact specifications. “No, not that piece – THAT piece over there, under the round one, behind the fatty one.”
It’s hard to imagine any of my neighbors settling for table scraps, especially since Chef’s Table’s prix fixe menu is $255 per person. “You call that wagyu beef?” I can hear them saying in disbelief. “At these prices? I suggest you go back and try another piece – or take it off my bill.”
The best strategy for dealing with West Siders is to give us what we came for so we can get the hell out of there. I know I’d be just as happy with 15 courses – do we really need 20? Most of us just want to go back home so we can walk our dogs and catch up on Homeland before getting to bed by 11.
It’s true that Upper West Siders can seem arrogant, entitled, impatient, skeptical and judgmental. But we are also a forgiving people. I therefore invite Chef Ramirez to sample one of our many terrific restaurants from zip codes 10019 to 10025 – say, ‘Cesca, Gabriel’s, Good Enough to Eat, Marea, Telepan, even Barney Greengrass. No reservations needed. And if he’s got the stamina to wait two hours to get a table, not to worry. I promise, there will be plenty of choice cuts waiting for him.
When he’s not dining on fine meats, Allan Ripp runs a press relations firm in New York
Photo by Philip Howard.