Bad Taste in the Mouth
Posted: Feb 21, 2007 3:24pm ET
In my last blog
, I wrote about meeting mega-chef Joël Robuchon
in London, and my less-than-perfect experience at his L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris. The waiters there were downright rude and condescending. This prompted a comment from Ludovic Anacleto of Paris, in which he says:
“One thing, being a sommelier in 3stars Michelin in France, I can tell you that the attitude of waiters and anybody in this kind of restaurant is ALWAYS rude regardless of where you are from. You can be from Togo, Japan, France or the USA and they always treat you like they were Robuchon themselves or, worse, like THEY were the client. It is a major problem in the F&B industry in France and everybody is surprised and after that say that the French are rude. Nope, just those ugly waiters that thinks they are the kings of the world because for them it is WOW to work in a 3-star restaurant and they feel like being at the top of their career. I please ask you to accept my apologies in the name of the entire corp. of sommelier and service employees that are not like that. regards ludovic”
I am impressed. Ludovic is too kind. He is truly a Good Samaritan as far as poor service in posh restaurants in France!
His response gave me a flashback, and I remember the lunch at Robuchon even better now. I was there with my friends and the “mec” behind the bar was acting like we didn’t know the difference between white or red, saying the following sort of thing: “But, monsieur, are you sure you want a Chablis? This is Chardonnay and without wood. I know how Americans like wood…” You get the idea.
Anyway, after about an hour's wait, the main courses came out, and two of the five were not properly cooked. The sole was partially raw and the sirloin steak was medium instead of medium rare. I mentioned it to the guy behind the bar and he proceeded to lecture to all of us how we knew nothing about food.
“That is the way the fish is supposed to be grilled," he said. “It is fresh fish and the chef does not like to over cook it.”
I tried to explain that it was so raw under the layer of cooked flesh that the meat still stuck to the bone. That’s not cooked, I said. “But, monsieur, in France this is the right way to cook fish and eat it,” he replied.
My Canadian friend was sort of upset by now. ‘I'm sorry, but my steak is over-cooked,” he said. “I asked for medium rare. And there is nothing pink or red in the center.”
The guy’s reply was that Americans always say medium rare but what they want is medium. “So we cooked it 'American style' medium rare,” he said with a sickly smile.
With that, my buddy picked up his steak with his hands and started eating it. In between bites, he told the guy, “You probably didn’t realize that I am Canadian, and in Canada we say we use knives and forks but we just eat with our hands. It should be okay then, non
We all burst out laughing. The bar guy was not amused. I finally told him, in very good French, that what he told us was completely ridiculous, and that I knew Joël Robuchon, and that he would be shocked to hear the stories. I don't usually make a scene, but he was such a bully!
It all changed after that. But I already had a bad taste in my mouth …