When Brooklyn Fare opened, Cesar Ramirez told us that he enjoyed cooking for a live audience because he was able “to interact with the customer,” and that he liked “to see people happy.” But that apparently wasn’t the message that Joshua David Stein, a senior editor at Eater, received when he and his wife went to Brooklyn Fare recently.
In an open letter to Ramirez written in the New York Press, Stein claims that the chef “loudly and furiously” berated him in front of his wife and fellow diners because Stein had been taking notes throughout the meal, which is a Brooklyn Fare no-no (along with cell phones and photography). “I don’t know where you fucking cook, but you’ll never replicate this,” Ramirez allegedly said. “I’ve been watching you disrespect my kitchen all night. You’ll never do what I do.”
Stein’s wife spent the rest of the dinner “cresting into tears,” and although Ramirez later gave Stein a “double squeeze on the shoulder that non-verbally said, ‘It’s cool,'” the meal was rendered a “sadistically endless procession” of small plates.
Grub Street called up Ramirez, who somewhat unsurprisingly disputed both Stein’s story and the mere fact of his existence on the night in question, claiming, “I don’t remember who this person is. I do not remember me squeezing him or swearing at him. … [I]t’s absurd. You know, they put you on a pedestal, and then they wanna take you down.” Also, Ramirez “would never speak to a customer like this.”
Except, maybe he would: After denying any memory of Stein or his wife’s tears or any incident whatsoever, Ramirez goes on to say that, actually, he did say “very kindly” to Stein, “‘We don’t allow this.'” Clearly, Ramirez’s memory is of the selective and self-promotional variety, and leaves us inclined to believe that, as they like to say in fancier ZIP codes these days, shit went down.
But on the other hand, Stein’s letter is one of the most long-winded and bombastic tracts we’ve read in a long while. To wit: “[Y]ou bespoil Brooklyn Fare in your conflation of service with subservience” is followed by “I am aware, as well, of a certain Brooklyn tendency to offer very expensive food to well-off hipsters who assuage the guilt of outgrowing the socio-economic status affiliated with their aesthetic by seeking out restaurants cloaked in informality.” And, “You feel yourself in a vacuum, the solipsist, the sun, the star, the all.” OK, we get it! You were wronged!
It’s bad form for chefs to scream at customers in front of an entire restaurant, and it’s bad form for writers to abuse their (relatively negligible) powers by whinging endlessly in public, rather than just standing up for themselves at the scene of the alleged crime.
Our verdict? Regardless of whether Stein or Ramirez is telling the truth, we don’t want to eat with either one of them.