Chefs are sensitive folk, they may appear fierce on reality television, but in real life many of them care a lot about what others think – especially when those people are critics.
Chefs, especially the great ones, are well under the spotlight when important critics sit down to dine and the reviews they publish after these meals can make or break a restaurant. Anyone who thinks the importance of critics is being overstated only needs to look back at Pete Wells's recent The New York Times review of Per Se and chef Thomas Keller’s prompt response.
Keller handled his reply to Wells as the consummate professional he is, but not every chef has kept such a level head while under the piercing prose of the pen.
Below are some of the best example of times that chefs have thrown down their knives and decided to kick a critic out of their restaurant, at least some of our favourites.
Gordon Ramsay vs AA Gill
One of the most famous cases of a chef throwing a critic out of their restaurant is the evening Gordon Ramsay decided to show AA Gill, who had just sat down for dinner at his newly opened restaurant with Joan Collins, the door. This was also accompanied by a story in the next morning’s papers and Gill swears it was Ramsay who phoned them.
ZZ’s Clam Bar vs Adam Platt
Here’s a fun story of restaurant critic Adam Platt being kicked out of ZZ’s Clam Bar in New York by a “red-faced bouncer” who arrived at his table and told him it was time to leave. He wasn’t allowed to pay the bill for his meal, says he’s never been kicked out of a restaurant before and thinks it can only because he one gave of the restaurant’s owners other restaurants, Carbone, a one-star review.
Back in 2010 the LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila was kicked out of the Red Medicine restaurant in Beverly Hills because the restaurant didn’t like her tone in reviews or the amount of power they say she had required. Even better, Virbila says that before she was told her business was not welcome in the restaurant, the owner, Noah Ellis, snapped her picture and posted it online, ruining the critic’s attempts to maintain her anonymity.
In 2012, MasterChef judge Graham Elliot kicked out the ABC Chicago food critic Steve Dolinsky. It’s said Elliot was upset after Dolinsky had live–tweeted his way through what he said was a bad meal at Charlie Trotters’ restaurant. Elliot was mentored by Trotter and told Eater: “To me that’s so egregiously over the line that I absolutely will not have someone like that at my establishment.” Dolinksy was three courses into his meal before Elliot apparently phoned and told his crew to send him packing.
Dolinsky tweeted at the time: “Was just kicked out of g.e.b. after eating 3 dishes. Edict from GEB via phone. Weirdest thing ever. Classy.”
Adding in a second tweet: “Why call and instruct staff to stop serving me immediately?"
Marc Forgione vs Ron Lieber
Though not a restaurant critic, Ron Lieber is a famous author and writer for Diner’s Journal. In a funny story of a hot–headed chef biting off way more than he could chew, Lieber was dining in the Marc Forgione restaurant in New York when he overheard the chef shouting at a member of staff in the kitchen. After listening to the chef berate the member of staff for a while, Lieber eventually decided to walk into the kitchen and ask the chef, Marc Forge, if he could stop shouting. This did not go down well and eventually led to the chef walking out to Lieber’s table and telling him to leave. It was only the next day when Forge received a call from TheNew York Times to comment on the incident that he realised who he had booted from the restaurant.
This is not a kicking out story, but more a very public response. Tom Sellers was not so happy with a recent review he received from the London Evening Standard food critic, Fay Maschler, for his new Ours restaurant in London. Taking offence to what he thought was wrongly identified ingredients in the dishes he served to the critic, Sellers decided to post a very public letter to the critic online.
In a blog post on his own site, Sellers wrote: “Whilst reading the review, I couldn’t help but think that maybe Fay had done one too many restaurants that week, which had left her unable to correctly identify the ingredients in the dish placed before her. The red mullet escabeche consisted of onion, fennel and purple carrots – no beetroot or red cabbage as mentioned (red cabbage in May, I ask!)."