Recently, Eater National's senior editor Joshua David Stein took his wife for a birthday dinner at the Chef Table at Brooklyn Fare that recently received two Michelin Stars.
There are three rules at chef Cesar Ramirez's restaurant, which are treated with various degrees of seriousness: no note-taking, no photography, and no cell phone use. Stein broke rule number one. And Ramirez did not take it well! Stein recounts in the NYPress that after one course, Ramirez came over to him, leaned in, and said the following loudly:
I don't know where you fucking cook, but you'll never replicate this. I've been watching you disrespect my kitchen all night. You'll never be able to do what I do... Why are you taking notes? That's some sneaky shit.
After the verbal haranguing, Stein's wife spent the rest of the meal "cresting into tears." Also they were out $300. Stein concludes his open letter thusly:
Besotted by your own brilliance, you’ve forgotten the customer. Bewitched by your myth, you believe it. You feel yourself in a vacuum, the solipsist, the sun, the star, the all. This of course is foolish and wrong. Though, in the end, you were right about one thing: I didn’t need notes after all to remember my meal at Chef’s Table.
Ramirez replied on Grub Street and claimed to have no memory of Stein's visit. "I would never speak to a customers like this," he said. "I don't know who this guy is, but it's ridiculous. Ridiculous. I don't act like that."
Is "copying" or "stealing" a recipe theft? Some chefs are, as evidenced by Ramirez, incredibly protective. Others encourage a more open culture. Recently elBulli chef Ferran Adría said that he believes in the notion that chefs should exchange recipes and ideas to create a dialogue and move cuisine forward. "If you go to a restaurant and the chef says he can't give you the recipe," said Adría, "He's an idiot."