Sydney’s top chefs and restaurant owners’ dining-room nightmares after James Corden ban
Celebrity chefs behind some of Australia’s top restaurants have lifted the lid on their own kitchen nightmares after James Corden was banned from a New York hot spot this week for ‘being the most abusive customer’ its owner had ever seen.
The late-night host was named-and-shamed on social media by Keith McNally – the high-profile owner of Balthazar – and slapped with a life ban after he abused servers on a handful of occasions.
McNally, active in the New York restaurant scene since the 1980s, called Corden a ‘hugely gifted comedian, but a tiny Cretin of a man’, and ‘the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago’.
James Corden was slammed by the owner of a high-profile New York restaurant after his poor behaviour. Corden and Julia Carey seen having lunch at Scott’s restaurant in London’s Mayfair in 2018
Mangan’s stunning eatery Glass at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel is favoured by Sydney’s business, political and entertainment elite
Aussie chef Luke Mangan, seen here with wife Belinda, lays down the law when it comes to abusive or belligerent patrons
But no sooner had the story gone viral thad the late-night comic reportedly reached out to McNally and ‘apologised profusely’ for his behaviour, prompting him to drop the ban.
But banning a bad patron – even a celebrity one – is nothing new in the restaurant world with Sydney chefs and business owners revealing their own horror stories.
Top restaurateur Luke Mangan, who is also a friend of McNally’s and once met with him in New York to discuss a business idea, backed the Balthazar owner wholeheartedly and revealed he recently blacklisted a well-known regular at his CBD institution Glass.
‘I won’t mention names but it was a repeat customer who was constantly complaining and yelling,’ Mangan told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I was at my other restaurant Luke’s Kitchen (in Pitt Street) and I got the call about it and I decided to come up and meet with staff and find out what was going on.
‘Ultimately I decided okay, enough is enough.
‘I went and spoke with the guy and I said ‘look, we have done everything we can to make you happy. My team has bent over backwards and it doesn’t seem to be enough for you so I think it’s best you leave and never come back’.’
Celebrity chef Luke Mangan reveals how he clapped back at an unruly patron, telling him; ‘ I think it’s best you leave and never come back’
Mangan says that while he maintains a broad policy of ‘the customer is always right’ he will not step back in defending the right of his staff to work in a safe environment.
He will also ‘cut off’ patrons who turn belligerent after a ‘few too many’.
‘Alcohol is a tricky thing to police because you don’t know how much someone has had before they get to the restaurant,’ he said.
‘But when someone is abusing my staff or they have drunk too much and their behaviour takes a turn… I do have a turning point.
‘I have certainly kicked people out for drinking far too much. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.’
Another peeve of Mangans, which may not necessarily cop a ban but will incite the chef’s wrath, is patrons snapping their fingers at wait staff.
‘It happens, would you believe,’ he said.
‘I have seen people do it and actually walked over to their table and said ‘are you right?’
‘I cannot stand it.’
Marc Polese, the owner and operator of Sydney’s oldest dining institution, the famed Darlinghurst Italian restaurant Beppi’s, has enlisted a slightly different tact when dealing with problem diners.
Beppi’s owner and operator Marc Polese had a unique way of dealing with a patron who refused to pay his full tab
Darlinghurst haunt Beppi’s – Sydney’s oldest restaurant – has served everyone from Rihanna to Frank Sinatra
He recalls one occasion when a ‘very high-profile’ regular decided to write his own rules when it came to how much – or how little – he would pay for his tab.
‘I won’t say who it was but he was a very good customer but really arrogant,’ Polese said.
‘So he would order a bottle of vintage wine and would drink it and the bill would come and he would say ‘I’m not paying $400 for that bottle of wine… Buon Ricardo (another Italian restaurant) has it for $300 so I will give you $300’.
‘Or he would order a gin martini and would say ‘I’m not paying full price for that I’ll give you $8’.
‘So to embarrass him, we sent a case of gin to his house. The point being, it’s not about the $400, it’s about us respecting you and you respecting us.
‘So you sort of learn how to play these dances with some people.’
Rihanna seen leaving Beppi’s during a visit to Australia in 2011. Seen here with the late founder Beppi Polese
‘It’s about us respecting you and you respecting us,’ says Beppi’s owner Marc Polese
Stopping short of outright bans, Polese said he prefers the ‘suggestion’ that the problematic person in question tries their luck elsewhere.
‘If they’re arrogant and rude I’m quite happy to say to them that they’re quite welcome to go somewhere else and see if they can get what they want.
‘Because generally if they are arrogant and rude to you they are arrogant and rude everywhere. They’re rude to the guy at the petrol station. They’re rude to the checkout operator at Woolies and who knows who else.
‘And they will generally work they their way around and realise no-one else wants to put up with their crap either so eventually they come back… maybe two years later… and they’re a bit more contrite.’
Notoriously no-nonsense celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge has also steered restaurant guests towards the exits on occasion, for everything from stealing soap from the bathroom to slapping waitresses on their backsides.
‘You would see plenty of that in the old days, guys slapping waitresses on their behinds,’ the Kitchen Nightmares star told Daily Mail Australia.
Kitchen Nightmares star Colin Fassnidge says he doesn’t believe in publicly shaming patrons who have stepped out of line
‘I’ve seen guys pull tablecloths off tables… I saw one guy pull a linen tablecloth off a table and start writing on it.
‘I’ve seen someone rip a hand dryer off the wall and people go into the bathroom and steal everything not nailed down.
‘Soap dispensers, toilet paper rolls, you name it,’ he said.
Fassnidge said he has never issued a life ban at any of his eateries, instead only choosing to kick people out as a ‘one off’ and always on a face-to-face basis.
‘I don’t believe in naming and shaming people behind their backs,’ he said.
‘I think you have to just deal with the problem face-to-face because you just never know how it might come back to bite you.’
Fassnidge also revealed his celebrity clientele rarely step out of order.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with the celebrities or famous people,’ he said.
‘Just drunk d***heads who have had too much wine.’
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with the celebrities or famous people…just drunk d***seads who have had too much wine’ says Fassnidge
Veteran restaurateur Maurice Terzini, who has overseen the iconic Bondi cliffside restaurant Icebergs Dining Room and Bar for 20 years, said that while he supported McNally’s decision to ban a bad patron, he doesn’t believe in airing the decision publicly.
‘I have a very strong philosophy of what happens at Icebergs, stays at Icebergs,’ Terzini told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We never talk about what people eat, or who they were with or how much they tipped or anything like that.
‘And if we banned someone, we wouldn’t be putting something like that on social media either. But it does happen and it has happened, and how often it’s hard to say.
‘In extreme instances where someone is violent or has aggressively threatened a member of my staff we don’t hold back at all. They are straight out.
‘Or if they use any language that is racist or sexist and it doesn’t fit with our mission statement and our values then they’re out.’
Icebergs operator Maurice Terzini says he is not afraid to slap a ban on a patron but stops short of airing the matter publicly
‘In extreme instances… where someone is violent or has aggressively threatened a member of my staff we don’t hold back at all. They are straight out,’ says Terzini
How patrons react to a blacklisting is varied, Terzini said, from being accepting to digging in their heels.
‘Some take it as you would imagine, some take it with a grain of salt, some know that it’s coming.
‘And there are others who will kick up a fuss.
‘But we like to think we set something of a standard at Icebergs. And people know that.’
Celebrity chef Matt Moran, who has operated restaurants in Sydney since the early 1990s, agreed that the number-one cardinal rule for a patron is to never disrespect the staff.
‘No one deserves that, no matter what. I don’t care what happens, it is just not called for under any circumstance,’ said Moran, adding that most of his high-profile – or celebrity clientele are ‘usually on their best behaviour’.
Celebrity chef Matt Moran says the number-one cardinal rule for a patron is to never disrespect the staff
A view of Matt Moran’s Aria dining room at Circular Quay where celebrity clientele are ‘usually on their best behaviour’
‘The famous people are usually, and I would say 99 per cent of the time, fantastic because they know they are in the public eye and people are probably looking at them.
‘We might have a staff member who has pulled me or another boss aside and made a comment about someone maybe big-noting themselves.
‘But it doesn’t happen often. More likely it will be businessmen who have maybe had a few too many drinks who can fly off the handle.
‘But for Keith to ban someone like James Corden the way he did, and so publicly, it must have been pretty bad.’
McNally, who has a colourful history of booting out celebrities of his exclusive restaurants, claims that Corden also behaved similarly at his former restaurant, Cafe Luxembourg, on several occasions and left one server ‘shaken’.
The furious owner said that he ’86’d’ the star – which means you have been banned – and claims Corden found a hair in his main course when dining there in June, before demanding free drinks for the mistake.
Keith McNally’s original post about James Corden detailing years of alleged bad behaviour by the British comic
McNally backpeddles on his James Corden ban on Monday, declaring ‘All is forgiven’.
Balthazar on New York’s Spring Street owned by McNally who also owns Pastis, Cafe Luxembourg, Lucky Strike, the Russian-themed bar and restaurant Pravda, Odeon in Tribeca, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side
He said: ‘After eating his main course, Corden showed the hair to Balthazar manager G. who was very apologetic.
‘Corden was extremely nasty to G, and said ‘get us another round of drinks this second. And also take care of all of our drinks so far. This way I write any nasty reviews in yelp or anything like that’. ‘
In a second incident McNally claims that Corden was dining with his wife, Julia Carey, at the eatery on October 9 for brunch.
He says that Corden asked for a table outside, and Carey ordered an egg yolk omelette with a salad.
The couple complained to the server that there was ‘a little bit of egg white mixed with the egg yolk’ and sent the dish back.
McNally added: ‘The kitchen remade the dish but unfortunately sent it with home fries instead of salad.
McNally is known for his outspoken posts on social media, including one recently praising the changes which came from Covid restrictions
Balthazar is a celebrity favourite in New York and frequented by media heavy-hitters including CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Vogue editor Anna Wintour
‘That’s when James Corden began yelling like crazy to the server: ‘You can’t do your job! You can’t do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelette myself!’
On Monday night McNally updated the story, saying that he had received a call from Corden, who said he was sorry for his behaviour.
‘James Corden just called me and apologised profusely,’ McNally wrote.
‘Having f***** up myself more than most people, I strongly believe in second chances.
‘So if James Corden lets me host his Late Late Show for 9 months, I’ll immediately rescind his ban from Balthazar. No, of course not.
‘But….anyone magnanimous enough to apologise to a deadbeat layabout like me (and my staff) doesn’t deserve to be banned from anywhere. Especially Balthazar.
‘So Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Corden, Jimmy Corden. All is Forgiven. xx’
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