Are restaurants that thrive on insulting their customers a dying breed?
According to writer Jon Kelly, the patrons of Wong Kei in London’s Chinatown “were cajoled, bullied, insulted and mocked by waiting staff. Perversely, many diners loved it. Each night scores would queue up at the 500-cover restaurant to be verbally abused over the chicken satay and pork fried noodles.” Doesn’t sound much different than the famed San Francisco Chinatown restaurant Sam Wo, also known for insulting customers and world’s rudest waiter, Edsel Ford Fung. That place closed in 2012 — after 100 years.
This appeal of the rude may be hard to understand in Los Angeles, where waiters tend to be, if anything, too friendly. Good service here is equated with refilling your water glass or asking if everything is fabulous every five minutes. Sometimes, I confess, I almost wish for a little more edge, i.e., professionalism without the smiley face.
And though some customers at London's Wong Kei reveled in the bad service and chaotic atmosphere, and even disappointed if they didn’t get a nasty waiter, co-manager Maylee McDowell wants to change things for the better. “For some,” writes Kelly, “there is a masochistic pleasure in allowing serving staff full license to order them about.”
I can’t imagine. But then I can’t imagine that happening in a high-end restaurant either. But, according to the article, London “celebrity chef Marco Pierre White once boasted of throwing out 54 customers in a single night and ejecting diners who asked for salt and pepper.” Really? Really.
British restaurant critic AA Gill is quoted on the blog “A Lot of Chop” re Marco Pierre White: “He is one of the few people I can remember the exact moment of meeting. I walked in to his first restaurant, Harvey’s, on Wandsworth Common. I was wearing a tail coat and sponge-bag trousers. He was wearing a butcher’s apron and the look of a serial killer. I was on my way to a wedding, he was on his way to greatness.”
Ha. White has since retired his apron. Want to know who his protégé was? Gordon Ramsay.
And that Chinese restaurant in London? Its manager is still keeping her options open after hearing so many comments that she should keep the rudeness. I guess it’s the antidote to over-the-top, obsequious service and the chant of “Have a nice day.”
Any candidates for L.A.’s rudest restaurant?