Location: Le Bernardin, Spring 2016
Staff Rank: Busser
Le Bernardin offers a sophisticated style of service (attentive but not overbearing) that I admire. The experience, helped by a calming, sprawling dining room, is understated, allowing the food to rightfully command your attention. But even New York’s grandest arenas of gourmandise can be tainted by the blinding light of the amateur paparazzo’s bulb. Though I shudder whenever I sense (let alone see) flash used in such a setting, I find pictures taken expediently with a phone or other small device a necessary evil. Moreover, diners looking for a picture of themselves and their guests at a legendary establishment as a keepsake should particularly be indulged. A lady in my party used her front-facing camera to take a wide shot of our table. Selfies like these are already a fool’s errand, one made all the more impossible as wine begins to lubricate one’s fine motor functions. But she made a serviceable attempt and took pause to take stock of her work when a busser tending our area approached the opposite end of the table.
“I do not want to have my picture taken” he sniveled at the lady, his demeanor signaling an uncontrolled disgust, some point to prove from a past trauma. From the direction he slithered towards us, I could note that, yes, he had been in the frame. The lady had certainly fiddled with the camera a bit too to frame something in the background. What could it have been? But clearly she was after some way to remember the visage of this man, who prior to that hadn’t spoken a word to us. Later, we conscripted an exponentially more jolly–and dare I say hospitable–server to take our picture, which he did with gusto. So I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with the culture at Le Bernardin, but perhaps they should keep the scopophobes off the floor. At least those who not only misconstrue guests’ actions, but whose first instinct is to chastise an otherwise perfectly polite party rather than consider their placement in the larger space of the dining room. It certainly would have taken the air out of our dinner had his venom not been so misplaced and the size of his delusion so hilariously great. And let me make clear, I don’t particularly enjoy having my photo taken–especially against my will–but you’d better believe I take a moment to think of the larger context before charging over in a fit (though perhaps that’s only to be expected at the four Michelin star level).
Verdict: Take our evening’s tip and get the perp an hour with a therapist.