How does the saying go? Is it ‘fool me once, shame on me. Fool me four times, I’ll shame you on social media’?
It’s a lesson someone like Graydon Carter, the legendary former Vanity Fair editor who now runs an ambiguously successful digital magazine called Air Mail, should know by now. Yet Carter has managed to infuriate his fellow bon-viveur, Keith McNally, the restauranteur and Instagram enthusiast.
Carter has, McNally claims, booked and not shown-up at one of his New York restaurants not once, not twice, but four times. To rub salt into an empty place setting, Carter didn’t call ahead in his latest no-show, at Morandi in the West Village, for a reservation for 12 people.
After waiting for Carter’s party to arrive for an hour, McNally and his staff received a phone call from Carter’s assistant to confirm the obvious: Carter wasn’t coming. The extensive preparations that McNally and his staff made to ensure that Carter’s dining experience was perfect were all in vain.
McNally, who recently made headlines by describing Ghislaine Maxwell as ‘currently innocent’ and insisting on her right to a fair trial, isn’t one to let a slight go unavenged. He took to his favorite medium, Instagram, to post a distinctly unflattering picture of Carter and describe Carter’s offense in excruciating detail:
‘Because Mr Carter’s a restaurateur himself, my chef, manager and floor staff were eager for the lunch to go perfectly for him. Extra staff were brought in to help with service, and 2 tables of 6 were meticulously set up and ready for Graydon Carter by 1pm. Only he didn’t show up at 1pm. At 1:30 Morandi was packed and people were waiting for tables, but Mr Carter’s 2 tables of 6 remained empty.
‘Around 2pm Graydon Carter’s assistant called to say Mr Carter wasn’t coming, but the celebrated editor had forgotten to call and cancel. At 2:10 the 2 reserved tables were broken down. By then, Morandi was emptying out and no one needed a table.
‘By forgetting to call and cancel his party of 12, Mr Carter had upset the equilibrium of the restaurant, and cost the servers money in tips. (And had cost Morandi money too.).’
McNally concluded with chef’s kiss flourish, by banning Carter from his establishments. Even in rage, however, McNally was careful to be proper in his response to Carter’s lack of propriety. He respectively capitalized the epithet as he called the former Vanity Fair grand fromage a ‘fancy Fucker’.
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(Cockburn would like to note here that McNally might also be described as a rather ‘fancy Fucker’.)
It’s easy to sympathize with McNally, especially since he feels four-times slighted.
The drama carried over into a second act last weekend when McNally posted again about Carter’s offense, this time in response to Carter’s claim in the New York Post that his non-appearing act was a one-time incident. McNally duly offered extensive evidence disproving Carter’s claim in the form of highly-detailed reservation records (McNally has ‘kept strict records of [his] restaurants’ No-Shows since the Boer War,’ he says, not without humor). He alleges that the first ‘Where’s Carter?’ incident occurred 23 years ago in 1998; the second incident in 2000, and the penultimate time a mere 12 years ago. Deep wounds take time to heal.
If McNally’s reservation records didn’t quite put the final nail in Carter’s reputation, he duly reminded his followers of Carter’s shady profession: ‘Please don’t forget that Carter is an Editor. He spends 10 hours every day shaping events to suit his narrative. His entire life is based on editing and embellishing the truth.”’
Some might accuse McNally of being petty and self-dramatizing. But Cockburn is on his side: forgetting to cancel a reservation is rude, especially as restaurants struggle to recover from the government lockdowns amid the pandemic.
We should never stand up a reservation — and especially not at one of McNally’s restaurants. Hell hath no fury like a restaurateur scorned.