Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gourmet babies

There's been quite the furor in Chicago this past week. Briefly, a young couple took their 8 month old baby to a very fancy restaurant, where it appears it may have cried (fact not quite established), some diners complained and the chef, instead of handling the situation one way or the other, Tweeted about it. You can read a good synopsis here. 

Well. As you can imagine, the Twitterverse blew up, and national TV stations here have been discussing the issue. The poor couple apparently had a babysitter lined up who canceled at the very last minute. Alinea, the restaurant, has a very strange reservation policy where you buy a non-refundable ticket rather than simply booking a table. Basically, you pay your $250 up front, and if you can't go for any reason, you lose that money. Oh, and, there's no mention of babies or small children not being allowed in the restaurant.

Not surprising then that the couple took the baby. Personally I can't think of anything more stressful than taking a small baby to a fine dining place but each to her own.

Many people are saying that the couple were completely out of line, ruining the dining experience for everyone else there. (Bear in mind that you're paying upwards of that $250 - per person - for this meal.) One of them should have taken the baby outside, etc. etc. (How many times have we all had to do that?)

You know who I'm blaming? The chef. Had he had the spine to deal with the situation in the first place,  perhaps asking the parents to take the baby out until it had calmed down, feathers wouldn't have been so ruffled. But to start Tweeting about it? (He claims he was trying to find out what the other diners were thinking.) The chef has over 82,000 Twitter followers. What did he think was going to happen?

I'm just waiting for some keen reporter to discover the identity of the couple - who can then claim "defamation" or similar ad actually benefit from this debacle.


  1. I don't know. Based on the tweet I read (the chef's tweet), I think he genuinely did not know what to do, and wanted some consensus from others. You could call that spineless, but he might have been trying to head off a backlash along the lines of "are you saying you're going to ban my baby? I want to develop her palate! Horrible man!" That seems to be how people manage awkward situations these days: ask the internet at large and go with the consensus, whether it's kind and supportive or whether it's rude and intolerant.

    I'm usually on the "WHAT an irritating child, what WERE those parents thinking and why don't they remove that child NOW?" side (like I was at the IMAX theatre yesterday with a 2 month old sitting right behind me wailing almost continually until the staff asked them to leave, whereupon the parents departed, loudly and angrily, at the waste of their tickets), but there is no mention of how long that baby was crying, or how loud, or if it was really genuinely bothering people. Maybe it wasn't that bad? Mind you, I say this but if the restaurant has that hushed 'you're in gastronomic heaven now, people, bow down before our wondrousness!' atmosphere, a peep of any kind was probably too much.

    I guess those parents should have had THREE sitters lined up. lol

  2. Oh dear........ I can see both sides of this. People paying a lot for a meal & wanting peace & quiet but the parents didn't think babies had been banned from the restaurant so took him along.
    He should have dealt with it in the restaurant though.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  3. A quiet request from the chef to take the baby out of the dining room until it had calmed down coupled with the offer of a quiet spot to do just that might have been a lot more welcome, thoughtful, and effective.

    It sounds almost like everyone panicked because a baby was present and had the gall to begin crying. For pity's sake. Not a tragedy.

  4. Oh jeez. I get both sides - I do.

    Sounds to me that the parents are young and probably can't afford to eat $500 (and who among us can these days?) to not go. But yes, the chef definitely could have handled this in a better manner; especially if the restaurant did not have a policy in place regarding babies and small children.

  5. We used to take both our boys to nice restaurants from even younger - perhaps we were just lucky, but never had any comments (although there were some raised eyebrows). I think the other diners should just have lightened up. Mind you, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall if the mother had started to breast feed it, to quiet it down... Now THAT would really have put the cat amongst the pigeons!

  6. Like you, I can't imagine a more stressful evening than taking a young baby to a fine dining establishment. Don't really have an opinion beyond that.

  7. We did once take Littleboy 1 to a posh restaurant in France -- luckily he was very good and slept, but if he had started to cry I would have taken him outside immediately. I think that if the parents were ruining it for everyone else, they are partly to blame - although agree, the chef should not have been tweeting about it.

    On another note, one thing I liked about the States was that everyone took their kids to restaurants in the evening (possibly because people eat so early anyway). It was much easier to eat out with your children.Unlike England where you can only get away with it in Pizza Express....


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