Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons describes what it felt like to be a diner during the dim sum disaster.

on Jan 5, 2011

We waited. And waited. And waited… for food to arrive. Finally a few plates surfaced and were brought to our table to taste, but getting through the masses of confused and infuriated diners was no easy task. Several guests attempted to take the food right off the carts as they passed. When the dishes were set before us, it got even worse! Hundreds of eyes glared down on us as we ate and discussed what we were served in hushed voices, worried a riot would ensue at any moment. It was, to be honest, humiliating. I have never felt so awkward and hope to never again.

Perhaps we would have been able to excuse all the waiting and disorganization if the majority of the food produced that day was superlative and delicious. Sadly, it wasn’t. Most of it was uninspired and rather bland, like Carla’s pedestrian Vegetable Summer Roll & Lemongrass Dipping Sauce or Antonia and Jamie’s soggy Long Beans with Chinese Sausage. Tiffani F’s Crispy Curry Chicken with Cilantro & Sesame Salad was also disappointing. It was overdressed and lacked any authentic flavor. I am certain she is capable of much better. Tre also let us down. His Orange Ginger Dessert with Freshwater Chestnuts, Toasted Pine Nuts & Thai Basil was messy, watery and disjointed.

The most upsetting dishes of the day were easily Jamie’s Scallop Dumplings with Water Chestnuts & Chinese Chives and Casey’s Chinese Chicken Feet & Scallion Pancake, a play on Southern Chicken & Waffles, which could have been amazingly clever had she cooked the chicken feet properly and ensured the pancakes were crispy and light. Of the two dishes we disliked the most, we felt Casey’s was the most flawed, given that the chicken feet were cooked so poorly you were not really able to eat a full bite in order to gauge its flavor. Although Jamie’s dish was undercooked and bland, at least it was edible.

I believe Casey’s downfall was not an inability to cook her food well, but the fact that she simply took on too much in the name of the “team” and at her own expense. Had she JUST decided to focus on the chicken feet dish and not also volunteer to work the trolley in the dining room, putting the finishing touches of her dish in the hands of Antonia in the process, she probably would have succeeded. She took two risks that day, which was one too many. That is often the problem with being the martyr. You may be remembered for all eternity as the one who suffered for the greater cause, but in the end you are still the one who is sacrificed. She only has herself to blame for letting that dish slip from her control. But if there is one thing I know about Casey, it’s that she is more than just a sacrificial lamb. She’s an honest, hardworking and talented chef, dedicated to her craft and committed to making great food. She will always be an All-Star in my book.