Lydia Shire has resigned her post as executive chef at L.A.'s Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny, just over the Beverly Hills city limits. Susan Regis, head chef at the hotel's sophisticated (and acclaimed) Gardens Restaurant, and banquet chef Leslie Mackie, both long-time Shire associates, will leave with her. No date has been set for the crew's departure, though, and Shire promises she will stay on until suitable replacements have been found and trained.
Why are Shire and company saying adieu? "I really don't know what to say," replies the talented Boston-born chef. "The worst thing in the world is when people whine and moan about things not working out. I don't want to do that."
Four Seasons general manager Charles Ferraro says that he and Shire "really haven't had time to talk" since she announced her resignation, but that "whatever comes about, it's an amicable parting."
In fact, he says, "Lydia and I talked last year, when we first hired her, about how we'd both wait to see how things worked out. She'd never done anything like this before, and she wasn't even sure if she'd like L.A. As it turned out, she did an outstanding job of helping us launch the hotel, and she's even talking about possibly still doing some consulting for us."
Shire herself says she isn't sure what the future holds for her and her colleagues, but that they will stay in the Los Angeles area if possible. "What Susan, Leslie and I would really like to do," she admits, "is to open a place of our own here."
TAKING CHARGE: Everybody talks about no-shows--restaurant customers who reserve tables and then neither show up nor cancel but, until now, it seemed, nobody did anything about them.
Venice's 72 Market St. recently sent out announcements noting that the restaurant will now request a credit card number to secure reservations for parties of six or more. Cancellation at least three hours in advance is required, or a "service charge" of $10 per guest will be charged against the credit card amount if the party in question doesn't appear. This sort of thing is common practice with hotels, of course, but to the best of my knowledge is done very, very little by restaurants.
And I'm not at all sure that I like the notion. I think reserving a table and then neither showing up nor canceling it is a rude, thoughtless, arrogant thing to do, and it ultimately harms not just the restaurants in question but other diners as well. But three hours advance cancellation notice--especially at a restaurant that is almost perpetually packed, and could probably find good use for half a dozen unexpected vacant seats very quickly indeed? That sounds a bit excessive to me.
More to the point, if a restaurant seeks to enforce the implied contract of a restaurant reservation in one direction, I think it ought to do so in the other direction as well--by which I mean that if a place wants to charge me $10 a head for not showing up, then if I do show up and find that my table isn't ready, I think I deserve, say, a $10-a-head discount on my meal for every 20 minutes or so I'm kept waiting. Fair's fair.