James Corden Was Temporarily Banned From a Popular NYC Restaurant—Here's What I Think About It as a Server

Comedian James Corden got temporarily 86’d from New York City’s iconic Balthazar restaurant, and rightfully so.

a collage with James Corden and a waiter holding a silver platter with champagne glasses. A guest check receipt has a red X mark over it.
Photo: Cassie Basford/Getty Images

Keith McNally, who owns Balthazar in New York City, didn't hold back in a social media post about the late-night show host's unacceptable conduct at the restaurant on not one but two occasions.

James Corden

"James Corden is a Hugely gifted comedian, but a tiny Cretin of a man," he wrote alongside a photo of Corden. "And the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago." McNally added, "I don't often 86 a customer … today I 86'd Corden. It did not make me laugh."

McNally said the first offense happened in June when Corden found a hair in his food. "Although this is diabolical, it happens very occasionally in all restaurants."

He alleged that once Corden finished eating his main course, he showed the hair to Balthazar manager G., who was apologetic, however Corden was extremely nasty to G., and said: "Get us another round of drinks this second. And also take care of all of our drinks so far. This way I [don't] write any nasty reviews in yelp or anything like that."

The second offense occurred on Oct. 9, when Corden was having brunch with his wife, McNally said. Corden's wife requested an egg yolk omelet with Gruyère cheese and salad. "A few minutes after they received the food, James called their server, M.K., and told her there was a little bit of egg white mixed with the egg yolk," McNally wrote. "M.K. informed the floor manager, G. The kitchen remade the dish but unfortunately sent it with home fries instead of salad."

McNally claims, "That's when James Corden began yelling like crazy to the server: 'You can't do your job! You can't do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelette myself!'" He said the server was "very apologetic and brought G. over to the table. He returned the dish, and after that, everything was fine. He gave them promo Champagne glasses to smooth things out. G. said that Corden was pleasant to him but nasty to the server. M.K. was very shaken, but professional that she is, continued to finish her shift."

As someone who's worked in the service industry for 15 years, I'm happy to see a restaurant owner stand up for their staff. McNally used his platform to send a message that abusive behavior should not be tolerated. That goes for everyone, even if you're a wealthy celebrity like James Corden.

I think we can all agree, like McNally acknowledged, no one wants to find a hair in their food. And rest assured that our goal during every shift is to give patrons the best experience possible. I guarantee you no server wants to deliver food with a hair in it. Not only do our tips (and therefore our income) depend on you having a positive experience, but just like anyone else, restaurant workers take pride in their jobs. The appropriate course of action would have been to immediately let your server know—not after you finished eating—and let them rectify the situation by remaking your dish.

Regarding Corden's second offense, there's nothing wrong with having expectations. If something about the food or the environment bothers you, it's OK to ask for changes. However, there is something wrong with verbally abusing your server. If you're unhappy for any reason, the best thing to do is to politely let your server know so they can better accommodate you or grab a manager who can help.

So what can we all learn from Corden's actions? Be kind. When you're tempted to snap on waitstaff, look realistically at them and ask yourself—is that really the server's fault?

Perhaps due to COVID or uncertain times, people feel like they are able to demand more. Since restaurants need celebrity guests more than the celebrity needs the restaurant, some poorly behaved famous people will feel they have a license to bully. Just remember, there's a reason for the saying, "Never trust anyone who is rude to a waiter." Treating people with dignity, grace and respect even when there's nothing to gain from it is a testament to your character. So next time you want to get testy with your waiter, take a breath and refer back to the golden rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

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