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Ever since Tom Sietsema docked Citronelle a star in this year’s Washington Post dining guide, I had been dying to know how Michel Richard responded to the demotion. I mean, Sietsema took no pity on the city’s most famous restaurant, a perennial four-star performer no more. The critic wrote:
For a long minute, there’s no one to welcome me at the host stand. At the table, it takes seemingly forever to get a drink. Then, in the middle of explaining a dish, my bored-looking waiter is interrupted by the maitre d’, who whispers something in his ear while my companion and I wait. Throughout a recent dinner at what used to be a four-star experience, an unmistakable joylessness courses through the fading underground dining room that bears the name of one of the country’s most esteemed chefs.
Well, yesterday, I had a chance to talk to Mel Davis, PR coordinator for Richard and Citronelle, and she said the big man took it hard. “How would you expect?” Davis says. “It’s a blow, but it’s a blow that we’re paying attention to. It’s the kind of feeling of being hurt…”
Richard had no heads-up about the star shaving, so he read about it along with everyone else when the dining guide came out on Oct. 12. “It was very sad” on that Sunday, Davis says. “We were all very sad.”
As you might expect, Richard and crew have taken the slap as an opportunity to look at all points of service. They’re asking themselves all sorts of questions, Davis says. How did this happen? What time did Sietsema visit? And how many people were working at the time? They’ve also invested in some remedial wait staff training, and they’re already interviewing for another host position to make sure the stand is never, ever empty again.
But has anyone been fired over the star docking?
“Oh, no,” Davis says. “We’re all in it together, and we’ll fix it together.”