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July 10, 2002
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Gilberto Eyzaguirre may be the most popular waiter in New Orleans but that did not stop the restaurant management from firing him after receiving a second sexual harassment accusation. Watrons are up in arms and even created a web site in support of him. To date, the management refuses to budge (he remains unemployed). This is a long but fascinating read if just for a peek into the passion they have for food.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (44 comments total)

 
As for the sexual harrassment charges, I find the denial of the locals, to some extent, deplorable. They seem almost willing to overlook them because he gives great service.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:13 PM on July 10, 2002


I have no comment on the case, but just looking at nola.com again reminds me that, God, I love New Orleans! Damn the puny Canadian dollar that keeps me away!
posted by timeistight at 1:19 PM on July 10, 2002


New Orleans is a town that takes charges of sexual harrassment pretty lightly. Especially considering that this particular restaurant is on Bourbon Street, home of perversions that would give most MeFi folks nightmares and the others, sweet, sweet release.
posted by ColdChef at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2002


I should also say that it's impossible for me to overstate this fact:

Everything in New Orleans is about food or sex. And sometimes both are combined.

Having a regular waiter may seem silly to some of you, but it's very important at Galatoire's. Galatoire's is an amazing, amazing restaurant that's been there for maybe a hundred years. This is a restaurant that won't give you a menu unless you ask for it (and once you do, they know that they're dealing with an outsider).

I won't try to explain it. It just is.
posted by ColdChef at 1:28 PM on July 10, 2002


CC, New Orleans may take sexual harassment accusations lightly, but Title VII, the EEOC, and plaintiffs lawyers do not. Galatoire's is in the classic employer "Catch 22" -- it can either act as if the accusations are baseless, do nothing, and face a potentially expensive (and embarassing) lawsuit, or act swiftly to avoid a lawsuit by firing the alleged harasser. It's not a position you want to be in, but such is the state of the law.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:33 PM on July 10, 2002


Chalk it up to ignorance on my part ColdChef. I've been to New Orleans once. Ate at the Chart House and a few other places I don't remember so my finger is definitely not on the pulse of the Crescent City.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:35 PM on July 10, 2002


Watrons?
posted by ODiV at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2002


Sorry. Should read "Patrons". Got my "Rons" mixed up.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:42 PM on July 10, 2002


It looks like the women who work with him are not taking it lightly, and they are not getting any "sweet release" from Gilbert's behavior, although I'm guessing he is.

As you might guess, I think the restaurant did the right thing. I suspect that Gilbert might be the only waiter left in the place if everyone else quits because he has harassed them all. Or that the restaurant might have to close if the women won a large settlement in their lawsuits.

Why should anyone feel any sympathy for someone who is competent at their job - as a waiter, no less, not exactly a high skill profession - if he is that arrogant and, frankly, such a lowlife.

Very disappointing that so many would write to support him.
posted by Red58 at 1:43 PM on July 10, 2002


pardonyou?: Please don't get me wrong. If this guy was trying to dip his ladle in the house gumbo, (if you know what I mean) then I think they should toss his ass to the cobblestone.

I'm just saying that most yats in New Orleans wouldn't think so.
posted by ColdChef at 1:44 PM on July 10, 2002


Red58: I do take exception to this: "Why should anyone feel any sympathy for someone who is competent at their job - as a waiter, no less, not exactly a high skill profession - if he is that arrogant and, frankly, such a lowlife."

Don't get your local foodserver at TGIFridays confused with a waiter at Galatoires. There's a world of difference. It is a highly skilled position--one requiring knowledge of not only food, but social custom, history, literature, and about a dozen other topics.

Again, that doesn't mean that I support the movement to hire him back, or even the man himself, but to call him "Just a waiter" is a disservice to a wonderful restaurant with an amazing food history.
posted by ColdChef at 1:49 PM on July 10, 2002


I was just wondering if Watrons was some word I hadn't heard of. Sounds like what you call customers of self-serve restaurants.

I was in New Orleans once. I went to Jimmy Buffet's restaurant and had a "Cheeseburger in Paradise". That probably puts me pretty high on the "outsider" list. Say what you want about me, but Jimmy Buffet's cool.
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on July 10, 2002


Genius link, Kevin.

From the letters: Galatoire’s Management - You lost your mind and fired Gilberto, one of the last great Galatoire’s waiters.  I laid ridiculously high tips on Gilberto for the past 10 years because he understood the importance of wit and hard drinking to my Galatoire’s meal.  All of my clients and ugly girlfriends have been delighted with him. 

Wow. What a freakshow.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2002


KevinSkomsvold: (he remains unemployed)

Actually, Gilbert's working at Commander's Palace now, where presumably it was made very clear what was expected of him regarding his interactions with other restaurant staff. I'm not surprised he was snapped up so quickly; a New Orleans waiter with 27 years experience in a fine dining establishment is a valuable commodity.

Red58: Very disappointing that so many would write to support him.

True, although fairly typical of the old-guard (and old money) of New Orleans. Some of those "we love Gilberto" letters are overly dramatic, to say the least. As one friend of mine who's a French Quarter resident put it, "As a group they come off sounding very petty and very silly, which I guess isn't surprising given the fact that they're regulars at Galatoire's. One guy went as far as to say that Galatoire's is basically still a boys club, so if a woman goes to work there she should expect a certain level of harassment!" Sheesh.

A recent letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune said, "A more satirical look at the life of the idle rich and their Old World fantasies in New Orleans could not be imagined than what apparently already exists in the lives of the worried souls who dine at Galatoire's. If these people put their free time and money behind tackling some of this city's more contemporary, real problems, instead of launching Web sites and compiling testimonials to get their waiter rehired, perhaps they wouldn't have to look back to an imaginary past to feel at home in New Orleans."
posted by chuq at 1:54 PM on July 10, 2002


I didn't mean to offend you, Chef, but I personally don't find that too impressive. Then again, I'm not real impressed by professional sports players or most rock stars.
posted by Red58 at 1:54 PM on July 10, 2002


as a waiter, no less, not exactly a high skill profession

you've obviously never been served (in any capacity) by someone who is GREAT at their job. doesn't matter if it's a doctor, wait staff, the guy at the video store, or the girl at the record store. people who are genuinely good at their jobs (and this guy obviously is) should be commended, not insulted with elitism and nonsense about "high skill".

that said, i am not on his side if he committed the crimes he's accused of. i just took offense to your insult.
posted by dobbs at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2002


RJ, the author of that letter was most likely this person.
posted by ColdChef at 1:56 PM on July 10, 2002


Thanks RJ. I'm still pouring through the letters (all 126 of them) and have to keep picking my jaw up off the floor. I'm looking for the one that acknowledges the sexual harassment charge. Still looking.....
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:57 PM on July 10, 2002


god, all of those patrons sound like a stuffy good ole boys club. they're in an "uproar" because they open up the upstairs? or start accepting credit cards? or *gasp* take the skin off the eggplant?

come to think of it, it sounds like when people start moaning about "ye olde days" of metafilter. ;-)

if both of these accusations are false, i feel bad for poor gilberto. but if he was sexually harassing his coworkers (or patrons) then good riddance.
posted by witchstone at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2002


He was given a warning and told the consequences of being accused again. It happened and they had no choice but o fire him.

I do find it amusing that all of these regulars who would apparently be annnoyed if I were to get a seat ahead of them or in their sacred downstairs dining room are appealing to the public to help them in their cause.
posted by donpardo at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2002


That said, ColdChef is right -- Galatoire's is an amazing restaurant (or at least was; I hear that it's been slipping), and unless you've experienced the waiter system at certain venerated restaurants like Galatoire's or Antoine's you won't quite understand what all these people are getting upset about.

Now, that said ... I'd much rather eat at Brigtsen's or Gabrielle or Clancy's or Upperline or two dozen other places in New Orleans. Furthermore, at Galatoire's they put ice in their Sazeracs! What's up with that?!
posted by chuq at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2002


Assuming the allegations are true, this isn't all that uncommon of a story. Quite often harassers are very gregarious, personable people who have been around a long time. They are used to being "colorful" (and being rewarded for it). They have worked most of their lives in an environment where a certain level of bawdiness was common (and, to many, welcome). The rules changed but they did not.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:02 PM on July 10, 2002


as a waiter, no less, not exactly a high skill profession

Excuse me. A truly great waiter knows every detail of the restaurant's food intimately, knows what's going on in the kitchen that very day, knows what's good and what's not good on that very day, knows the wine selection as well as the sommelier and can recommend an appropriate wine or wines for any combination of dishes the patron may order.

A great waiter anticipates what the patron needs, rather than intruding and does it as quickly, efficiently and unobtrusively as possible. A great waiter also knows tableside service for certain dishes like Bananas Foster, a properly made Caesar salad, or any number of classic dishes that are prepared tableside. A great waiter immeasurably enhances one's dining experience in a fine restaurant.

Conversely, a bad waiter can so thoroughly kill a fine dining experience that no matter how good the food was, you probably won't want to go back.

Anywhere you go but especially in a great food city like New Orleans, being a waiter is an honorable profession (and yes, it's a profession, something it takes years to learn how to do properly, not something you do while you're waiting to audition for your next toilet paper commercial). If you don't think this is the case ...well, you need to stop eating at Denny's so much.
posted by chuq at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2002


He was given a warning and told the consequences of being accused again.

That just sounds weird. "ODiV, if you're accused of theft one more time..."
posted by ODiV at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2002


ODiV: I was just wondering if Watrons was some word I hadn't heard of. Sounds like what you call customers of self-serve restaurants.

For what it's worth, "waitron" is sometimes used as a gender-neutral replacement for waiter/waitress. I worked as a "waitron" at a Unitarian Universalist summer retreat center in 1989, and I've heard the term used elsewhere since (albeit infrequently).

See also: dictionary.com, xrefer.com. William Safire's opinion of the term is not known.
posted by halleck23 at 2:09 PM on July 10, 2002


Now, that said ... I'd much rather eat at Brigtsen's or Gabrielle or Clancy's or Upperline or two dozen other places in New Orleans. Furthermore, at Galatoire's they put ice in their Sazeracs! What's up with that?!

I went to Brigtsen's two weeks ago. Great, great food.

Looking at the responses here, I think I'd be wasting my time trying to explain the sublte rules of dining in New Orleans (hell, I probably only know a tenth of them). I will say, though that
1. Traditions DO matter to locals
2. If you are a tourist, you are welcome to eat at Jimmy Buffet's or The Hard Rock Cafe, but if you go to a local place, expect to act like a local or be treated like a tourist.
posted by ColdChef at 2:14 PM on July 10, 2002


a disservice to a wonderful restaurant with an amazing food history.

Okay, you said it 3 times now and made me hungry. You are SO buying me dinner there the next time I'm in LA...

{stomach growls}

The rules changed but they did not.

Excellent observation, pardonyou?. Too often, people judge other people as though they existed in a vacuum.
posted by rushmc at 2:18 PM on July 10, 2002


Chuq, thanks for the update on his employment. I was going to write that it would seem to me a great boon for whichever restaurant brought Gilberto on staff. Sounds like he's the sort of fella to take customers with him, much as hair stylists do.

As far as Galatoire's goes, they did the right thing in their circumstance. You can't put an employee ahead of the survival of the business, and a harrassment lawsuit would have likely cost them the restaurant.
posted by me3dia at 2:18 PM on July 10, 2002


I never understood why people would travel all the way to New Orleans and then eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. Why not stay home and eat there. Doesn't every town have one?
posted by timeistight at 2:20 PM on July 10, 2002


Okay, you said it 3 times now and made me hungry. You are SO buying me dinner there the next time I'm in LA...

Only if my waiter is there that evening.
posted by ColdChef at 2:20 PM on July 10, 2002


This post is why I love MeFi.
posted by anathema at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2002


And all this time I was caught up in Middle East affairs when this much bigger event was right here in my own country!
posted by Postroad at 2:46 PM on July 10, 2002


It certain makes for a more enjoyable thread.
posted by timeistight at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2002


ColdChef: If you are a tourist, you are welcome to eat at Jimmy Buffet's or The Hard Rock Cafe, but if you go to a local place, expect to act like a local or be treated like a tourist.

Y'know, I used to be offended by the presence of places like Jimmy Buffett's or the Hard Rock Cafe or feckin' Hooters in the French Quarter ... no more, though. Anybody stupid enough to eat there while in New Orleans deserves what they get, plus we get the extra added bonus of not having to wait in line behind such people or compete with them for a table at the good places.

me3dia: Your post was probably the mostly truly balanced voice of reason regarding this whole brouhaha. Yes, Gilberto is a master of his profession and would be valuable anywhere. Still, Galatoire's was in a position such that they had to do what they did; sexual harassment lawsuits can be very expensive. It sucks that he lost his job, but he got another job at a restaurant that's just as good if not better. He's got a livelihood again, he's enhancing the experiences of diners at Commander's ... and the Galatoire's regulars have to deal with reality and move on.

One day our beloved city will be destroyed by a hurricane anyway ... then there'll be no Galatoire's. Sigh.
posted by chuq at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2002


This is an excellent article for the humor value alone! I love the people getting upset over such things as the ice machine/hand-chipped ice change or the fact that the restaurant changed to accept *gasp* CREDIT CARDS. I can understand the patrons wanting to keep their beloved restaurant in a vacuum, of course, and I can appreciate the "fine service" and all that, but c'mon.... this so illustrates the divide between, oh, ME, and that upper 5%. Incredible.

Man, I have a lot to live up to if I'm going to learn how to appropriately provide a fine dining experience for my customers. (Currently a newbie waitress.) Of course, I'm screwed anyway, being a girl - I'll have to save up for that sex-change to reach the highest pinnacle in serving. =P

Posts like this kick ass!
posted by Melinika at 10:08 PM on July 10, 2002


The rules changed but they did not.

The essence of the rule change is in the primary importance given of what the accuser is perceiving, over what can be proven as a willfully malicious attempt by the accused to injure. Often it is no more than a cultural prejudice by the chronically inept and depressive to gain attention and advancement.
posted by semmi at 12:03 AM on July 11, 2002


Melinka: (Currently a newbie waitress.) Of course, I'm screwed anyway, being a girl

Not necessarily. You can apparently get bigger tips by squatting down to look your customers in the eye, and especially by drawing a smiley face on the check and writing "Thank you!". Doesn't seem to work for guys, though.
posted by chuq at 12:26 AM on July 11, 2002


Furthermore, at Galatoire's they put ice in their Sazeracs!

Now that really is perverted and degrading, chuq.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:40 AM on July 11, 2002


chuq, interesting article.

I have to say that I don't associate drawing a smiley face on the check with "fine dining", though. So I don't think I could work that advantage.

"Squatting down to look [people] in the eye" I associate with preschool teachers. Nope.

And touching the diners? Um. I would find that to be pretty forward of a server, unless I were a regular.

Thanks for the tips, tho! (I mean... tips, not... ah, screw it.)
posted by Melinika at 3:06 AM on July 11, 2002


Gilbert always remembered your name and your family's name and your children," Holditch said. "When I've needed somebody to drive me to the hospital or something, he's done it."

I'm having a heart attack, call my waiter.

These people really irritate my elitist gizzard.
posted by skallas at 3:08 AM on July 11, 2002


Kudos to semmi! What a great job of summarizing most of what I don't like about America today.
posted by Irontom at 6:45 AM on July 11, 2002


In defense of waiting as a profession, I have to chime in about Europe. If you go to a world-class restaurant such as Taillevent in Paris or Harry's Bar in Venice, one of the most important things is the service - to the point where waiters are highly respected people, and require a lot of training and experience. It is not uncommon to find a waiter who spends their whole life waiting tables, culminating in a job at one of the world's finest restaurants, and this is an achievement that many people respect.

Some of the qualities that a true waiter nees have been mentioned above, but one tidbit I noticed recently is that while dining at really good restaurants in Europe, it is not surprising to find that your waiter can speak upwards of 4, or 5 (and maybe more) languages. These waiters aren't doing it as a simple money job like people so often do around here.
posted by swank6 at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2002


(Currently a newbie waitress.) Of course, I'm screwed anyway, being a girl - I'll have to save up for that sex-change to reach the highest pinnacle in serving. =P


OK, I saw the smiley and I know you're joking, but... do you really believe that the sexism in the waiting industry runs that way? (I waited tables for 5 years.) I've been told "we don't hire men here". Attractive waitresses make several times what men do in tips. Sadly, I've seen some of the most talented waitresses I know outearned by a factor of 2-3x by some bimbo straight off the street who's built like a porn star.
posted by swell at 10:39 PM on July 11, 2002


When I read the story about the Galatoire's waiter controversy in this paper two Sundays ago, I was struck by three notions.

1) That my colleague Brett Anderson had told perhaps the most exotic and revealing story about New Orleans that I have read in 10 years; 2) that it was destined to become a national story and 3) that I could really go for some sauteed soft-shell crab.

posted by ColdChef at 8:11 AM on July 16, 2002


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