Abbe Diaz is a designer with her own line of clothing known as Geld Iaz and author of “PX This“, a tell-all book about working in the top restaurants in the Big Apple. She says she deplores the victory of triviality over substance, complaining that every time people mention her name, it has to do with her take on “stupid Gwyneth Paltrow.”
Diaz asks,“Can we move on already? Oh, no? Okay, then. Yes it’s true. Gwyneth Paltrow is a total creepface.”
Diaz has made quite a name for herself New York, so much so that every sagacious fine-dining restaurant owner, chef, and employee in the city (and numerous professional restaurant critics) follows her blog. She draws her observations from her experience in the business and her bachelor’s degree in economics. She has even developed a TV treatment for a sitcom based on her life. Diaz has been dubbed “the Truman Capote,” “the Norma Rae,” and “the Nikke Finke” of the restaurant world. But, hey, she can boast Nobel Prize winner Salman Rushdie as a fan, so there’s that.
“Outside the context of the entire book, the celebrity anecdotes are kind of lame,” Diaz sighs. “But superficiality is a lot of fun sometimes.”
As a maître d’ at some of New York’s most exclusive restaurants, Diaz can dish with the best of them when it comes to celebrities.
The Food Channel had a chance to hook up with Abbe Diaz recently for a quick but dishy interview. One of the first questions we wanted answered: What’s the “PX” mean in the title? We were told it’s code for the French phrase “Person Extraordinaire”–another way of saying VIP.
Let’s get right to it. Who are some of the all-time celebrity jerks you’ve come in contact with—and who are the nice ones?
Well, although there is something of a general “list” that people within the industry acknowledge to some extent, for the most part, celebrity encounters tend to vary. Let’s just take Gwyneth Paltrow, for example. All my personal experiences with her would certainly indicate she is quite a disdainful person. However, I did stipulate (to the NY Daily News, etc.) that it’s apparent she “likes boys,” particularly the “cute and sweet” ones. It stands to reason most celebrities would have similar idiosyncratic preferences, or more likely, some just have their good hair days and bad hair days.
The only celebrity who steadfastly belongs on the “jerk” list is Russell Crowe. His restaurant antics are known far and wide. He was labeled an “ass” within the industry long before he smacked a colleague upside the head with a telephone at The Mercer Hotel.
In any case, the “list” of NYC dining “regular” patrons goes a little something like this—
Good guys: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Steven Tyler, Liv Tyler, Pamela Anderson, Julianne Moore, Ed Norton, Jon Stewart, Uma Thurman, Leonardo diCaprio, Kate Hudson, Russell Brand & Katy Perry, Adrian Grenier, Jay-Z, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Renee Zellweger, Tim Robbins & Susan Sarandon— because they’re nice, pretty much all the time.
Bad guys: Courtney Love, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Paz de la Huerta (aka Paz de la Whatever), George Lopez, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kevin Spacey, Barbara Walters, Lizzie Grubman— because they’re arrogant, demanding, and self-centered, pretty much all the time.
People are always interested in what the stars eat. What are some of the more interesting choices you’ve seen made by the rich & famous?
Sorry, I’m a Maitre d’, not a chef, waiter, or runner. My job is at the front door; I honestly never had the time to scrutinize the diners’ dinner plates. Although I did hear through the grapevine that Victoria Beckham is consistently partial to lettuce leaves, vinegar, and water. Yes, for dinner.
Any interesting “special requests” from the stars you’ve had to try to comply with?
You mean aside from ignoring the usual reservation time restraints, bouncing people off the list in front of them, dropping everything else as soon as they arrive, leaving the kitchen/dining-room open for extended hours, sending the busboy out for cigarettes, and dispatching special deliveries to their homes/parties/film-sets? No.
Sarah Michelle Gellar did try to have an entire bathroom closed down for her (and her friends’) own private use once. Yeah, that wasn’t happenin’.
Who are the best tippers? The worst?
Best: Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger
Worst: Martha Stewart, Donald Trump
What are some of the funniest restaurant experiences you’ve had with celebs?
A certain actress (who shall remain nameless, sorry) became a steady regular after establishing a special drink strategy. She sits down at her table, but then gets up to go to the bathroom after just a few minutes. A tall vodka neat should be waiting at the end of the bar, closest to the bathroom. She downs drink in one gulp en route, upon which the drink should be promptly refilled. After exiting bathroom, she downs second drink in one gulp en route back to the table. The drink is NEVER to be served to her at her table in the dining room.
The most embarrassing?
Donna Karan’s credit card was once declined at a certain restaurant in Las Vegas. She was lunching by herself; the check was about $30. The manager was not going to allow her to leave so she retorts, “See that 7,000 square foot DKNY store? That’s mine. So trust me, I’m good for it.” She did come back with the $30.
Ms Diaz also offered up some additional quick takes on other celebrity types:
- Claudia Schiffer: Hilarious. Once was too busy yapping on her cell phone to notice a scaffolding outside her hotel. Slammed right into it, doubled over, butt in the air, head over heels. Would have loved to have been on the other end of that call when it happened.
- Sean Hayes (from “Will and Grace”): Sweet and funny. He kissed my hand and called me cute. A gay man sweats me. How fierce am I.
- Bob Saget (“Full House”): Mr. Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? Tell it to the Olsen twins, Saget. Maybe they’ll still remember you.
- Ben Affleck: Smart and witty. Do you know he maintained a brilliant anonymous online personality named ‘mackdaddy’ for his ‘Project Greenlight’ messageboard community? Kevin Smith denies it, but when I called him a liar he didn’t protest at all. Also, Ben is a great tipper. I love him.
Summing up, Diaz says, “There are a few stars out there who are nice, but really, for the most part, these people would spit on you unless you were on fire,” Diaz added. “But am I bitter? Not really. I’m just sayin’.”
Abbe Diaz’s second book, “PX Me,” a sequel to “PX This,” is due out in the summer of 2011. The Food Channel hopes to publish an excerpt in the coming weeks.