Waiting on Meghan Markle and her handler turned out to be a royal pain for Michael Cecchi-Azzolina, maitre d’ at NYC’s Michelin-starred restaurant Le Coucou in 2017. His head reservationist passed him a note about an “irate” woman who had dropped the “I’m bringing in royalty” card and demanded a private table, something the restaurant could not accommodate.
“She said, ‘It’s for someone who is dating a prince,’ ” Cecchi-Azzolina recalled, telling The Post that the handler copped an attitude when told the restaurant could not keep adjacent tables open. “I said, ‘I still don’t have a private table for you.’ ” He suggested a corner table instead and the woman finally acquiesced.
“They came in with an attitude,” Cecchi-Azzolina said, of the duo showing up 20 minutes before their reservation. After welcoming them to have a drink with the commoners at the bar, the escort allegedly became enraged.
“Are you aware my guest is dating Prince Harry and about to be a duchess?” Cecchi-Azzolina writes in his forthcoming book, “Your Table Is Ready,” out December 6. “ ‘Don’t you have a private area for us to wait?’ My first impulse was to laugh. I could give two s–ts about Prince Harry’s date, and by the attention the escort was drawing from the crowd at the bar, nor did anyone else.”
Cecchi-Azzolina recalled that Markle, meanwhile, “didn’t say a word,” while her handler threw a fit that the table wasn’t ready before their reservation time, describing the actress-turned-royal as “aloof.” A rep for Markle did not return a request for comment.
“We get the most powerful people in the world that come here — no one really cares about you,” Cecchi-Azzolina said, adding that the escort sat down in a huff.
Restaurant industry insiders are serving up tales of entitlement, expletive-spewed rants, dine-and-dashers and serial complainers on the heels of restaurateur Keith McNally skewering British comedian James Corden as the “most abusive customer” his restaurant staff at Balthazar have ever seen in the Soho restaurant’s 25 years.
On Monday, McNally publicly announced on Instagram that he’d 86’d Corden (restaurant speak for canceled) for mistreating employees and demanding a round of drinks “this second” after Corden spotted a piece of hair in his main course. According to McNally, Corden then insisted the restaurant take care of the drinks tab, threatening to write a bad Yelp review.
In a separate instance, McNally said, Corden allegedly shouted at a staffer, saying, “You can’t do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelette myself” after his wife complained egg white had made its way into her yolk-only omelette. McNally later said Corden had called him to apologize, and he accepted, saying Corden was welcome back to his restaurant and that “All is forgiven.” In an interview with the New York Times on Friday, Corden noted the drama was “beneath” him and “so silly.”
Some seasoned restaurant world vets say McNally let Corden off too easily, and that more celebrities should be named and shamed for their frequently bad behavior.
“You either get the celebrities that are very approachable and relaxed or some people who are just lunatics. You have people who are miserable in their own lives and they choose to take it out on service people,” Jason Kaplan, a New York City-based restaurant consultant at JK Consulting, told The Post.
“What I find kind of ridiculous is the fact that because he apologized, now you let him back into your restaurant? How does that excuse bad behavior?” Kaplan said of McNally.
And some celebrities are proving they have zero tolerance for disrespecting restaurant workers. Conan O’Brien reportedly fired a former crew member for being impatient and rude to a restaurant server, a former O’Brien staffer wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
Corden is hardly the only offender leaving restaurant owners with a bad taste in their mouths. A source close to one Hamptons hot spot recalled an inflammatory incident two summers ago when the co-owner of a professional sports team allegedly called a hostess a “hooker” and a “bitch” when he couldn’t get a table out front or in the outdoor area, leaving the staffer “crying,” the source said. Management had to step in and chide them for using the foul language.
“Some of them think they own the world and they get really nasty,” the source said.
Influencers are another unlikable crowd. In his book, Cecchi-Azzolina recalls being told, “Do you know how many Instagram followers she has?” at Le Coucou when a fashion influencer and her crew called the restaurant 10 times in a week to get a table. They arrived at 7:30 p.m., an hour before their reservation and continued to use their social media following as currency.
“Do you know who this is! She has hundreds of thousands of followers. If you don’t seat the six of us now, she will close this restaurant down. No one will come,” one of the influencer’s minions said, according to the book.
Sometimes, bold-facers are so arrogant they walk out on the check. A source close to the now-closed restaurant Philippe Chow in Miami recalled a time around 2009 when Dennis Rodman allegedly came in with a fleet of 15 people and stiffed staffers on the $3,000 bill after racking up the tab with expensive bottles of Champagne.
“One by one they all started walking out. He was like f–k it. I’m not getting stuck with this bill. They all snuck out,” the source alleged. A rep for Rodman did not return The Post’s request for comment.
“He was flying on a private jet the next day. I [thought], of course you fly on a private jet because you don’t pay for things. You just go to places and don’t pay your bill. Shame on you,” the source said.
Around the same time, the source claimed, self-help guru Tony Robbins sat down to dinner with a crew of 10 to 15 people and allegedly left the staffers empty-handed when the bill of around $2,000 came.
“The reservation was under Tony Robbins and they all walked out on the bill. When we got in touch with Tony Robbins’ office he was like, ‘I was a guest there.’ He said, ‘I’m not paying the bill.’ I said, ‘You were sitting at the head of the table making speeches and wishing everyone well. You guys aren’t going to pay the bill or the staff?’ He was like, ‘I was there, but it’s not my reservation and I’m not going to pay.’ Two thousand dollars is not going to put you out of business, it’s what you charge for one seminar. He never paid us,” the source claimed. A rep for Robbins did not return a request for comment.
Showing up unannounced, demanding a table and then sending back food is another infamous move. Cecchi-Azzolina claims supermodel Naomi Campbell and high-powered editor Anna Wintour did just that while he was working the room at Raoul’s in Soho.
“Naomi Campbell would come, be rude and complain about her food almost every time,” Cecchi-Azzolina writes in his book of Campbell, who would frequent the restaurant in the early 2000s when she was dating U2 guitarist the Edge. A rep for Campbell did not return a request for comment.
“She was someone we dreaded coming in,” Cecchi-Azzolina told The Post. “She needed a lot of attention. She sent back her food quite a few times. I want to say it was the rack of lamb,” he said.
Vogue editrix Anna Wintour, meanwhile, was “absolutely horrid,” and would “march in with no reservation and demand a table,” Cecchi-Azzolina writes in his book, noting that Wintour always ordered a steak “very rare” and requested it be served “immediately.”
“God forbid it was the least bit overcooked. She’d look at the server as though he’d just served her rat and have it sent back and redone. You’d think the raw meat would make her less sanguine,” he writes. A rep for Wintour did not return a request for comment.
“She’d just walk in or call and say, ‘I’m coming.’ One time she came in and we were closing the back room and she insisted on sitting in the back room and we had to keep a waiter there and give her her own waiter. Boy, was that waitress pissed,” Cecchi-Azzolina told The Post, describing Wintour’s demeanor as curt.
“She doesn’t really talk to the staff. She’s like I’m having this and that’s it.”