Abbe Diaz Takes the 5th, Fuels Industry Speculation

Despite intense speculations, PXThis blogger Abbe Diaz maintains she is not the anonymous author behind Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry. She declined to comment on rumors or her sources of information, but says “meta-fictional” industry gossip will continue to appear on the website.

“I’m flattered people would think it’s me,” she says. “I’m excited to see people’s reactions as the story unfolds.”

Sympathy , set in present day New York City, launched last Thursday and is based around suspiciously realistic restaurant-industry “characters.” The blog opens with a story about Sean Kasen, a “handsome and very talented” chef struggling to open his first restaurant.

On Thursday, New York mag’s Josh Ozersky, aired his speculations on Mike Colameco’s talk radio show, WOR Radio 710, saying the Kasen posting is “clearly supposed to be about [Tailor-chef] Sam Mason and Johnny Iuzzini.”

Grub Street also reported subsequent entries are based on Lois Freedman (dubbed devilish Hell-oise Liebman), the Director of Operations behind Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant empire.

Last month former employees at eight of Vongerichte’s restaurants, which include hotspots Jean-Georges, Spice Market and Perry Street, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court claiming the star chef paid them subminimum wages, cheated them out of overtime and forced them to share tips with their bosses. It was the second time that month Vongerichten was sued over workers’ wages and the division of tips.

Diaz, a former employee of Jean-George, says she was well aware of the wrongdoings, but blames Freedman for the majority of problems, including ruining staff morale. She captured her disgust for Freedman in her 2004 memoir, “PX This: The Diary of a Potted Plant.” The longstanding feud garnered public attention when Freedman had Diaz tossed out of Mercer Kitchen one night when she attempted to get a drink with a friend.

“[The author] very much wants to portray these characters as accurately as possible,” Diaz says. “Based on my experiences, the descriptions are accurate.”

Page Six reporter Corynne Steindler and editor Ben Leventhal, widely recognized as Diaz’s nemesis, are both mentioned by name within the blog, along with Diaz pal Waverly Inn chef John DeLucie.

While the Sympathy scribe refused to reveal himself (or herself), Grub Street reported, “the pillorying of Sam Mason, Keith McNally, et al sounded pretty much like e-mails from Abbe.”

Diaz claims she was not involved with the site’s launch and was unaware of the content until she was alerted by the readers of her online forum. She is coy about her knowledge of entries to come.

“I believe it will be quite interesting,” she says. “So many [people within the restaurant industry] are deified. People have gotten carried away with their portrayals of star chefs and restaurateurs. Just because they’re successful doesn’t mean they’re gods. What I like about [Sympathy] is that the characters are very complex. They have very human traits.”

Stephanie Burton

(image via clipart)