The James Corden Restaurant Drama Keeps Getting Worse
Balthazar, a French brasserie known for its swanky celebrity regulars and iconoclastic owner, Keith McNally, is one of Manhattan’s most notable restaurants. The famous Soho eatery has been in the news for the last week because of a celebrity meal gone awry, as McNally has entered into a heated back-and-forth with talk show host and alleged rude customer James Corden, who he banned from the restaurant in a move that grabbed the media spotlight from Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis.
A quick history lesson of the tempest: In an Instagram on October 18, McNally dubbed Corden “a tiny cretin of a man,” as well as “the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago,” and declared him banned. McNally included a pair of manager’s reports from June and October detailing Corden allegedly yelling at staffers. The first incident had Corden demanding free drinks after displaying a hair he says he found in his (now-finished) food; in the second incident, Corden was enraged after his wife ordered an all-yolk egg omelet and found “a little bit of egg white” in it. When the dish was remade for her, it was served with home fries instead of a salad, which further incensed Corden.
As quickly as the drama began, it was seemingly snuffed out: Six hours later, McNally posted that Corden had apologized to him, and that the ban was lifted. “I strongly believe in second chances,” he wrote. “Anyone magnanimous enough to apologize to a deadbeat layabout like me (and my staff) doesn’t deserve to be banned from anywhere.” (Beyond his tremendous success in the restaurant industry, McNally has recently been known for some controversial social media takes, including his support for Woody Allen.)
Just when hatchets (and home fries) seemed buried, on October 20 a New York Times interview published an interview with Corden (conducted Thursday morning) in which the actor seemed annoyed and impenitent about the whole situation. “I haven’t done anything wrong, on any level. So why would I ever cancel this? I was there. I get it. I feel so Zen about the whole thing,” he told the Times. “Because I think it’s so silly. I just think it’s beneath all of us. It’s beneath you. It’s certainly beneath your publication.” (In a droll coincidence, the interview, arranged before the Balthazar story broke, was set up to promote Corden’s Mammals, a new miniseries in which he plays a wayward chef.)
Corden likened people harping on the dispute to school bullies, and stressed that the backlash only existed in a small segment of the internet, not the real world. He has admitted to rude behavior in other contexts in his 2011 memoir, Can I Have Your Attention, Please?, noting that he came off “ungracious, ungrateful and brattish” after a 2008 awards show speech where he complained about his show Gaven & Stacey’s lack of recognition in other categories. (The present-day drama also led social media users to resurface an anonymous story about Corden being nasty to service staff at a restaurant in London while out with Harry Styles and friends.)
His denial of McNally’s initial accusation drove the restaurateur back to Instagram: In an October 21 post, McNally pointedly refuted Corden.“Although I didn’t witness the incident, lots of my restaurant’s floor staff did. They had nothing to gain by lying. Corden did,” he said. (In classic McNally fashion, he also made a strange allusion to Corden sharing initials with Jesus Christ and wishing he “would live up” to that reputation.)
In all of his posts, be they accusatory or forgiving, McNally has repeatedly praised Corden’s abilities as an entertainer. But in this last missive, he claimed that Corden had virtually no fanbase. He also implored Corden to admit his wrongdoing, writing, “If he goes one step further and apologizes to the 2 servers he insulted, I’ll let him eat for free at Balthazar for the next 10 years.”
As for Corden’s future, while he probably won’t be eating at Balthazar, he will be leaving The Late Late Show in 2023. Mammals, which co-stars Sally Hawkins, will be out on Amazon Prime November 11.