Albany Restaurant Named Most Exclusive in America, But is it a Hoax?
Have you heard of "Damon Baehrel at the Basement Bistro?" It was once named the most exclusive restaurant in the entire country, but there's a huge conspiracy that surrounds the restaurant.
The "restaurant" is located south of Albany in the town of Earlton, New York. For a few years, it was a huge deal - Trying to get a table at this restaurant (which only had eight tables, and was very private) was incredibly hard. It was such a big deal that the head chef (and the owner, creator, busboy, and every other job in the restaurant) Damon Baehrel claimed a waiting time of a few years. That number grew to 10 years by late 2013 and early 2014 - To the point where they said they weren't taking reservations anymore.
10 years on a waiting list for a table at this restaurant!?! Was it really that exclusive, or is there more to this story??
Well, there are multiple accounts of people eating at the restaurant - From regular, everyday-people, to huge 'foodies' and stars. Many articles have been written on the restaurant from those who were lucky enough to get a table, and the writing is always the same - It was very exclusive, but the food was unbelievable. Most wrote about how much of genius the chef - Damon Baehrel was. They couldn't believe the things he could create with all of his own ingredients (as he once claimed he had no suppliers).
Damon Baehrel claimed he was a self-taught chef, and collected his ingredients on his own land. The articles, specifically one from The New Yorker, talked about the writer (Nick Paumgarten) getting a chance to sit down with the chef on one of his days off. As they talked and ate, the writer talked about his scene in the kitchen...
bowls of seeds, nuts, leaves, roots, berries, and mushrooms; Mason jars of sap and flour; and vials of oil, all marked with painter’s tape describing the contents and the vintage—“Acorn oil 8/15,” “Golden Rod flour ’14.”
The chef explained that he learned how to turn everyday objects found in nature into delicious foods (like the acorns, different barks, pine needles, cattail stems, and pretty much anything else you could find).
While the chef and his cooking isn't in question - From all the accounts, it did seem like he was a genius in the kitchen and his food was spectacular. The "restaurant" itself is what's in question.
Claims that Damon Baehrel made, didn't add up. He had claimed that even President Obama and his wife Michelle wanted to get a table at his restaurant. He also claimed that the band "Journey" had stopped in. But when other writers did a fact-check on these stories, they were proven false. Damon Baehrel then said that the writers heard him wrong, that he had never made those statements. And that's what he said to a lot of statements that were proven false.
There is also the question of "Terrance." Terrance was believed to be a man from New York City that worked in coordinating all the reservations for this restaurant. He would email back food critics, writers, and others when they could get a table at the restaurant - And it was always something a little bizarre like "We have an open table three weeks from now (on such and such date) at 4pm." Since there was no arguing - People just went with it. Hey, it's an exclusive restaurant and they just got in. That's all that mattered.
As for Terrance, no one had ever met him. There is questions if he really existed or not. Some claim that Terrance and Damon are the same person - Which Damon denied those claims.
When people would show up for their reservations, there would be no one else around. Usually it was the excuse of "we just served a group of 14 and they just left," or something to that effect.
...Within days of my visit, I talked to a range of people who, either after their own meals or after failing to get a reservation, had concluded that Baehrel couldn’t possibly be serving as many diners as he claimed, or be fully booked through the year 2025, or make do with what he foraged on his patch of land.
So is it really exclusive as many articles, TV Shows, books, and food critics claim?
Well, it doesn't seem like it. BUT in all the reports, there is no doubt that the food was more than amazing, and that Damon Baehrel knows what he's doing when it comes to cooking.
As for this story, it's just the tip of the iceberg of conspiracies surrounding this restaurant. We suggest you read The New Yorker's article on this restaurant (it's a little long, but it's definitely worth the read). It fills you in on more details - From meat and seafood suppliers (of which he claimed he had no suppliers), to a chef who was disappointed that Damon said he was self-taught. And we didn't even get into how motocross is somehow tied up in all this. You can read that full article here.