I imagined the young man a Michelin Guide restaurant reviewer in disguise. He had arrived at Chez Fonfon without a reservation. He wore a tee-shirt and carried a copy of T. E. Lawrence’s Lawrence of Arabia in his hand. He was perfect for the job. No one would suspect.
His eyes belonged to Marcel Proust when he was young. His nose was slightly beaked, too. A close shaved beard made him seem a little older.
Could he be a reviewer after all? No young people eat at Chez Fonfon unless their parents have invited them and are paying the bill. Did he have an inheritance? Was he, so to speak, independent?
I noticed him for two reasons: I heard him say he had no reservation, and, secondly, he did not get any attention after he was seated.
A few days earlier on a Wednesday, I climbed the steps to Chez Fonfon. I had wanted to eat bouillabaisse, the wonderful Marseille soup that has rules. (I will say more about that later.) I had no reservation. Monsieur m’a dit, « Non ! C’est complet ! » I was being turned away.
Ruth Reichl described the experience this way: “‘Do you have a reservation?’ This is said so challengingly I instantly feel as if I am an intruder who has wandered into the wrong restaurant.”
The young man had arrived with no reservation, so naturally, I wanted to know his fate. He was permitted to stay. He was the only one. For others who followed, « Non, c’est complet. Désolé ! »
Yet when he sat down, no one brought a menu. Waiters scurried about him, going this way and that, cutting paths that encompassed him in a triangle. No one asked if he wanted an aperitif. He had patience, this young man. But wait, there’s more!