Paradou Owner Says Tirade Against Staff Was a Restaurateur's ‘Howl’

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Photo: Youngna Park

Paradou’s weekly newsletters are so warm and welcoming (they’re how we found out about their three-for-one deal!) that it’s hard to imagine the man who pens them (owner Vadim Ponorovsky) as anything but a teddy bear. But a tipster has sent Gawker an e-mail in which Ponorovsky calls his employees “assholes,” “lazy motherfuckers,” and a “bunch of fucking children” who “should be fired immediately” because they failed to collect enough e-mail addresses from diners on a recent night. “I have absolutely no respect for any of you,” the e-mail goes. “Why? Because every fucking day, all of you continue to show that you have absolutely no respect for me or [partner] Alex [Volland]. So if you dont [sic] respect us enough to do the little that we ask you to do, then GET THE FUCK OUT YOU FUCKING LAZY DISRESPECTFUL ASSHOLES!!!!!” Whoa. Even though it’s been a week since Ponorovsky fired off the e-mail, he was still wound up when we asked him for an explanation today.

He tells us that after he sent the rant at 6 a.m. (he says he wasn't drunk, by the way), none of his employees bothered responding, though his partner Alex Volland did tell him it might have been a bit much — all the opposite, servers have stepped up their collection of e-mail addresses (the mailing list currently numbers around 13,000). However, Ponorovksy says he has received an e-mail from someone claiming to have 3,400 signatures of people who want to drive him out of business and get other restaurants to open their doors to his employees. Nevertheless, he 100% stands by the dress-down. In fact, he calls it “a restaurateur’s version of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ — like, ‘Jesus Christ, how many times do I have to do this shit?’”

“Out of the whole e-mail, the only term I regret is the ‘lazy mothertfuckers’ term,” Ponorovsky tells us. “The other profanity is a part of how I speak— I view curse words as basically emphasis adjectives.” Ponorovsky says that his background in marketing and advertising inspires him to run Paradou “without any layers. There’s very much a peer-to-peer relationship with the staff.” He says, “If you talked to anyone who ever worked for me, I could say without any sense of self-aggrandizement that they’d say I was the best boss they’ve worked for,” and to that end, he cites the fact that he gives employees their jobs back after month-long vacations, has never lowered wages or missed a payroll during the downturn, treats his employees to free post-shift dinners and drinks, lets their friends eat at generous discounts, has even paid for ESL classes and once gave a kitchen staffer $1,000 to send to his family after his brother died. (Ponorovsky says his kitchen staff is his gold: “Not to say I treat anyone better than everyone else, but as is the case at any restaurant, on a per-hour basis the waitstaff makes more than the kitchen staff — and you tell me, who works harder?”)

So why did a server presumably tip off Gawker? Ponorovsky blames “the culture of destruction that pervades America. We take great pleasure in tearing down success. The people who wrote the article for Gawker and sent it to Gawker gave no thought to what the repercussions of their actions would be. My actions, and my e-mail, was all about having them do what’s a part of their job, so that the restaurant could further its reach with our customer base.” Ponorovsky tells us that part of his frustration has to do with the fact that, when he was 28 years old, he was happy to be “making my age,” (meaning around $28,000), whereas waiters make significant sums per week. “It’s not an office job, like the one that I had. This is like, basically, hey, show up, don’t have too much of an attitude with customers, know the menu … it’s a minimal job, really. I’m not minimizing it — Great waiters are truly great waiters, and we have several of them, and there’s never any problem with them. But when you create an environment that relies on people to self-manage and do what’s required of them without much oversight, some will perceive it as a challenge and rise to it, and others will say, ‘it’s playtime, and I get paid!’”

“If my staff has the ability for self-reflection and seeing the big picture, they should ask, ‘Why would one of us fuck the rest of us so badly by damaging our ability to make money?” Ponorvosky says. “The first casualties of this will be the people who all of these protesters are ‘defending.’ No thought is given to ‘the trickle-down,’ to use Ronald Reagan’s favorite expression.” As for the people who are vowing to shut Paradou down, Ponorvsky says, “These people have no sense of rightness or goodness.”

By the way, if you want to be on Paradou’s mailing list — sign up at info@paradounyc.com!

New York Restaurant Owners Turn Evil [Gawker]

Update: Paradou Owner Vows To Make The Streets Run With Blood