Shane McBride has been Balthazar’s head chef for nearly three years, and he is the first permanent replacement for Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, the chefs who opened the place in 1997. Despite the fact that he has worked in three- and four-star kitchens, McBride has adopted something of a bruiser look. His forearms are tattooed (one is of a Ball jar; another depicts four stars out of five), and he has a scraggly blond beard and a chipped front tooth. “They didn’t bring me in here to change things,” he says. Nasr and Hanson left Balthazar to open up another McNally venture, Minetta Tavern, and McBride’s mandate was to keep things working pretty much as they had always worked. Along the way, he has made some minor tweaks, like changing the poultry supplier, refining the preparation of pork belly, bringing in more seasonal food. “I had some high and mighty ideas that I had to reel in,” he says. (Among them, scrubbing the All-Clad cookware in the prep kitchen until it shines, daily. But it soon became clear that the pots and pans simply get too much use down there for that to make any sense.) “To change things here is like taking a quick right-hand turn in an aircraft carrier.”
It is perhaps because Jabir’s Hindi has been learnt in an environment of sex tourism that he is matter-of-fact about vocalizing details that most Hindi speakers would be slightly coy about. His description of the private dance show is a marvel of specificity: ‘Ladkiyaan poori nangi hongi, aapke goad mein aake baithengi. Aap daba sakte ho, kiss kar sakte ho, par zyada zor se nahin. (The girls will be completely naked, they’ll come and sit in your lap. You can squeeze, you can kiss, but not too hard.)’ He adds, ‘No boom-boom.’ Someone says ‘Toh kya faayda. (Then what’s the use),’ to which Jabir giggles and says, ‘Baad mein room jaake soap ke saath… (Later in the room, with some soap…),’ and moves his fist up and down. I’m transfixed by the novelty of a 23-year-old saying these things to a group in which everyone is older than him, with a couple of men old enough to be his grandfather. What’s more, Jabir speaks Hindi with an accent that knows no hard consonants, which makes him sound like a particularly precocious and foul-mouthed toddler, and renders him altogether irresistible.
A colleague failing to meet Bezos’s exacting standards will set off a nutter. If an employee does not have the right answers or tries to bluff, or takes credit for someone else’s work, or exhibits a whiff of internal politics, uncertainty, or frailty in the heat of battle—a blood vessel in Bezos’s forehead bulges and his filter falls away. He’s capable of hyperbole and harshness in these moments and over the years has delivered some devastating rebukes. Among his greatest hits, collected and relayed by Amazon veterans:
[After reviewing the annual plan from the supply chain team] “I guess supply chain isn’t doing anything interesting next year.”
[After reading a start-of-meeting memo] “This document was clearly written by the B team. Can someone get me the A team document? I don’t want to waste my time with the B team document.”
[After an engineer’s presentation] “Why are you wasting my life?”
Michael Clancy, a defense attorney for Ron Collins, a regular wholesale customer of the Flores twins, says he was a bit surprised to see how nonviolent the whole operation was. “It was strange,” he says, “to see such a big drug organization that didn’t have any acts of violence. I mean, there was nothing even close to a violent act in anything involving the twins’ organization.”
The couriers who later testified said that the twins forbade them to carry guns. Few couriers had prior convictions. Nicholas Roti, the chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Organized Crime, says that the cartel operatives try to stay “very low key.” He adds, “This is their retail outlet; they don’t want to mess this up.”
So much money was flowing in that perhaps exacting violent retribution just wasn’t worth the effort. Explains Clancy: “If someone rips you off or someone stiffs you on 50 kilos, [do] you go out and do an act of violence against that guy and bring a bunch of heat on you and your organization? Let it go. You’ll sell another 50 kilos tomorrow.”
Emily Carter Roiphe:
The idea of someone living without a car didn’t come up any more than the idea of someone walking around without a head. If you lived, you drove, was the assumption anywhere but the small island where I was born. The only people who took the bus were disabled, like me: by poor eyesight, by Parkinson’s or schizophrenia, by deafness, by poverty. Those of us who rode the bus didn’t merely look resigned; we looked defiant, staring straight ahead in the kind of square-shouldered so-what attitude most often used to conceal shame about our cheap snow boots and the huge sums of subtraction that showed in our faces.
I hit up my mother for driving lesson money. “Only marginal people take the bus here,” I said.
“Well, Sweetie, you are marginal.”