At the Whole Foods in Union Square, at 1 p.m. today, an employee came barreling through the store. The very upset and very loud chef had an important message: The tofu had been cooked in meat juices!
The busy store went quiet. Three vegetarians—or were they meat-eaters who happen to like fermented soy products?—anxiously, embarrassedly shifted out of the market’s well-groomed lines to return their lunches.
The chef begged the buffet patrons to put down their plates. “But don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll be fired.”
Would he? According to five coworkers, who each said they did not know the “crazy” man’s name, the chef had fabricated the tofu-and-meat-juices tale because he had already been fired.
“Basically, okay, I don’t want to disparage the guy,” said the North Atlantic/ North East Whole Foods public relations man Fred Shank, “but he worked with us for two weeks and it didn’t work out.” Mr. Shank, reached on his Blackberry, said that the buffet’s tofu is usually fried elsewhere anyway.
“Stores sometimes take it onto themselves to fry some extra tofu, but that happens early in the oil cycle,” the carnivorously-named Mr. Shank said, explaining how a store’s tofu is kept vegetarian. “Whereas the meat would [be fried] at the end, never the other way around.”
Two hours after the disruption in the store, there was no sign of the disgruntled chef, and no sign of the delicious grilled tofu with teriyaki, only a sad void between the caesar salad and the tuna.
Where is the tofu? an employee was asked. “Why?” the employee answered. “Are you feeling sick?”
A second employee was more defensive. “You want the tofu? Fine, we’ll put out the tofu.”
Where, Mr. Shank, had the tofu gone? “Can’t comment,” he said. “It could be a shortage. I don’t want to speculate.”