It was late Friday night outside Meritage in downtown St. Paul when Chef Russell Klein and sommelier Nicolas Giraud were enjoying a post service dinner when, according to a Facebook post, they observed a male/female couple approaching on St. Peter street engaged in an argument that escalated.
According to Desta Klein, who wrote the post, "They heard the dull thud of him hitting her and Chef jumped to his feet exclaiming 'Hey! Hey! You can't hit people! Step away from her…'"
When the man pulled back to strike the chef, the dining room manager Alex Seide stepped into the fray and took a punch to the face in the process. It took two valets, the service captain, the chef and Seide, to subdue the man. All restrained the assailant until the police arrived.
According to her post, Desta Klein (Russell's wife and head of Meritage's front of house) shared that she had studied the bystander effect and had been haunted by the story of Kitty Genovese, a woman killed while those around her ignored signs of struggle. Desta surmised, "It is so important to act when you see someone in trouble. Apathy is the true killer of soul." She said, "Real life happens around restaurants all day."
The chef tried to downplay the moment of every day heroism, telling Eater, "I did what any decent human would do, which was confront him with his asshole-ness. What really makes me proud is the way my staff had my and each others back in dealing with someone who was obviously violent and deranged. We work hard to make Meritage something of a family for all of us who work there. On Friday we just got a little bit more dramatic reminder of how we have to look out for each other every day."
He added, that Seide, who bravely put his face between a wailing fist and his boss’s face. "He’s my hero!"