It seems like every other week, someone’s trying to paint someone else in the cutthroat restaurant world as some kind of villain. And in the last 30 days, literally: first, there was psychotic restaurant owner Vadim Ponorovsky, who scre-mailed his employees a tirade somewhere just short of the Downfall meme. Now, in the wake of West Village restaurant Centro Vinoteca‘s Chapter 11 filing, Food Network chef Anne Burrell is being sued by former employees in a salacious discrimination filing accusing her of calling employees ‘slutty,’ ‘saggy,’ ‘ho,’ and ‘whore’.
Wait, that Anne Burrell? Yup. Try to keep up:
Centro Vinoteca’s a West Village Italian place, owned by restaurateur Sasha Muniak, that opened with Food Network star Anne Burrell in the kitchen before she was on TV. It pulled a pretty decent one-star review from Frank Bruni, shortly before one star was awarded to born-famous hotspot restaurateur Keith McNally’s West Village den of Italian eats down the street, Morandi, which also took chef Jody Williams from Gusto, another one of Muniak’s places. Some would say that she took some of her recipes with her, which isn’t exactly looked kindly upon. Jody Williams and Morandi eventually broke up, but problems continued to plague Centro: complaints came through the food blogs about bad service, their chef, Anne Burrell, leaves them for greener (read: televised) pastures.
They get a new chef, Top Chef-alum Leah Cohen, who leaves them, too. It keeps going: the city closes down Centro, and Burrell gets some smack talked on her by Cohen who wasn’t too pleased with her as a boss. Oh, and Gusto alum Jody Williams? One-starred at her new place, who’s co-owner then sued her. It should go without saying at this point that Gusto lost another chef in 2007 after getting the bodyblow of losing Williams, but are you starting to get a decent picture? These places have some shit to deal with, and these are restaurants that have had a fair amount of success in New York. Imagine what working with a lesser-known restaurant in this city entails. You have to be, on some level, clinically insane to knowingly involve yourself in this business. And so Burrell’s lawsuit and Centro’s Chapter 11 filing shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. We’d try to explain the Service Industry’s Nikki Finke — PX This blogger Abbe Diaz — and her involvement in this (besides being Muniak’s wife), but my head’s spinning too fast.
Needless to say, it sucks when a restaurant has this much shit to deal with, but that’s New York’s service industry — if you can make it here, you’ve probably had someone killed. At the end of the day, people want to make money and serve food, often, not even in that order (again: insane). Meanwhile, Burrell’s got quite the set of allegations to answer for. Another bad day for another bad boss? We’ll soon find out. Elsewhere, Abbe Diaz has a fairly substantial (and, with inquisitor Dick Johnson, hysterical) explanation for financial problems relating to businesses like Muniak’s and how they’re being affected by the government’s chin-check of American banking institutions. It’s worth a read.
And now, if you ever aspired to open a restaurant in New York, you’ve hopefully reconsidered.