Getting a seat at the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is one of the most coveted culinary experiences money can buy. But there may be more to this three-Michelin-starred restaurant than meets the eye. A lawsuit has been filed against the restaurant and executive chef César Ramirez by five former employees who claim that some of their wages were withheld, and one of the five former employees filed for claims of discrimination against Asian customers. The former employee, Emi Howard claims that she was allegedly told to serve the worst meat to the “sh*t people” (a derogatory term for both Asians and residents of the Upper West Side that the former employees claim Ramirez would frequently use).
The lawsuit is being handled by Maimon Kirschenbaum, the same attorney who has fought against labor violations at numerous high-end restaurants, like the class action lawsuit that was filed earlier this year against Le Cirque for withheld wages.
In this particular lawsuit, the grievances include withholding the 20-percent service charge that’s supposed to go to servers, not paying overtime, as well as the accusations of racism, which include, according to plaintiff,Emi Howard (who is Asian-American), orders that Asians not be seated anywhere near his station at the chef’s counter.
“On one occasion, Ms. Howard ‘violated’ Defendant Ramirez’s discriminatory rule by seating Asian individuals close to his spot at the center of kitchen counter,” the lawsuit states. “In response, Defendant Ramirez subjected Ms. Howard to a wild verbal tirade.” Ultimately, according to the lawsuit, Howard was fired for complaining about these unfair treatments.
Although there has been no official statement released by the restaurant in response to this allegations, Brooklyn Fare owner Moe Issa has said in an email statement, “At Brooklyn Fare, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our staff who hail from around the globe, and we welcome everyone who comes through our doors with open arms, be it a guest, vendor, or employeeEmi , regardless of their creed, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or nationality. We pay all of our staff fair wages for their hours worked as well as gratuity in accordance to the law."
Brooklyn Fare will be opening a brand-new Manhattan location this year.
EDIT: The Daily Meal has contacted owner Moe Issa about the incident, and he confirmed that the restaurant is working on releasing a statement, and will be doing so soon. "As you understand, we are severely disappointed in this lawsuit and the allegations made," said Issa in an email correspondence. "We are working with our legal parties to release a statement on behalf of Chef Cesar Ramirez and The Chef's Table. As you could understand this comes as a great shock as our offices have yet to be contacted regarding the alleged lawsuit." You can see his response, and chef Cesar Ramirez' response here.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi