Maimon Kirschenbaum, the legal thorn in the restaurant industry's side, sends word today of a new class action lawsuit he's just filed against Cesar Ramirez and Moe Issa, the chef and proprietor of the Michelin-starred Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. The suit [in PDF] involves five plaintiffs, including one sous chef, one prep cook, and several servers, who are leveling multiple allegations of wage theft and discrimination against the acclaimed tasting counter.
For starters, the servers claim that they didn't receive any of the 20 percent service charge that the restaurant charges diners in lieu of a tip. They also claim that when diners left additional tips, the owners withheld "significant portions" of those. All the plaintiffs also claim they worked varying degrees of overtime — often 10 hours a day for as much as six days a week — without being paid overtime rates.
On top of all that, one server has also come forward with some serious accusations of racism against Ramirez. Emi Howard, who herself is Asian American, claims that the chef "routinely referred to Asian customers as 'shit people.'" She also says he demanded that Asians not be seated near his station at the counter, and that he instructed her to give them the worst pieces of meat from any large piece that had to be broken down for diners. That last treatment, apparently, was also reserved for "Upper West Siders."
The former employees are suing the restaurant for an unspecified amount, equal to their lost wages plus damages. Eater has reached out to the Brooklyn Fare team for comment, but is still awaiting a response.
Update: Moe Issa responds with the following statement: "To clarify, our offices have no knowledge of a lawsuit other than what has been posted without documentation on-line. No lawyer has contacted my office or I with regards to any lawsuit.
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 employee, 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." [ed. note: The link to the full complaint has now been included above.]
Eater Video: The Michelin Guide Explained | Subscribe to Eater on YouTube