The David Burke Group is suing The Wayfarer's chef Chris Shea over allegedly poaching employees from Burke restaurants. Shea was the executive chef at David Burke Kitchen for a few years, but he left that restaurant for The Wayfarer several months ago. The Daily News reports that Shea's old contract had a stipulation about not soliciting former co-workers until 18 months after leaving the company. Allegedly, if Shea broke this agreement after leaving, the contract required him to pay a large some of money — double his salary. The lawsuit claims that Shea recently poached some Burke Group staff members, so now the company is suing him.
Now, here's where it gets weird: David Burke stepped down from the day-to-day operations of the Burke Group back in May 2014. The chef had a 50 percent stake in the group's holding company, Watershed Ventures LLC, while the other half was owned by a silent partner. Burke never discussed how he resolved the deal with his old company, but back in June 2014, he told Crain's: "The options are to buy out my stake or to stay in. This is very fresh." His name and likeness are still associated with all the restaurants that he opened with the company until that point, and the organization still calls itself the David Burke Group.
Earlier this year, Burke became a partner in ESquared Hospitality, the same company that operates Shea's restaurant, The Wayfarer. And now, a rep from ESquared sends along a statement about this lawsuit:
David Burke is not suing Chris Shea and had no involvement in the decision to commence an action. Mr. Burke and Mr. Shea are friends and peers. "The Watershed Group," which is improperly holding itself out as the "David Burke Group," initiated the baseless lawsuit against Chris Shea and continues to mislead the public through the improper use of David Burke’s name. Mr. Burke resigned from The Watershed Group in May 2014. We believe the The Watershed Group should be more concerned about why these employees are leaving rather than where they are going.
So, everything's hunky dory between Shea and Burke at ESquared. The only issue is that Burke's old company — which still bears his name — is suing his buddy at his new company.