Just a day after beloved New York Persian restaurant Taste Of Persia was forced to close after new owners took over the space at 12 W. 18th Street, founder and chef Saeed Pourkay alleges that the new owners have stolen his business and his recipes.
In a video posted to the Taste of Persia Facebook page, Pourkay documents the changes at the restaurant, which now bears the name Tasty Persia NYC. In one of the videos posted to the Facebook page, Pourkay can be seen attempting to enter the store, only to be told to leave by one of the employees.
“He stole my identity, he stole my recipe, he stole my food,” Pourkay is seen saying in a follow-up video. “This man [the new owner] ruined my life.”
However, on Monday morning, the new owner of Pizza Paradise — the restaurant where Taste of Persia operated for the last seven years — Thogan Magableh tells Eater he has taken down the Tasty Persia branding and no longer plans to sell Persian food from the pizzeria.
Magableh says that Pourkay never specifically asked him not to continue selling Persian food, and that he decided to stop when Pourkay complained on Sunday.
The update follows a weekend of chaos about the popular restaurant. On Friday, the day that the restaurant closed, Pourkay tells Eater he had an amicable farewell with Magableh. He loaded up most of his equipment on to a truck, and told Magableh that he would return on Sunday to collect the rest.
But when he returned to retrieve the rest of his belongings — including a refrigerator, two freezers, and some of the food he had prepared last week and was storing in the refrigerator — he was denied entry. What’s more, the restaurant was still selling his food but under a slightly different name, alleges Pourkay. Magableh says the equipment Pourkay is referring to — the refrigerator for instance — is drilled into the wall, and short of demolishing the wall, Pourkay would be unable to take it.
Pourkey however tells Eater that Magableh offered no explanation at the time, and both him and Magableh called the police. The cops declined to intervene, according to Pourkay, telling him that he would have to file a lawsuit in order to get back his belongings. In one of the videos posted to Facebook, Pourkay attempts to enter the shop but is asked to leave. Police officers can be seen speaking to staff inside the pizzeria.
Pourkay is considering legal action, he tells Eater, but his situation is complicated by the fact that he never signed a contract with the pizzeria. While the previous owner was still on board, Pourkay was paying $875 in rent a week through a verbal agreement and did not see a rent increase in all seven years. When the new owners came on board five months ago, they increased his rent to $900 per week. In December they informed him that they wanted him to vacate the premises at the end of January, Pourkay tells Eater.
Pourkay also alleges that the new owners stole his recipes by watching him cook over the past few months. He alleges that they installed a video camera in the kitchen to monitor his work in the last few months before his exit.
Magableh, though, says he tried to get Pourkay to stay. He offered Pourkay a partnership in the entire business including the pizzeria, but Magableh claims that Pourkay declined because of the cost. Magableh pays $15,000 per month in rent, he says. Now, he tells Eater that he’s going to focus solely on selling pizzas and will stop with the Persian recipes following the outcry.
News of Taste of Persia’s closure first emerged in early January. Pourkay announced that new owners had taken over the pizzeria, and decided not to renew his lease past January 31.
Pourkay first started out at the Union Square holiday market in 2012 selling items like ash reshteh, a Persian soup and gheimeh bademjan, a beef stew made with yellow split lentils and eggplant. The stall was a hit and propelled Pourkay to open a counter-service spot, which had a loyal following even at the time of its closure last Friday.
On his last day of business, Pourkay announced the launch of a GoFundMe campaign to raise $95,000 to open a new location elsewhere in Manhattan. The fundraising campaign is still moving ahead, and Pourkay is hopeful to reopen in a new space in Manhattan should the fundraising effort prove successful.
Monday, February 3, 2020, 11:40 a.m.: This post has been updated with comments from the new owner of the pizzeria.
Monday, February 3, 2020, 11:05 a.m.: This post has been updated with new comments from Pourkay.