Renowned chef Daniel Humm has filed a lawsuit against Sydell Group — the boutique hotel operator that owns the acclaimed NoMad hotel chain — claiming that the company still owes him nearly $2 million following his split from the company a year ago. Bloomberg first reported the news.
In the suit, Humm claims that the slick hotel chain owes him $1.89 million. The company allegedly agreed to pay Humm that amount last year to settle a dispute over nearly $6 million in unpaid management fees and reimbursable operating expenses from his time spent running the food and beverage programming at the NoMad hotels with former business partner Will Guidara, according to the lawsuit.
Humm initially agreed to the $1.89 million payment early last year to resolve the unpaid fees dispute in order to “preserve the goodwill among the parties” and “avoid litigation,” according to the lawsuit and the Bloomberg report. Now, Humm is going after the company in court to either enforce the settlement agreement or recover “all outstanding management fees,” the report says. The lawsuit alleges that the boutique hotel operator has “unjustly enriched itself by continuing to use the trade secrets and intellectual property developed to create the restaurants” after Humm left, Bloomberg reports.
Humm and Sydell officially split in January 2020, seven months after Guidara and Humm announced that they were going their separate ways. Guidara and Humm opened the first NoMad restaurant in New York City in 2012, one year after they purchased fine dining star Eleven Madison Park, according to Bloomberg. Under their leadership, the NoMad restaurants flourished, with the New York outpost attracting critical acclaim for dishes like its rendition of a whole roast chicken. Its cocktail program garnered plenty of attention as well, with the NoMad named the top bar in North America in 2017 by World’s 50 Best.
Sydell currently operates NoMad locations in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and London, according to its website. After severing ties with Sydell last year, Humm’s current portfolio of restaurants includes Eleven Madison Park and Davies and Brook in London. The chef’s fast casual concept, Made Nice, permanently closed in November.
Update, January 13, 9:30 a.m.: Sydell Group provided the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
This lawsuit is baseless and inaccurate in nearly all respects. We entered into a long-term partnership with Make it Nice — founded by Will Guidara and Daniel Humm — to manage the food and beverage operations at the NoMad hotels, because we believed in them and what they were capable of accomplishing together with our support. When they decided to end their working relationship with one another — a decision they made without any prior consultation with us — and Will exited the company, we soon lost confidence in Daniel’s ability to operate the restaurants at the level both we and our guests have come to expect. We believe that our partnership with Make it Nice could have flourished for many years, but the changes to their business structure and the lack of focus that ensued made that simply impossible. We believe that this lawsuit is intended to be a distraction from those facts, and ownership intends to defend that position vigorously.