Advertisement

Brooklyn Fare owner claims famed chef looted $500K worth of wine, ‘caviar spoons’ in bitter legal feud

Moe Issa, Cesar Ramirez and Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Moe Issa, Cesar Ramirez and Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare

Un-Fare!

The owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the restaurant’s superstar original chef, Cesar Ramirez, and his wife, Adriana Rodriguez, alleging they looted the place of a half-million dollars’ worth of fancy wine, cooking equipment, and even pots and pans, The Post has learned.

The lawsuit is the latest dramatic chapter in the long-running feud between Ramirez – a culinary genius who’s described by some former employees as a tyrannical taskmaster — and Brooklyn Fare owner Moe Issa.

Last July, Issa fired Ramirez — ending a 14-year relationship that saw Chef’s Table grow from its humble beginnings in the back of a Brooklyn gourmet store into a three-star Michelin restaurant.

Ramirez signed a lease last August to open a new restaurant at 333 Hudson St., The Post first reported. It has yet to open.

Moe Issa, owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. Robert Miller
Moe Issa, owner of Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. Robert Miller

Issa’s lawsuit — filed by Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes in Brooklyn State Supreme Court — accuses Ramirez of stealing Brooklyn Fare’s “proprietary” customer list and otherwise sabotaging the place in order to boost the launch of his restaurant.

The lawsuit, which responds to a complaint filed by Ramirez last year, alleges Ramirez and his wife committed “systematic fraud” and “outright theft” of wine, along with swiping items such as “caviar spoons from DeVine Corp” and “tableware and egg cups from Furstenberg.”

“It is sad that it had to come to this but we have no choice,” Issa told The Post.

Ramirez could not be immediately reached for comment.

Issa’s lawsuit accuses Ramirez, above, of stealing Brooklyn Fare’s “proprietary” customer list and otherwise sabotaging the place in order to boost the launch of his restaurant. Getty Images
Issa’s lawsuit accuses Ramirez, above, of stealing Brooklyn Fare’s “proprietary” customer list and otherwise sabotaging the place in order to boost the launch of his restaurant. Getty Images

Chef’s Table has been one of the nation’s most exalted eateries since it opened in downtown Brooklyn in 2009. In 2016, Issa moved the 18-seat counter restaurant to 431 W. 37th St. in Manhattan, where it continued to receive accolades from critics and customers who pay $430 for a tasting menu.

However, it lost its Michelin stars last November after the bitter divorce between the two men.

Issa and Ramirez had battled over issues including terms of the chef’s equity in the company and over what Issa viewed as an attempt by the chef to undermine his authority.

The suit claims that Ramirez and his wife engaged in “covert wrongful conduct, including corporate sabotage, in order to inflict maximum economic and reputational damage on Manhattan Fare.”

The restaurant lost its Michelin stars last November after the bitter divorce between the two men. Courtesy of Brooklyn Fare
The restaurant lost its Michelin stars last November after the bitter divorce between the two men. Courtesy of Brooklyn Fare

Their aim, the suit says, was “to gain an unfair and undeserved advantage in establishing their own long-planned competing restaurant.”

Ramirez fired the first legal salvo in the culinary conflict shortly after Issa fired him. He accused Issa of unlawful termination, failure to pay him 17 months worth of salary, “misappropriating” $400,000  in company funds and of maliciously closing the restaurant without warning and leaving customers in a lurch.

Issa responded that he merely “safeguarded” the money from the possibility of Ramirez embezzling it. A judge threw out most of Ramirez’s claims, including that Issa mishandled the $400,000.

Ramirez reportedly accused Issa of threatening his and his wife’s lives. Issa denied it. Getty Images
Ramirez reportedly accused Issa of threatening his and his wife’s lives. Issa denied it. Getty Images

Along the way, Business Insider reported last August, Ramirez accused Issa of threatening his and his wife’s lives. Issa, who denied it, subsequently had police visit Ramirez’s home to check for stolen goods, the site said. The chef was detained for eight hours and released.

Issa reopened Chef’s Table last October with two new chefs, Max Natmessnig and Marco Prins, both of whom previously worked there. The 13-course, “seafood-forward” tasting menu blends “international cooking traditions with classical French-haute technique,” according to its Web site.