Chef Suits

Why are some of our finest in legal trouble?

•Of food and the law: Olive's top pit boss Todd English, who cooked for the Tribute Dinner at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, has been sued by James Cafarelli, a business partner in the Olive Group Corp. Cafarelli claims English mismanaged funds intended for rent on their restaurants, instead spending the coin on personal expenses for himself, his wife, and ... his girlfriend. Which leads me to wonder just who paid for his recent Aspen journey.

•Meanwhile John Belleme, chef-proprietor of Zemi in Boca Raton, is likely contemplating the sudden fork in the road of his culinary trip: Zemi's primary investor Dennis Kozlowski has been charged in New York with tax evasion to the tune of a million bucks. The newly ex-chairman of $38 billion corporation Tyco International, Kozlowski had loaned Belleme and partners Karen Mayo (Kozlowski's then-girlfriend and now-wife) and Allison Barber $1.5 mil to start up the eatery, which took over from Dennis Max's high-profile joint Nick & Max's. The money supposedly came from Kozlowski's personal account and not Tyco funds -- some of those evaded taxes, no doubt, which will probably cost Kozlowski more in legal fees than he saved.

•Not all the news from this gastronomic banana republic is scandalous. Looks like Shula's Steak House will be opening its 25th restaurant in the Westin New York, which will be designed by Miami's own Arquitectonica. Prezzo, originally opened by then-partners Dennis Max and Burt Rapoport, has gone beyond South Florida with a branch in Tampa and a new one to open in Orlando in July. And in a serious effort to regain control of rupturing arteries, the Pompano Beach-based chain Roadhouse Grill, stuck in Chapter 11 paperwork for two months now, has announced both new menu items and a 60-restaurant European expansion. The first Roadhouse Grill has already opened in Milan, where it's highly unlikely that customers will walk out saying, "Now that'sItalian."

•More advice on dining with unloved ones: Crystal Café chef-proprietor Klime Kovaceski notes, "The best thing to do is to go to bed with your favorite restaurateur -- not literally but figuratively. Everyone should have a friendly restaurateur ... to talk to and tell him the truth about the people they are bringing: who the jerks are, who likes what or, for fun, who doesn't like what. Armed with a little advance information, a restaurateur can help facilitate a relaxed atmosphere. Some restaurants could even make Fidel Castro relax a little -- and that dude needs it.

"They should also make sure they make reservations in advance and not try at the last moment. That way, their friendly restaurateur has time to prepare for the evening -- even if preparing is just having a drink!"

 
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