By: Mary Ann Pekara
April 27, 2011
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who has made regular appearances on a number of Food Network programs including "Chopped," recently filed for personal bankruptcy, the New York Times reports.
According to the news provider, the chef, who has operated a number of high-profile restaurants over the years, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on April 6 in federal bankruptcy court in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The news source reports that the move is an attempt by Zakarian to stave off more than $1 million in legal claims from his kitchen staff and a former partner at Country in the Carlton Hotel, which closed approximately three years ago.
In total, 179 creditors are listed in the Chapter 7 filing, with 152 being former cooks at Country. The cooks are reportedly involved in a class-action lawsuit against Zakarian over claims that he did not pay his workers time-and-a-half for overtime and took money out of their paychecks for meals that they had allegedly not been given.
The plaintiffs are reportedly seeking $1 million in damages and $250,000 in penalties, according to the Times.
"Geoffrey Zakarian filed for bankruptcy due to the enormous costs of defending a class-action lawsuit by former employees of a restaurant in which Mr. Zakarian is no longer involved," said the chef's publicist, Jaret T. Keller. "Mr. Zakarian denied the allegations in the lawsuit but it would cost him several hundred thousand dollars to defend the action."
An attorney for the cooks told the news source that the bankruptcy filing lists assets not exceeding $50,000 and liabilities of up to $1 million. He added that the Chapter 7 filing puts any litigation against the chef on hold, including the class action suit, questioning the fact that Zakarian was allowed to file for bankruptcy in the first place.
"Isn't it interesting that a TV celebrity chef, who opens multiple new restaurants around the country, can file for bankruptcy?," said the attorney.
Since Country closed in 2008, Zakarian has reportedly opened the National Bar and Dining Rooms in the Benjamin Hotel and the Lambs Club restaurant in the Chatwal Hotel in New York City, according to the news source.
The Miami New Times reports that Zakarian will also head the full-service restaurant and rooftop pool lounge at the Dream South Beach hotel in Miami, which is set to open in early June.