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Celeb Chef Sues Her Own W. 14th St. Restaurant for 'Lackluster Performance'

By Maya Rajamani | October 25, 2017 8:23am
 Celeb chef Cat Cora's restaurant Fatbird, at 44 Ninth Ave.
Celeb chef Cat Cora's restaurant Fatbird, at 44 Ninth Ave.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani; (inset) catcora.com

MANHATTAN — The operators of celebrity chef Cat Cora’s Southern-style Meatpacking District restaurant failed to pay her what she was promised for partnering with the eatery while serving dishes not up to the chef's "high standards," a new lawsuit charges.

Four months before Fatbird opened at 44 Ninth Ave., at the corner of West 14th Street, the former “Iron Chef America” contestant agreed to “provide certain services” and let the restaurant “use her name, image and likeness” in exchange for $400,000 and a 10 percent equity interest, a suit she filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday says.

As of Monday, however, the restaurant “has defaulted on every payment owed to Cora and has now repudiated its agreement to make future payments to Cora,” despite the fact that she has fulfilled all the promises she made in the agreement, the lawsuit claims.

“To make matters worse, Fatbird has been operating the Fatbird Restaurant in a substandard manner, but Cora has received the brunt of the blame for the restaurant’s lackluster performance, which has caused and continues to cause irreparable injury to Cora’s brand, good will and reputation as a world class chef and restaurateur,” the suit adds.

The lawsuit claims the restaurant has been serving menu items that Cora didn’t approve, including food pairings “that are inconsistent with the restaurant’s concept and Cora’s high standards.”

The suit mentions that customers and critics have slapped the restaurant with "numerous negative reviews," after a June review in Eater New York claimed it was serving up “expensive and mediocre fried chicken" on a menu “heavy with frankly stupid drinks served in jars.”

Back in January, the restaurant's manager told the local community board that Cora would act as the restaurant's chef, while the suit states her "numerous attempts to coordinate with Fatbird to make improvements to the restaurant" have been ignored.

The chef a sent a letter to the eatery on Oct. 20 asking it to stop using her name and image, the suit notes.

On a phone call with Cora in August, the restaurant’s principals acknowledged they owed the chef money and said she would be paid “promptly,” but they still haven’t followed through, according to the suit.

The chef is seeking an injunction that will stop the restaurant from using her name and likeness, as well as at least $400,000 in damages and the costs of suit.

In an email, Cora’s attorney Terrence Oved said the suit “seeks to put Ms. Cora where she should have been had the defendants performed their obligations to her pursuant to the parties’ agreement.”

Fatbird’s manager didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.