A Michelin-Starred Chef Just Left His New SoCal Steakhouse After Beefing With Striking Hotel Workers

In June, the Michelin-starred chef John Tesar opened Knife Modern Steak in Southern California. That restaurant, however, is not long for this world.

The Dana Point steakhouse will be rebranded later this year, as Tesar has severed ties with the hotel in which it’s located, Nation’s Restaurant News reported recently. The breakup between the chef and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa comes after Tesar was filmed getting into an altercation with boycotting hotel employees.

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“I want to apologize to the members of Unite Here for my behavior,” Tesar wrote in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter. “I especially want to apologize to the members of my team. I regret the situation has become a distraction and believe it is in the best interest of all parties, that I end my involvement with the restaurant in the Marriott Cliff Resort & Spa.”

Since July, hotel workers in Southern California and Arizona have been working without a contract, Nation’s Restaurant News noted. That same month, Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents employees at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott, filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against the resort, saying that it had encouraged, sanctioned, and/or failed to prevent violence by guests against picketers.

In a union letter, the group also outlined an instance in which Tesar was involved: “The situation escalated on July 25 when celebrity chef John Tesar broke a drum a worker was holding and was filmed saying to hotel employees, ‘Take your union and shove it …’” along with several profanities.

Almost 50 California legislators have stated their support for the local union and expressed concern about the situation occurring at the hotel. In a letter to Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the University of California’s chief investment officer (the resort is owned by the University of California Retirement System), they called the combative incidents “profoundly troubling” and raised doubts about the Laguna Cliffs’ management.

“In addition to being concerned about the wellbeing of the hotel’s workers, we wish to avoid disruptions to the quality of the service at the hotel and long-term damage to the hotel’s brand and reputation,” the lawmakers wrote.

Whatever ends up happening between the union and the resort, Knife Modern Steak will no longer be part of that reputation.

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