Chef Jose Garces’ has filed for bankruptcy and will sell the 13 remaining restaurants in his portfolio, which once numbered as large as 30.
The move could either grant the chef more time in repaying debts or to reduce the amount owed under bankruptcy protection law. It also clears the way for Garces to sell the remaining restaurants. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he has an offer of $5 million from Louisiana-based Ballard Brands, which owns the Original City Diner, Wow Café, and PJ’s Coffee.
The “Iron Chef” alum filed the paperwork last week but was almost immediately challenged by his investors who claim Garces misrepresented the details of their initial agreement more than a decade ago. The presiding judge did not overturn the bankruptcy filings but instead kicked it down the road with plans for a follow-up hearing May 21, per the Inquirer.
The parties filing the motion to invalidate the bankruptcy are among Garces’ earliest supporters. Jim Sorkin and Tom and Maria Spinner reported that when they first entered into business with Garces he signed contracts stipulating that he would obtain the support of at least one partner before seeking bankruptcy protection.
It’s just the latest episode in an ongoing scandal that’s been dragging out for nearly a year. Since last fall, Garces has amassed six lawsuits not just from investors but also from food suppliers and one landlord, all citing, more or less, the same charge of business mismanagement. Per the claims, the celebrity chef has routinely shortchanged partners and vendors. Nevertheless, just weeks before the bankruptcy announcement, Garces had still been planning to open two new restaurants in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Now it appears the chef will be completely divorced from the restaurants he founded.
This plight stands in stark contrast of Garces’ past fortunes. In 2005, his maiden concept, Amada, received much fanfare when it opened in his hometown of Philadelphia. Then in 2010, his star rose even higher thanks to national exposure via the Food Network. The tides began to shift unfavorably for Garces in 2014 when four of his restaurants closed, along with the Revel Casino that housed them. This March, the New York City outpost of Amada closed its doors after less than two years in operation—and, according to Eater, having run $1.3 million above its construction budget.