Celebrity Chef Sues Eatery Over Use of Name and Likeness
Former “Iron Chef” Cat Cora has sued a Meatpacking District eatery she partnered with for the unauthorized use of her name and likeness, claiming she has been unfairly taking the “brunt of the blame” publicly for the restaurant’s “lackluster performance” and “numerous negative reviews.”
Cora, in a lawsuit filed this week in Manhattan Supreme Court, also levels claims for breach of contract and anticipatory breach of contract. She charges that Fatbird Southern Kitchen and Bar at West 14th Street “has defaulted on every payment owed to Cora and has now repudiated its agreement to make future payments” totaling $400,000.
“To make matters worse, [the Fatbird ownership group] has been operating the Fatbird Restaurant in a substandard manner,” the seven-page lawsuit, filed by Cora’s attorneys at Oved & Oved in Manhattan, states.
It adds, “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.”
A manager at the Fatbird restaurant declined to comment Thursday. No information was available regarding counsel for defendants Fatbird Restaurant Group LLC and Fatbird I LLC, the companies that own and run the eatery.
“Cat expended a significant amount of time, effort, energy and expense on this project,” said Oved & Oved name partner Terrence Oved in an email. “This suit seeks to recover for her what she was promised and place Ms. Cora where she should have been had the defendant’s performed their obligations to her pursuant to the [parties’] agreement.”
According to the complaint, Cora agreed, pursuant to a February-dated services and consultation agreement, to give Fatbird the right to use her name, likeness, food recipes and other restaurant-related services in exchange for a guaranteed $400,000 payment and a 10 percent equity interest in the Fatbird company.
Fatbird, in turn, allegedly defaulted on every installment payment owed to Cora thus far. In addition, after then promising multiple times to make certain $25,000 payments to Cora “promptly” or “this week,” the restaurant group has now repudiated any agreement to make future payments, the suit says.
Meanwhile, Cora, who resides in California, “has made numerous attempts to coordinate with Fatbird to make improvements to the restaurant, but Fatbird has refused to respond to those attempts,” according to the complaint.
“Diners and food critics have given the restaurant numerous negative reviews,” the suit further charges. Plus “the Fatbird Restaurant offers numerous menu items that Cora did not approve and contains food pairings that are inconsistent with the restaurant’s [Southern fare] concept and Cora’s high standards.”
The restaurant opened about four months ago in the heart of the bustling, trendy and high-rent Meatpacking area. A critic who visited for NY.Eater.com last summer wrote that the grilled blue point oysters were “repulsive [and] rubbery” and that his Southern-style chicken featured “flesh [that] was virtually flavorless.”
“Cat Cora’s Fatbird Flies and Crashes in the Meatpacking District,” read the review’s headline.
Cora is described in the suit as a “world-renowned chef, restaurateur, author and television personality” who currently stars in the show “My Kitchen Rules.” It also claims that she has opened more than 18 restaurants in her career.
The suit asks for actual and consequential breach damages, along with costs, and for an injunction barring Fatbird from using Cora’s name and likeness any further. The index number is 656503/2017.