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'Top Chef' Fabio - My Old Boss Is a Jerk, Chicken

9/27/2009 2:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

'Top Chef' fan favorite winner Fabio Viviani claims his old business partner quick-fired him for all the wrong reasons -- and now he's suing the guy for everything and the kitchen sink.

Fabio and a guy named Jacopo Falleni are going after Michael Takeda -- because they claim Michael promised them handsome rewards for helping him start a restaurant in 2006 ... but never got squat.

In the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Ventura County, Fabio and Jacopo say they worked 130-140 hours a week for six months getting Cafe Firenze off the ground -- and were promised 15% ownership of the joint and $4,000 a month for their hard work.

And there's this: Fabio claims he's the reason the place got popular ... because after his stint on "Top Chef," business skyrocketed from a half-million dollars a year to nearly $4 million.

In the lawsuit, the fellas claim Takeda chickened out when it came to paying them the 4k a month and never acknowledged their 15% ownership.

They are suing for unspecified damages.


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Ya TMZ - investigate the in-law part of the story. We were wondering why Fabio hasn't been around.

1849 days ago


I would agree that the place only became so profitable because of the popularity of Fabio, what place wouldn't after his appearance on Top Chef? But only 4K a month for all the hard work that goes into being a chef and only 15% part ownership??? Please, that is nothing! And this is his father-in-law? Can't wait to see what becomes of this.

1849 days ago


This is gonna make the holiday season very interesting this year for this family. Fabio is married to Takeda's stepdaughter. This place was not that popular before Top Chef, and only $500k a year is not great for a large restaurant with a Martini bar. I only heard bad things about the restaurant before the appearance on Top Chef. Top Chef was the thing that kept this place up, with no more Fabio, Takeda should just take his money and close up shop. Most people that go to the restaurant come from out of town to have dinner from Fabio. I was shocked to hear that Fabio wasn't half owner, on the website and all his appearances it was implied that this was his restaurant and not simply a place he worked at.

1849 days ago


This year's Top Chef is so lame, the first thing I said to my husband is "I miss Fabio." Sorry he's having trouble, but it's great to see him again. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE me some Fabio!!!!!

1849 days ago


I have hard time believing this as the entire truth. I have known Mike Takeda for many years and he is a very kind, ethical man. I hope they can work this out without doing too much damage to their family.

1849 days ago


Fabio is an egomaniac and it's no surprise that he's risking his marriage to go after his father-in-law now. When I spoke with Fabio eight months ago, he acknolwedged that it was Mike who gave him a chance and invested a ton of money in Cafe Firenze. Fabio never invested any money into the business. The space is huge, and I imagine that though they are enjoying good business now it's still not enough to give Fabio 15%. In the meantime, Fabio has endorsement deals from motorcyle companies, coffee companies, and has numerous book deals and other crap in the works. He'll endorse anything to make a quick buck. Mike, on the other hand, is a trusted businessman with many years of experience. Fabio, your 15 minutes is nearly over - don't burn this very important bridge.

1849 days ago


Jacapo was fired for going 2 Hawaii with the female bartender and that’s just wrong!!! He put the whole place in jeopardy! And I think it’s time he told the truth about being married, or was that just 2 get a green card??? Fabio who is married 2 the real owners daughter, should own up and be as man. Mr. Takeda took him in, after he was fired at his last restaurant, and built him a place 2 work. After fabio pushed his wife and mother-in-law out of the away (the decorators and designers of the beautiful cafe) the egomaniacs went on a free food giveaway spree. Crashing Sponsored Ducati's and countless lemo rides, trips to Italy (without his wife) and Vegas Bashes, it all came 2 a head. Mike Takada and his wife and daughter have built a great restaurant. They are kind and humble people that don’t deserve the disrespect that jacapo and fabio have shown them!!!

1849 days ago


The two have been fired from 4 restaurants in their short careers, 2 in Ventura County and 2 in Italy. They use who & what they can and then run. Its not the 1st time nor will it be the last! They Have No Loyalty and No Honor!!! Not even to their own family!!! Dishonest & Disloyal!! Bet on it happening again, watch these guys have a pattern!

1849 days ago


I heard he took his recipes for his sauces from his previous restaurant, their family recipes, but I thought it was in the Valley, not VC. Oh yeah and his butternut squash ravioli can be found at the local restaurant supply store, just saying. Not hating on him but he never was that great on Top Chef, if my memory is correct he maybe won 1-2 challenges on the show unlike Stefan who won multiple. He was lucky the producers liked his personality to keep him favorable on the show.

1849 days ago


There's probably more to this story. I can't imagine Takeda just firing Fabio because he wants to keep the money to himself. The restaurant in Moorpark is hugely popular and that success is mainly due to Fabio's popularity and Top Chef celebrity. Yep, Mike Takeda is Fabio's step-father. Maybe there's something going on with Fabio and his wife. Hopefully things work out because it'd be a shame to see that restaurant go under. Hopefully it can survive without Fabio.

1849 days ago


always 2sides to a story

1848 days ago


I am loving all the judgments. I actually do know the true story way before it broke on tmz. And loving the thing about him stealing recipes. The recipes were the chefs who works there with them side by side John who worked with them in ventura. The restaurant wont last with out them because they are all leaving. So if you were planing to go any time soon dont cause all that will be there is the prep cooks. see you in la guys and i love and support you John, Fabio, and Jacapo Mike may be the money behind the restaurant but it takes alot more than money to run a great restaurant. And John Fabio and Jacapo have it including the money now. Good luck guys

1848 days ago


im sick of all of this.. nobody knows whats really going on, and everybody has a finger to point. the truth of the matter is that neither of those guys deserved the money they were making (and believe me, they were making it.. i saw the checks) because neither of them were there. either out of state on a book signing, or promotional deal with santa margherita, or at a ducati race, or on a vacation. i dont care how much "promoting" they claimed they were doing, they were NOT working. As for the current state of the restaurant, its not going anywhere. firenze still does great numbers, and if anyone thinks they need to have fabio there to keep people coming, youre an idiot. the service is great, the food is pretty damn good, and the ambiance is stunning... you dont need a celebrity "chef".. and i emphasize the "" around chef.. to keep your doors open. For those that care, most of what UrMaster is saying is true (and from the sound of it he was right in the middle of the action).. and EVERYTHING maria said is true. Fabio and his partner are not the good guys in this drama. if you think this takeda guy is an idiot for doing what he did.. then please, by all means, open up a restaurant for fabio, and see how easy it is to work with him.
no bad blood with any of these people, just want everyone to get the story straight. if it comes down to it, i will post more, even all, if necessary. just know that the main topic of this thread.. the exclusive post by fabio.. is complete BS.

1848 days ago


Yikes UnderTheBridge, that sucks if that's the case. I've been to the restaurant and it's very busy and I hope it continues to be without Fabio. I guess the "fame" got to his head. Hopefully everything is okay with his wife--I would hate to be in her shoes, in the center of this.

1848 days ago


Forest For the Trees, it doesn't appear that you live here in Moorpark or know anything about the community in Ventura County. Homes are expensive here. Who do you think are the people who keep places here in business? We spend most of the money here, not the tourists who come in because they saw Fabio on Top Chef. There are ranches everywhere; celebrities are everywhere. I have no vested interest in this restaurant other than I live here in Moorpark and don't want to see a business fail. And many of our businesses here are doing well, even without a celebrity chef. Maybe it won't make gazillions, but it will survive. I think the restaurant will do fine as long as the food continues to be good and service is good.

1848 days ago
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