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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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Forests For the Trees    

Ummmm, Under the Bridge, you say you have no interest in the restaurant except that you hate to see a business fail....Didn't you say you SAW their checks? That sounds pretty vested to me, Guy! If you are vested, just a piece of non-vested advice: cash in and hit the road.

1820 days ago


My girlfriend and I have frequented Cafe Firenze numerous times in the past 2 1/2 years. I live in Moorpark and she, Simi Valley. We were welcomed there in a way that seems to be unique to Fabio's restaurants. Before all of the drama, it was like meeting with family for dinner. Warm, inviting, and comfortable. Once Top Chef kicked off, business really did skyrocket. It was wonderful. I don't really understand why so many loyal customers claim Fabio and Jacopo were never there. Every time we were there, both of them were working hard and, yes, even prepared food and drinks.

Eventually, both of them did take some time away from the restaurant. However, it was not a vacation or anything. They left to promote their new book and scout possible future Firenze locations all over the country. To blame them for trying to expand the business is rather ridiculous. Mr. Takeda was hardly ever visible at the restaurant, yet made it very clear later that he felt he himself was the back bone of the establishment that Fabio and Jacopo had really popularized.

Once Fabio and the others left, Firenze in Moorpark had lost it's spark. Though the remaining staff really held things together for a while, it was obvious that Mr. Takeda didn't have what it took to keep the place alive. The poor staff members who remained were over worked. Personally, we believe they are extremely talented individuals and, even more so, truly cherished friends. Thanks to Kim and the others for keeping the kitchen counter the friendliest seat in the house. We wish you all the best!

Thankfully, Firenze Osteria in Hollywood (Fabio's second venture) prospered and flourished. I guess that means Fabio actually does have the necessary talent to keep the public coming back for more. After trying both Firenzes, there is no doubt that management made all the difference. And Executive Chef John Paolone has the talent to bring Fabio's dishes to life.

Recently, Cafe Firenze in Moorpark shut it's doors for a short time rather unexpectedly. Many people feared the worst, but a source very close to Fabio ensured us that it was only a temporary closure. In reality, it would reopen as Cafe Firenze once more, but under Fabio's management. Thank goodness! Now things have returned to normal for the restaurants and Firenze will continue to prosper. Please, if you have a chance, try either location. Ignore the drama. Ignore the gossip and lies. Whatever personal events are happening between Fabio and his family should remain just that... personal and between them. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the drinks. Enjoy the atmosphere. You won't regret it.

And to all our friends from the old Cafe Firenze, keep creating. Your talents will take you above and beyond. We'll miss you guys behind the counter, but don't be strangers!

(Sorry for such a long post)

1486 days ago
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