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'MasterChef' Graham Elliot Sued

Stop Giving Away My Tips!

3/16/2012 10:10 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Graham Elliot, a world-class culinary god
Chef Graham Elliot -- a world-class culinary god who starred as a judge on "MasterChef" -- is being sued by an extremely bitter ex-waiter at his famous Chicago restaurant ... who claims Graham conspired to cheat certain staff members out of their tips.

According to a lawsuit filed in Illinois, Gregory Curtis claims he was a waiter for Graham Elliot at a place called Graham Elliot (yes, he named the restaurant after himself).

Curtis claims the restaurant forced him to partake in a tip pool -- where all tips are pooled and then distributed out to various staffers ... including bartenders, bussers, food runners and cooks.

But Curtis is pissed -- claiming the food runners and cooks had NO RIGHT to his tip money ... because they "do not customarily and regularly receive tips."

According to the suit, Curtis claims his hourly pay should have been higher as a result of the B.S.  tip pool ... so he's suing for the lost wages for himself and anyone else who was affected.

Calls to Graham Elliot (the chef) and Graham Elliot (the restaurant) have not been returned.


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Cooks shouldn't get the tips. I was a cook for years and worked salary only. As does every other cook I know. - Food runners (Expeditors) on the other hand DO receive tips. - But pooling tips is BS in my book bc bad servers & staff share in the glory of the ones who work their arses off.

949 days ago

Pudding Tang    


949 days ago


what an idiot - was some one holding a gun to his head forcing him to work there?? - it is SOP to tip at least 10% to bus ppl, expid., bartender etc., and even w/ pooling you know he was still going home w/ at least $400 - $500 at that resturant - kinda wish they let him stay w/ out tipping out - he wouldn't have got 1 drink, 1 table cleaned, 1 person to carry plates, or a check cooked correctly and woulda made $5 bucks - you don't make huge tips all by yourself.... greedy....

949 days ago


This case doesnt stand a chance. A precedent had been set with the Kilgore vs. Outback case. Were the courts decided that since the bussers, hostess, etc received tips through the tip pool, they were indeed tip employees. Below is the decision by the court:

949 days ago


I work in the industry.
Bussers, cooks, runners and hosts all get tipped out.
They all bust their asses.
I work in a restaurant with a tip pool. Bussers, Cooks, runners and hosts get a percentage and servers get their tips based on their hours.
In the end, it works out waaaaay better. Everybody works together and you never get screwed.

What a butthole. You don't have to work somewhere with a tip pool.

949 days ago


In the mean time master chef Graham doesn't appear to have missed any meals.

949 days ago


As a customer, I hate tipping. I wish all staff were paid fair $$ so tipping was not necessary. They could take Elliot's snack $$ and have very reasonable salaries.

Elliot should pay his people well enough so this is not an issue for anyone.

949 days ago


That is VERY common. For a fact I have never worked in a full-service restaurant where you have not had to “Tip Out” or pool a small portion of tips for “Runners”, “Bussers” etc. This will get thrown out. Get over it, without them you would not turn your tables... for a fact I would tip them more to get more attention to my section. I would turn tables faster and make more money

949 days ago


Did this waiter seriously think he was getting tipped on his service. My cook ex hubby taught a server a lesson when told "be grateful for the tips we give you" every other bill ended up on the grill or pushed to the back of the line. When asked at the end of the day "How were your tips today" the server replied "Lousy" My ex replied "Now dont forget where your tips come from"

949 days ago


Traditionally cooks are not part of the tip pool. They make a very generous pay per hour. Usually the busboys are included. This is just a cheap way for the owner to pay cheaper wages. The Waiter/waitress pays taxes on their tips wear as the others do not. The waitstaff and the busboys make minimum wage or below depending on the state, the others make above if not way above. A good waiter/waitress will tip their good cooks, but it not mandatory. I was in the restuarant business for over 35 years so I think I know a little about this.

949 days ago


An additional comment: Pooling tips is unfair to the really good waiter/waitress. Some provide above and beyond service where some will coast by and still receive the same as those who work hard.

949 days ago


Any place that makes you tip out the cooks is RIPPING OFF the waitstaff. Anyone else, even the food runners, are fair game. Cooks make a good salary, not minimum wage.

949 days ago


So really - NONE of you at TMZ have worked in the service industry? Geezus. Anyway, what is happening with those tips is standard. Generally, the waiter/ess will take a percentage out for the kitchen and a smaller percentage for the front of the house like bussers and hosts. I personally believe that any food establishment that DOESN'T have that policy is being run by a s***bag.

949 days ago


hmmmmm.... ive waitressed for years... you always tip the help 5-10% of your tips go in a "pool" depending on how much help you got that day from the busser. This guy is a jerk I live in Chicago and Hmmmm just wonder is this guy a certain ethnic catagory? here is chgo certain ethnicities think that when they work they don't have to tip out as waiters and then when they go out to eat they act like they are the only table in the place. They don't SEE the water running around to the other tables and rudely will yell out as you are talking to another table (you know you don't interupt ANY CONVERSATION) usu wait till the waitress starts walking away from her other table then you can say "excuse me" but whatever. Then they wonder why nobody wants them around those Canadians.

949 days ago


If you don't like the terms of the job, go elsewhere. No one is "forced" to do anything unless you're in prison or married.

949 days ago
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