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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.

49 COMMENTS

No Avatar
31.

parlayer    

Id swear that is Julia Childs!!

860 days ago
32.

Heather    

For those of you who are clearly misunderstanding what the article is saying, THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT "TIPPING OUT"!!! Yes, tipping out or tipshare is common. I work in the industry and I have NEVER heard of pooling tips, except maybe bartenders or if you are serving a large party with other servers. As a few others who are able to comprehend what they read stated, you are usually tipped based on service and some servers do a fantastic job and others spend the night in the back drinking coffee. If I bust my butt and make $150 in a night and a lazy server makes $50, why should he get part of the money that I earned? (Note: I said other server, not bus boy or greeter). I do agree that the server should have just left if he didn't like it, but he's not be greedy by thinking that pooling tips is not right. What's the point of being tipped?

860 days ago
33.

Combichrist     

LAWRENCE: 7 hours ago

As a former waiter in my youth I fully agree that having to pool your tips is a joke. Now before you say I'm wrong understand that I'm talking about pooling your tips, not tipping your bus boy and bartender. I worked very hard at my job and provided a level of service above and beyond what my fellow waiters and waitresses were providing so I earned more per shift then they did. Why should I have to give them part of the money I worked hard for when they were providing less. In the end it resulted in them putting in their money and losing nothing while part of mine was going towards paying their bus boys and bartender. This only makes for worse service at a restaurant and is a bad idea by management. Feel free to disagree but if you've never been in the service industry where you depend on tips then you have no clue what you're talking about.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

@Lawrence;

I completely understand what you are saying and have to concur with your sentiments. I've not ever worked in the service industry but do eat out for dinner at upscale restaurants each night of the week.


It is UNFAIR for those whom work hard to give the best guest service experience whilst others coast on by expecting that their colleagues will pick up their slack. I tip 45% (30% minimum) and have never received standard to below standard services....ever. I make sure that I tip in cash and suggest that my server pockets 20-30% (more at their indescretion) of my tip as he/she has gone above and beyond to satsify my and my party's needs.


Laws need to be changed so that waitstaff employees don't have to rely on tips to eke out a living. Standard practise of hourly pay is far below the manadatory Federal minimum wage. Usually around $2-3 an hour. Funny thing is, there are restaurants out there that pay minimum to above minimum wages PLUS tips. Hmmm.....

860 days ago
34.

SC2    

Maybe you all need to understand the wage and labor laws, it should not be the wait staff's responsibility to pay the wages of other employees, just because it is done does not make it right. It is long past due that restaurants abide by state and federal laws of employment. I speak from experience having worked in both service and management.

860 days ago
35.

Combichrist     

LAWRENCE: 7 hours ago

As a former waiter in my youth I fully agree that having to pool your tips is a joke. Now before you say I'm wrong understand that I'm talking about pooling your tips, not tipping your bus boy and bartender. I worked very hard at my job and provided a level of service above and beyond what my fellow waiters and waitresses were providing so I earned more per shift then they did. Why should I have to give them part of the money I worked hard for when they were providing less. In the end it resulted in them putting in their money and losing nothing while part of mine was going towards paying their bus boys and bartender. This only makes for worse service at a restaurant and is a bad idea by management. Feel free to disagree but if you've never been in the service industry where you depend on tips then you have no clue what you're talking about.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

@Lawrence;

I completely understand what you are saying and have to concur with your sentiments. I've not ever worked in the service industry but do eat out for dinner at upscale restaurants each night of the week.


It is UNFAIR for those whom work hard to give the best guest service experience whilst others coast on by expecting that their colleagues will pick up their slack. I tip 45% (30% minimum) and have never received standard to below standard services....ever. I make sure that I tip in cash and suggest that my server pockets 20-30% (more at their indescretion) of my tip as he/she has gone above and beyond to satsify my and my party's needs.


Laws need to be changed so that waitstaff employees don't have to rely on tips to eke out a living. Standard practise of hourly pay is far below the manadatory Federal minimum wage. Usually around $2-3 an hour. Funny thing is, there are restaurants out there that pay minimum to above minimum wages PLUS tips. Hmmm.....

860 days ago
36.

Sandi    

The waiter is a nutjob. He assumes the credit for all activities that result in the patron receiving and enjoying his/her food. High-quality food and presentation affects the tip. A busperson that clears and set up tables quietly and efficiently affects the patron's wait for a table, which also impacts the tip. This waiter is far too full of himself, and completely ignoring the fact that a meal is the product of many coordinated players. A bit egocentric, hmmm?

860 days ago
37.

all about the money    

In my early 20's I worked at a 5 Star/ 5 Diamond property as a sous chef. Now we used to be really busy and some nights would do over 250 covers. The wait staff always taunted the kitchen staff bragging about their tips after a busy night often going home with $500+ a night in tips. Fast forward to our Christmas Grand Buffet. Many of our regulars that came in for Sunday brunches and other Grand Buffets during the year would give envelops with a "gift" to various Kitchen staff that they had gotten to know every week as a thank you for good service. One year one of the wait staff found out how much was in those envelops and threw an absolute fit demanding the Matree'd collect the envelops and give them to the wait staff...that we were taking their tips. After several of the wait staff liked to flaunt their $200-300 dollar table tips they got upset that the kitchen actually got some recognition and said we were stealing their tips. Our customers specifically sought out members of our kitchen crew to tell them thank you and a little Christmas cheer but the wait staff was so greedy they felt that any tips were theirs and that the kitchen didn't deserve tips. First thing the wait staff needs to learn is that without the kitchen they wouldn't make any tips. A few of them forgot that in their greed. Not all wait staff are like that. We had a few that would contribute to a beer fund after a busy night when every thing went smooth and it was always welcomed and appreciated. Heck even our Matree'd would buy a bottle of high dollar wine or champagne and give the kitchen staff and wait staff a free glass at the close of a busy night. Was really shocked at the mutiny we almost had from several of the wait staff when they found out some of our chefs were getting $300-500 dollar gifts from regulars at Christmas. Greed can do really nasty things to people.

857 days ago
38.

dixie burch    

Pooling tips is the only way to go. Taking the order is only
1/4 of the equation. Cooking it, serving it [[as runners do], continung service and clearing tables during and after meal, and washing and storing the dishes, is the other 3/4.

856 days ago
39.

charles    

give him his money

855 days ago
40.

DCL    

Actually, most people don't know this but in many states (such as Colorado, where I live) waiters are employed as "tipped employees" and are definitely NOT paid minimum wage. When I was a waiter (and I have worked almost all positions one can work in a restaurant), my pay was $2.13 an hour (yes, this is legal) + tips. It is possible to work over 30 hours waiting tables in a week and net a paycheck of less than $100. Kitchen staff DOES get paid miminum wage.
Sure you can earn way more than that as a waiter, over $200 a day sometimes (if you work a 12 hour day), but the wait staff has the reality of dealing with the customers who tend to blame the poor servers if they have to wait a long time or don't like the food. Hence, their job really does suck more in contrast to kitchen staff who get to drink, joke around and generally have some fun back in the kitchen out of customer sight. The restaurant pays the kitchen staff, the customers pay the waiters, and if you haven't worked in a restaurant, shut your fat mouth, you don't know about it.

853 days ago
41.

Jake    

The cooks most certainly deserve a portion of those tips. They are making the food that you are walking out to people...basically they are doing most of the work to make a restaurant successful.

751 days ago
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