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'MasterChef' Graham Elliot

FIRES Back at Lawsuit ...

I'm Allowed to Take Your Tips!

4/21/2012 1:18 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

"MasterChef" Graham Elliot is FED UP with the lawsuit recently filed against him and insists everything he did in his Chicago restaurant was legally within his rights ... this according to new docs.

If you recall ... the culinary God is being sued by former Graham Elliot Restaurant employee Gregory Curtis, who alleges that Elliot was skimming tips from waiters and giving it to the kitchen staff ... which Curtis claims would be a violation of federal law.

But in a response filed earlier this month, Elliot claims the suit is BS. While he does admit he DID take tip money and pool it for other staff members -- bartenders, bussers, and food runners -- he is adamant ... under federal labor laws, it was totally legit. 

Elliot now wants the judge to throw out the suit completely and force Curtis to cover his legal fees as well.

If only there was a tip pool for that.


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90% of people marry their 7th-12th grade love. since you've read this, you will be told good news tonight. post this on 9 comments or your worst week starts now

923 days ago


It is illegal. Check your federal labor laws!

923 days ago


It's completely legal and expected in most kitchens. Tip pools have been used in 4 of the big chain restaurants I've worked in. It only makes sense considering if the food sucks you get nothing so the kitchen should get a cut.

923 days ago


Chef will lose this lawsuit, ask Mario batali.

923 days ago


Hey fatty how about giving a lump sum based on the profits YOU made for the night and distribute it among the kitchen staff. The servers aren't your personal piggy bank.

923 days ago


He'll be dead soon with a shape like that.

923 days ago


Really? People want to watch that guy cook? Pass.

923 days ago

buzz kill    

Hey its Porky Pig.

923 days ago


As a person who has worked in the restaurant/bar industry for 20 + years, it is PERFECTLY legal for servers to have to tip their bussers, bartenders, and food runners. If it weren't for THEM the server wouldn't be able to turn as many tables or make as much money as they do! If the server had to make their OWN drinks, bus their OWN tables and run ALL OF THEIR FOOD THEMSELVES it would take much longer to turn a table therefore making them less tips for more work!!

923 days ago


I get that the waitstaff get tipped by the patrons but the chefs in the back deserve some of the tip money too. At the end of the day, chefs make less money than the waiters which is ridiculous because there's a bigger skillset involved. I think it should be at the discretion of the restaurant how tips should be split as long as the owners/managers aren't taking any of it for themselves.

923 days ago


seriously Im sick of tipping EVERYONE. I say pay everyone the damn minimum wage & do away with tipping. Do a crappy serving job, fire their a$$, there are many people in need of a job so they can easily be replaced. Tipping has gotten out of hand.

923 days ago


mario batali and lidia's son were sued for the same/similar thing.
they have to pay up big bucks.

923 days ago


I don't see why this is such a big deal...I've been in the service industry for 10 years and every restaurant I've ever worked in has always taken a percentage of your earned tips and divided them among the kitchen and support staff.....

922 days ago


Without the busers, dish washers, food runners, and bartenders, the waiter would be doing a whole lot more. At my old job we did everything but cook and wash the dishes, and we always tipped out the dish washer at the end of the night. Honestly, if they have all of those people helping them out, why would they think they deserve ALL of the tips? All they do is take the orders.

922 days ago


"Sierra:  4 hours ago
I don't see why this is such a big deal...I've been in the service industry for 10 years and every restaurant I've ever worked in has always taken a percentage of your earned tips and divided them among the kitchen and support staff....."

I agree... however, it appears that the issue the waiter has is that all of his tips are being pooled, not just a percentage, which is the norm. I know waiters will take say 30% of their wages to be split amongst the runners, bartender, etc... I've never heard about the kitchen staff, i.e. cooks and sus chefs, having to be tipped out, they SHOULD be making more than minimum wage, especially at a restaurant owned by a famous chef, busboys and runners should also be making minimum wage, whereas the bartender and waiters have a different salary structure which is why they only tip a percentage of what they sold to busboys and runners. However, if the waiter is being made to pool ALL of his tips to be decided, I don't think that is legal nor customary in this kind of establishment. Waiters and bartenders at high end restaurants and lounges make good money but those people are pooling a PERCENTAGE not all of their tips.

922 days ago
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