A high-profile legal dispute between chefs Daniel Patterson (Coi, Alta, et al) and Nigel Jones (Kingston 11 and the forthcoming Calabash) has seemingly come to a close, after lawyers for Jones asked that his claims against Patterson, of breach of contract, fraud, and other offenses, be dismissed.
In December of 2017, Jones and Patterson jointly announced that the pair would partner on Kaya, a restaurant space at 1420 Market Street that was most recently home to Patterson’s Alta. Its run was a brief one, closing after about a year and a half. Even at the close, Jones was outwardly positive about the venture, telling Eater SF that “I was more than happy with the first year... I feel really confident about what I’ve done and how the city responded to it.”
Behind the scenes, Jones felt differently. The partnership had attracted praise for its structure, in which Jones was reportedly a co-owner of the business, but in April 2019, he claimed that this wasn’t actually the case, and in legal filings said that the paperwork necessary to legally codify that arrangement was never filed — something that he “only found that out when I went to do my taxes,” he told Eater SF earlier this year.
In response, he filed a lawsuit against Patterson and the MidMarket Project (the company formed to manage the original Alta) claiming breach of contract, fraud, and a failure to pay suppliers (among other claims), telling Eater SF, “I don’t want to see anyone else get fucked the way I did.”
Jones gained Bay Area recognition with Kingston 11, an Uptown Oakland restaurant beloved for its classic Jamaican fare. As a handful of other upstart restaurateurs, he caught the attention of Patterson, an internationally renowned chef and entrepreneur who’s made a practice of working with the next big thing, be that Rich Table founders Evan and Sarah Rich, who both did time in Coi’s kitchen; Reem Assil, who briefly worked with Patterson on the Jack London Square restaurant Dyafa, which opened in the former location of Haven; or Heena Patel, whose Dogpatch restaurant Besharam opened in the Alta MSP space.
Patel broke ties with Patterson this spring, kicking off a sequence of intensely scrutinized splits between Patterson and chefs who’d taken over various Alta Group locations, including Assil and Jones.
Speaking about the end of those collaborations earlier this year, Patterson told Eater SF, “I pushed for partnerships in a rushed way, and I did not spend enough time on communication. I take responsibility for how these mistakes impacted the businesses and I am sorry for that.” However, he denied the allegations made by Jones in his suit and said that Jones did not turn in receipts or provide documentation for purchases or expenses related to Kaya.
According to a San Francisco Superior Court filing dated October 29 of this year, Jones and his attorney were ordered to appear in court at 10:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve to explain why the lawsuit should not be dismissed, as they had failed to file documents including proof of service (paperwork that acts as evidence that both sides of a lawsuit have received legally required documentation) and a response to an order to show cause (another document filing requirement). On December 20, four days before they were due in court, Jones attorney Roy Stanley filed a request for dismissal of the case, saying that they sought to drop the “entire action of all parties and all causes of action” — in other words, the entire case.
“I decided to drop the lawsuit against Patterson because I have more important things to focus on instead of pursuing a lawsuit,” Jones said in an email. “The lawsuit was never about money for me, instead it was about fair treatment, honesty and mutual respect. ... I have moved on long ago and focusing on launching Calabash. I am using my energy for good and positive things. I am not angry in the least at this point.”
Patterson had no comment.
This story has been updated to reflect comments from Jones and Patterson, and to clarify the history of Patterson’s partnerships.