A former employee of the restaurant group behind Michelin-starred SF restaurants Saison and Angler alleges that the company fired him for reporting workplace issues.
The former culinary director for the company that owns seasonal seafood spot Angler says that the waterfront restaurant’s basement “was not sealed off to prevent vermin and insect infestation,” and that the downstairs spot in which “items such as pickles, fermented watermelon radishes, flour, sugar, grains and spices” were stored “suffered from generally unkempt conditions, including dust and rodent feces,” the Bay Area News Group reports.
Jonathan de Wolf started his job at Saison Hospitality Group, the company behind (two-Michelin-starred) fine dining destination Saison and (one star) Angler (which has locations on the Embarcadero and in L.A.) in August 2017. According to the Bay Area News Group, as part of this role as culinary director, he was involved in the renovation of Angler’s spacious waterfront space as it prepared to open in September of 2018. But in a lawsuit filed late last week, de Wolf says that the company fired him because he reported Angler’s alleged food storage issues and “inhumane temperatures” in the restaurant group’s office to its management and ownership.
De Wolf, who was featured prominently in media coverage of Angler’s launch, has been a spokesperson for food quality in the past: in a Wall Street Journal item from July of 2018, he noted that many diners (presumably, at spots other than Angler) “don’t realize that a lot of times the fish they’re getting, the best case scenario, is three days old. For the most part, it’s five days old,” but said regarding restaurants that serve less-than-fresh fish “I get it. I don’t blame them for trying to have a business that’s profitable.”
Via email Saison Hospitality Group said that they “vehemently deny these allegations, which were made by a disgruntled former employee who was terminated due to poor job performance. We pride ourselves on creating a safe and fulfilling work environment for our team at Angler, evidenced by our low turnover rate and many longstanding, loyal employees.” According to San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Angler has an inspection score of 92 out of 100, after a January 29 visit revealed two “moderate risk” violations: “inadequately cleaned or sanitized food contact surfaces” and “noncompliance with shell fish tags or display.” Neither rodent droppings nor dust were noted.
And in other news...
- Though the possession, sale, and purchase of shark fins for soup and other dishes has been banned in California, the contraband still passes through local ports. [East Bay Times]
- Plant-laden Russian Hill bar Macondray was designed to be an extension of co-owner Jake Roberts and interior designer Marissa Marsh’s shared home. [Architectural Digest]
- The owners of Hayes Valley wine bar Fig and Thistle (and a Castro bottle shop called Fig And Thistle Market) want to open a cannabis dispensary in Potrero Hill, to the (perhaps unsurprising) dismay of neighbors who point to four weed shops in the vicinity. [Potrero View]
- San Jose’s QTViet Cafe Collective is intended to help queer and trans members of the Vietnamese community through traditional cooking and food. [SF Chronicle]
- Kokak Chocolates is set to bring its graphic and whimsical chocolates to the Castro in “a few weeks.” [Hoodline]
- Imported Chinese garlic makes up about 80 percent of the U.S. market of the bulb, but the country’s new coronavirus epidemic has drastically slowed production. The shortfall could be a boon for growers in Gilroy, which has typically struggled to compete with Chinese prices — but consumers will end up paying a lot more (as much as 60 percent, some analysts say) for the spice. [Wall Street Journal]
- Renowned SF chef Traci Des Jardins is heading to New York this fall, to whip up a dinner for April Bloomfield, the former Tosca owner and former business partner of alleged sexual harasser Ken Friedman. [New York Times]
- North Berkeley institution Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen was sold to an as-yet-unnamed party, but its sellers say “Saul’s is staying Saul’s.” [Berkeleyside]