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Legal Times reports that Rasika West End is suing its former chef Manish Tyagi for more than $30,000 the restaurant says it spent on immigration legal fees, housing, training, and marketing for the chef, who left before his contract ran out. The lawsuit also accuses Tyagi of exploiting Rasika’s name and reputation and using “proprietary and confidential business secrets” to obtain a new position.
According to the complaint filed Friday in D.C. Superior Court, Rasika West End recruited Tyagi from India in 2011. Because he was not a U.S. citizen, the restaurant hired an immigration law firm to help Tyagi obtain a visa. The restaurant states in the lawsuit that it also invested $13,750 during his three-month training period and $10,000 in “developing Tyagi’s name, profile and drawing power.”
The suit says Tyagi signed an employment agreement which stipulated that if he voluntarily terminated his three-year contract, he would be required to reimburse the restaurant for its expenses and investment in him. The restaurant also paid for Tyagi’s rent and is seeking compensation for the four months—March through June—remaining on the lease after Tyagi left the restaurant.
Rasika owner Ashok Bajaj tells Y&H that Tyagi disappeared after Bajaj had given him a two-week vacation earlier this year. After those two weeks, Bajaj says Tyagi called to say his mother-in-law was in the hospital in India and asked if he could extend his vacation a week, which Bajaj says he allowed. “He just disappeared,” Bajaj says. “After that we never saw him, never.”
San Francisco restaurant news site Inside Scoop SF reported in late March that Tyagi was hired as chef of Indian restaurant Amber Dhara. Tyagi answered the phone at the restaurant this afternoon and said he was unaware of the lawsuit. He says he mailed his resignation to the restaurant after his vacation to India. “It was not actually a healthy experience I had with them,” he said. He says the illness of his mother-in-law was also a factor. He declined to comment further.
Bajaj says Tyagi had confidential recipes for the Rasika’s signature dishes like palak chaat and black cod. “He just took everything with him,” Bajaj says.
“He walked out on the lease… he walked out on his obligations,” Bajaj says. “I’m just doing what I’m forced to do.”
Bajaj says he has no immediate plans to replace Tyagi. Rasika chef Vikram Sunderam, who already oversees both Rasika locations, is looking after both locations with the help of sous chefs.
Photo by Jessica Sidman