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Chef John Tesar and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif., have agreed to part ways. Tesar opened a Knife Modern Steak restaurant at the property in June.

Chef John Tesar, Calif. resort restaurant end relationship amid labor dispute

Modern Steak at Laguna Cliffs Marriott remains open, but it will be rebranded late in the year, a hotel spokesperson says. Tesar apologizes to Unite Here union members.

Chef John Tesar and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa have agreed to end their relationship immediately in the wake of elected officials sending a letter to the owner of the hotel that registered their concern over an ongoing labor dispute.

Dallas-based Tesar had opened a Knife Modern Steak restaurant at the property in June, but he become a target of a recent letter by elected leaders and the United Here Local 11 union to the owner of the property after he was videotaped in an incident with picketers.

The resort is owned by the University of California Retirement System and managed by Plano, Texas-based Aimbridge Hospitality.

Unite Here Local 11, which represents workers at the property, on Aug. 25 issued a press release that said 48 California legislators, including state treasurer Fiona Ma and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), had written Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the University of California’s chief investment officer, to express concern over developments at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif., which serves as home for the Dallas-based Tesar’s Knife Modern Steak restaurant.

The union had said the labor dispute at the hotel had created financial and reputational risks for the owner of the property.

The union letter detailed concerns about instances of violence directed at workers that have occurred at the property during the labor dispute.

On July 17, Unite Here Local 11 filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against the hotel, alleging that the resort encouraged, sanctioned, and/or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent violence by guests against picketers.

“The charge is pending investigation by the National Labor Relations Board,” the group said. “The situation escalated on July 25 when celebrity chef John Tesar broke a drum a worker was holding and was filmed saying to hotel employees, ‘Take your union and shove it. …’” as well as adding several profanities.

In a post Thursday on X (formerly known as Twitter), Tesar apologized to the union members.

“I want to apologize to the members of Unite Here for my behavior on July 25th, 2023,” Tesar wrote. “My concern for my children clouded my judgement, and I lost my cool.

“I especially want to apologize to the members of my team,” he continued. “I regret the situation has become a distraction and believe it is in the best interest of all parties that I end my involvement with the restaurant in the Marriott Cliff Resort & Spa,” adding that he hoped “an amicable settlement to the strike is reached as soon as possible.”

The legislators’ letter said the resort’s earlier incidents were “profoundly troubling” and raise “serious concerns about management of the hotel and the effectiveness of the University of California in managing its investment assets.”

On Aug. 23, the union local announced a boycott of all Los Angeles hotels until the labor dispute is resolved. Hotel workers across Southern California and Arizona have been working without a contract since July 1.

The lawmakers’ letter said: “In addition to being concerned about the wellbeing of the hotel’s workers, we wish to avoid disruptions to the quality of the service at the hotel and long-term damage to the hotel’s brand and reputation.”

Unite Here Local 11 is a labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on X: @RonRuggless

TAGS: Operations
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