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Chef Sues High-End Dallas Restaurant Group

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Vandelay Hospitality Group | Facebook

A former executive chef at a group of high-end Dallas restaurants has sued them, alleging he witnessed a pattern and practice of discrimination against employees.

On Aug. 3, Oswaldo ‘Ozzy’ Samano filed a lawsuit in Dallas County’s 101 Judicial District Court against Vandelay Hospitality Group (VHG) and CEO William Hunter Pond.

“I was shocked,” Samano told the Dallas Express. “The restaurant industry has always been about appearances but never had it been made so clear to me what I was supposed to do to be successful. Hunter told me that if I didn’t fire the blacks, the Mexicans, and the ugly people, then I would never become a success in the restaurant industry.”

VHG owns and operates Drake’s Hollywood, the East Hampton Sandwich Company, Hudson House, Brentwood and D.I. Mack’s.

Mr. Samano was directed to ensure only “pretty faces” and “pretty women” were hired for front-of-house while “Mexican power” and “Mexicans” were needed for back-of-house,” wrote Samano’s attorney Levi McCathern in the complaint. “If a candidate or employee did not fit this bill, then they were either not hired or terminated.”

The cause of action is a violation of Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, which prohibits unlawful retaliation as well as discrimination based on age and race.

“We think that Mr. Samano’s experience is not the only one like this,” Attorney McCathern said in an interview. “It is absolutely outrageous that in 2021 people are still being discriminated against based on the color of their skin, the makeup of their face and body, or their economic status. These long-bygone policies are best left in the past as they have no place in the present or the future in a civilized society.”

Samano, who is of Hispanic descent, was allegedly wrongfully terminated on trumped up allegations.

“Ozzy Samano is a legend in the restaurant industry for the revolutionary concepts he has created,” Attorney McCathern said. “Under Ozzy’s leadership, Vandelay flourished and grew into what it is today. Unfortunately, even Ozzy wasn’t immune to the wave of racism that wreaked havoc in so many lives within the company.”

According to a Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division complaint, Samano was fired based on a false complaint accusing him of using excessive profanity.

“The EEOC granted us our Notice of Right to Sue letter (NORTS), officially clearing the way for us to pursue Mr. Samano’s case in the court room rather than just via negotiation,” McCathern said. “Negotiations up to that point had been less than fruitful with Hunter’s initial response to our notice of claims being ‘handle these jokers’ and forwarding the email to his attorney. So, we decided if he wasn’t going to take this seriously, we would take it to someone who would like the judge and the American public.”

Representatives for the restaurant chain declined to comment.

“VHG has been nothing but dismissive of these deadly serious complaints,” McCathern added. “They have acted like they are no big deal, or that they haven’t happened. In some cases, they have blamed the victim or even made-up stories in order to explain their behavior. They are a sick excuse for an American business and they have shown time and again that they do not care about treating people the way that they deserve to be treated with decency and basic respect.”

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