Starr and Olexy: We Only Paid to Make Wage Case Go Away

Left: Aimee Olexy (Talula’s Garden/Facebook). Center: The interior of Talula’s Garden (photo via Starr Restaurants). Right: Stephen Starr (photo by Jacqueline Larma/AP).

Yesterday, Foobooz reported that a yearlong U.S. Department of Labor investigation found that Talula’s Garden, Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy’s farm-to-table eatery, had violated minimum wage, overtime, and record keeping laws after a former employee filed a complaint alleging that he and other staffers had been made to work off the clock.

Today, Washington Square Restaurant Partners — the formal name of Talula’s Garden — sent us the following statement.  Read more »

Talula’s Garden Must Pay Nearly $400K for Labor Violations

Talula’s Garden owners Aimee Olexy (left), Stephen Starr (right)

It’s one of the dark secrets of the restaurant industry that cooks and other staffers are often made to do prep work — the peeling, chopping, and other tasks in the kitchen and dining room that must be done for a successful night’s service — off the clock, hours before their paid shift officially starts.

We reported last year that one Philly restaurant — Talula’s Garden, co-owned by Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy — was being investigated for these unscrupulous practices.

And now, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor has found that Talula’s Garden violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act relating to overtime, minimum wage, and record keeping for making line cooks, bartenders, and servers work off the clock.

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Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy Are Bringing The Love to Rittenhouse This Fall

Aimee Olexy (left), Stephen Starr (right)

When Stephen Starr began building his empire, he did so with concept restaurants: martini bars, Asian-fusion buddha shrines, soul food diners, and conveyor belt sushi restaurants. (That was then — decades ago. Now, he’s a James Beard award-winning restaurateur, teaming up with some of the most talented culinary stars in the world, opening chef-driven restaurants across the globe.)

But Aimee Olexy, his business partner and the owner behind two Washington Square stalwarts, Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily, hates the term “concept” — always has. That’s why, when Philly Mag asked her to tell us all about the new restaurant she’s opening in Rittenhouse Square (in the old Serafina space at 130 South 18th Street), she barely gave us a straight answer.

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Peter Serpico’s Rittenhouse Korean Restaurant Has Been Called Off

Peter Serpico in front of his restaurant, Serpico — Facebook

The last we heardPeter Serpico and Stephen Starr’s latest joint-project — a Korean restaurant that would replace Il Pittore — was “under construction.”

And while a restaurant will surely fill the space eventually, Serpico’s Korean restaurant has been nixed from the docket — at least at the 2025 Sansom Street space.

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It Was Philly’s Year at the 2017 James Beard Awards


It was all fun and games when the James Beard Foundation announced Philadelphia’s semifinalists back in February. In previous years, only our industry’s biggest names ever made the cut, but for whatever reason, this year, they took notice of our city’s BYOBs, tiny bakeries, taquerias, and the women who make our scene so great.

A month later, the finalists were announced. That list was less surprising but still exciting. Our biggest deal restaurant group (CookNSolo) got a lot of attention: Michael Solomonov was up for Outstanding Chef, Zahav for Outstanding Service, and pastry chef Camille Cogswell for Rising Star Chef Of The Year. The Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category was a big one for Philly, too, with Vedge’s Rich Landau and Greg Vernick from Vernick Food & Drink still in the running. Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione was competing for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional and Stephen Starr capped the list as the lone Philly finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Last night, the James Beard Foundation announced the 2017 awards recipients (chef and restaurant categories), and Philly won big.

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Monday Morning TL;DR: Just Another Story About a Vegan Strip Club

Photo via Grubstreet

Photo via Grubstreet

Happy Monday, everyone? If you’ve found yourself here yet again, that means you’re wondering what that special button on Donald Trump‘s desk does. No, not that button. The other one. And also maybe what Stephen Starr had to do with the Fyre Festival (nothing) or how to get into the artisanal candy business (hint: you’ll need a briefcase and a bicycle).

Well don’t worry. We’ve got all the answers for you right here. But this week, let’s begin with an opening for what some people (not me) are calling the greatest job in the world: Michelin Guide inspector.

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Fyre Festival’s Food Fiasco Is Not Stephen Starr’s Fault


At this point, you’re probably well aware of the Fyre Festival disaster unfolding in the Bahamas. The short and sweet of it: rapper Ja Rule and tech tycoon Billy McFarland set out to host an ultra-high-end, VIPs-only music festival on the Islands of the Exumas. It came with its own video starring Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski. People who bought tickets to the festival were promised “first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere”, which meant everything from chartered yachts to morning yoga to food catering by Starr Events. But when guests arrived on Thursday, they were met with, as the New York Times put it, “soggy tents, bad food, and general disappointment verging on panic”. Obviously, the festival’s been postponed until further notice.

The “bad food”, by the way, was a styrofoam take-out box filled with sliced bread, cheese (not grilled cheese), and salad.
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What’s New, Stephen Starr?

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

It’s been a while since we’ve heard Stephen Starr’s name being whispered in Philly.

He’s got the number one restaurant in all of New York City, he’s opening restaurants in France — at this point in his career, he’s outgrown whispers. But lately, his name keeps popping up, what with two new restaurants opening in Rittenhouse Square and another rumored to open in the old Cosi space at 15th and Locust. So Foobooz decided it was time to check in with our city’s celebrity restaurateur to see how his Philly empire’s shaping up in 2017.

First things first: Starr will not be opening at 15th and Locust Streets.

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James Beard Finally Acknowledges Philly’s Little Guys (and Gals) for its 2017 Semifinalists List

Essen Bakery (Oustanding Baker semifinalist) - Facebook

Essen Bakery (Outstanding Baker semifinalist) – Facebook

This story has been updated.

The almighty James Beard Awards Committee rarely ever left its comfort-zone when it came down to Philadelphia restaurants. Year after year, it was always Philly’s ultra-notable restaurants and chef names that made the cut — Zahav, Vedge, Vernick, Fork; Vetri, Starr, Solomonov — with the occasional nod to any Philly talent considered under-the-radar on the national scale, e.g. Joe CicalaKonstantinos PitsillidesAndre Chin and Amanda Eap (Artisan Boulanger Patissier). That’s not to say those big-name nominations weren’t deserved — they absolutely were — it’s just that there’s so much more to this city than Zahav and Marc Vetri. The rest of the country just isn’t aware.

But for whatever reason, this year, Philly-area chefs and restaurants, both big and small, caught the committee’s attention. Check out who’s repping Philly in 2017:

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