MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) — A popular South Florida chef is at the center of a food feud.
Chef Bee, whose real name is Pirayat Arreeratn, is listed as the defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of his former employer, 50 Eggs Inc., the company behind eateries such as Swine in Coral Gables Yardbird Southern Table and Bar and Khong River House in Miami Beach.
Chef Bee quit his job as executive chef at Khong River House last month, after barely a year with the newly-opened Thai restaurant.
A few weeks later, he was served with a lawsuit.
In the complaint filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, Chef Bee is accused of devising a “premeditated plan” to steal concepts, employees and customers from Khong River House to benefit his family-owned restaurant, Oishi Thai in North Miami.
Chef Bee told CBS 4′s Lauren Pastrana the allegations are false.
He accused 50 Eggs CEO, John Kunkel, of lying.
“He’s greedy. He doesn’t want to have competition,” Bee said.
The lawsuit alleged Chef Bee “manipulated a friendship to betray trust so that he, Oishi Thai, and his investors would see personal gain.”
It went on to say Chef Bee was brought on board to be the “face of the restaurant,” but he “disappeared” before the grand opening, claiming “he would get sick and break out in hives if he had to cook.”
The suit said Chef Bee told Kunkel he would close Oishi Thai, but Bee says that was never the case.
“We promised each other that these two concepts would be profitable with each other,” Bee told Pastrana. “He promised me you make this restaurant better, to go for the next level. He broke that promise.”
Bee said he wasn’t planning on closing Oishi Thai any time soon because he’s only in year 9 of a 10-year lease.
The complaint said Chef Bee violated his non-compete clause, but documentation provided shows several boxes that had to be checked to sign-off on that agreement were left blank.
The lawsuit said Bee signed other documents which made it clear he was restricted from opening another restaurant in Miami-Dade County for a year after leaving Khong.
“The key to the complaint is, he doesn’t have a signed document that would even remotely give him the right to do what he claims he has the right to do, which is to prevent Mr Bee from running the business that he’s run for 9 years,” attorney Christopher Carver said.
Bee is also accused of swiping the concept of “Thai street food” from Khong River House.
He said he’s been cooking in that style for years.
In a statement sent to CBS 4 News, Kunkel wrote:
“As someone who started in the restaurant business washing dishes, I did not take the filing of this lawsuit lightly. But this is a very serious matter. This is not about 50 Eggs pursuing claims against one chef, but rather about trying to protect our team’s ideas and innovative creations that are possible only because we have an amazing, loyal team that works hard everyday to make our restaurants great. If we cannot protect that hard work, then the many people on our team will be vulnerable to the selfish actions of one person. 50 Eggs and the hard working team that helped make Khong River House a success look forward to telling its story to a jury so that justice can be done.”