More Perreca’s sues its former executive chef

Restaurant owner says sudden departure proved costly
Chef Christopher Tanner at More Perreca's on North Jay St. in Schenectady, NY Monday, Nov. 20th, 2017.
Chef Christopher Tanner at More Perreca's on North Jay St. in Schenectady, NY Monday, Nov. 20th, 2017.

SCHENECTADY — More Perreca’s is suing the culinary industry veteran who briefly served as the restaurant’s executive chef, saying he damaged the business when he abruptly quit in February.

Paperwork filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County accuses chef Christopher Tanner of breaching his three-year contract and seeks payment of more than $100,000 in damages.

Tanner refused to comment Thursday, and More Perreca’s owner Maria Papa did not return a request for comment.

The three-year contract is included as Exhibit A with the court paperwork. It allows either party to terminate the agreement for any reason with at least 30 days’ written notice. It also includes provision for automatic one-year renewals.

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • On Oct. 25, 2017, Tanner, then a Greenfield Center resident, entered into a contract to perform executive chef and general management duties at the 31 N. Jay St. restaurant. 
  • More Perreca’s bought equipment, hired employees and modified the restaurant upon signing the contract.
  • Tanner terminated the contract without the agreed-upon notice on Feb. 8 and left the restaurant’s employment on Feb. 25.
  • The breach of contract caused the restaurant at least $75,000 in damages, including the cost to replace its chef and a loss of profits.
  • Tanner incurred costs and expenses in excess of $30,000 that were not authorized by the restaurant; under the contract, he is responsible for them.
  • Tanner’s breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealings has caused damages to the restaurant in excess of $50,000.

The restaurant seeks a judgment totaling at least as much as the specified damages, plus attorney fees and any other relief the court deems proper.

The contract stretches 10 pages and contains dozens of provisions. There also are four addenda. One specifies a salary of $109,912 with a $6,000 performance bonus every quarter, if earned, and 18 vacation/personal days during the first 12 months. No overtime pay, paid sick leave or medical insurance was to be provided. 

Another addendum lays out a grading system for those performance objectives, ranging from the strength of customers’ online reviews to increases in sales to staff retention to cost controls. It also calls for Tanner to research the possibility of an on-site rooftop and patio lettuce and tomato garden to supply the menu, supported by composting bins and hydroponics. It also mentions retail sale of More Perreca’s sauces on-site and in nearby food retailers.

Tanner is now the Culinary Arts Program director at the Columbus Culinary Institute at Bradford School in Ohio. He previously was an instructor in Schenectady County Community College’s culinary arts program; executive chef at the Winnisook Club in Ulster County; culinary director for the Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery County Community College; and a research chef for both Campbell’s Soup in Camden, New Jersey, and Pepperidge Farm in Norwalk, Connecticut.

He also contributed to “From The SCCC Kitchen,” a recurring  feature that ran for years in The Daily Gazette but has since been discontinued.

In a November 2017 interview with The Daily Gazette, Tanner expressed excitement about his new role at More Perreca’s, saying he was preparing an update of the popular restaurant in Little Italy, and that he and Papa were in complete agreement on everything.

He also said he was working more than 80 hours a week and having trouble finding the right people to hire for positions that needed to be filled.

The restaurant is represented in the lawsuit by Paul Davenport, of Colonie law firm Lombardi, Walsh, Davenport and Amodeo.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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