Getting Both Sides of the Mado Saga - David Richards
By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 14, 2010 8:00PM
Earlier, we presented an interview with Brandon Baltzley, the former chef of Mado. We also contacted David Richards, the owner, and asked about the situation - specifically about Baltzley's allegations about Richards' behavior and financial situation. Because this interview was not recorded, the interview is not presented as a transcript. However, all of the quotes are direct.
To begin, we asked Richards about a few of Baltzley’s specific allegations. Richards flatly denied that Mado had an expired business license. “No, that is not correct,” he said. When asked about Baltzley’s claim that Richards owed the city of Chicago significant amounts of tax money, Richards told us that he, personally, didn’t owe the city any money, but that he couldn’t speak specifically to the larger business. He did deny that taxes or the new restaurant had any bearing on the situation at Mado. His new restaurant, Bluette, opened last week, and Baltzley had suggested that Richards was moving money from Mado to the new restaurant. “Bluette has been paid for and was waiting to open - I put off opening Bluette. I was going to open the week Rob and Allie [Levitt] left.”
“Everything is a surprise to me at Mado,” Richards said about the situation. He told us that he only found out that Rob and Allie Levitt had even left from the media. “I first found out when Penny Pollack called my publicist.”
Richards: “I usually don’t respond to criticism - I’m old fashioned, and I don’t engage with that sort of thing, but I finally called Penny [last week]. My friends were telling me I had to respond!”
We also discussed the payroll situation that seemed to cause so much trouble.
Richards: “The whole conversation was that we needed to streamline the payroll. Payroll was between 40% and 50% of the total gross receipts - we look for 25%. During the conversations with him, he agreed to the cuts. Brandon hadn’t been in the restaurant full time for the previous two weeks, because he told me he was in the hospital and had other personal problems.”
Richards emphasized that he, as an owner, is responsible to his businesses partners and his employees at other restaurants.
Richards: “I have been targeted as being heartless! The restaurant business is business - and successful people understand that, as do successful chefs. If telling someone a 45% food cost is unacceptable is heartless, that’s fine. We have other people that we work for, other people we are responsible for.”
When asked if Mado was going to re-open, Richards said that he couldn’t be sure. He indicated that he was planning to wait a little while before trying to find a new chef, but that he hoped to reopen the restaurant as soon as possible.