Chef John Tesar parts ways with Southern California resort after union tirade

The restaurateur had just opened his Knife Modern Steak concept at the oceanside resort before being caught on video flipping off workers on a picket line and shouting obscenities. Now Knife will be rebranded.
labor organizers
Workers at the resort are seeking better pay and benefits. |Image: Shutterstock

Just a month after restaurateur John Tesar was caught on video in an angry tirade directed at workers on a hotel picket line, the chef and hotel have parted ways.

Officials with the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif., said in a statement that the property and Tesar have mutually agreed to end their relationship, effective immediately. Tesar’s concept Knife Modern Steak, which opened at the high-end resort earlier this summer, will remain open but it will be rebranded in late 2023, the hotel said.

Tesar’s clash with picketers occurred in July, shortly after the high-end steakhouse opened at the oceanside resort. In the interview, he is seen flipping off the person holding the camera, telling the picketers to “take your union and shove it up your ass,” and calling those off camera “lazy pandejas.” He also reportedly broke a drum being used by one protester.

Tesar, meanwhile, last week posted an open apology to the union group Unite Here Local 11, which is leading the labor effort at the hotel. He was staying at the property with his family, and the chef said he was concerned at the time for his children, saying that clouded his judgment and that he lost his cool.

“I especially want to apologize to the members of my team,” Tesar wrote. “I regret the situation has become a distraction and believe it is in the best interest of all parties that I end my involvement with the restaurant in the Marriott Cliffs Resort & Spa.

“I wish everyone well,” he added,” and hope an amicable settlement to the strike is reached as soon as possible.”

Unite Here Local 11 officials posted that the apology was accepted, but workers at the Laguna Cliffs have yet to come to an agreement with hotel officials about pay and benefits. The group has led picket lines and protests at hotels in and around Los Angeles as part of what some are calling Hot Labor Summer, with labor actions crossing multiple industries.

Tesar, who is a two-time alum of “Top Chef,” has a location of Knife in Dallas and Plano, Texas, and a more casual Knife Burger concept, as well as the seafood-focused Knife & Spoon in Orlando, Fla.

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