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Todd English's Olives Seized Over $780,000 and More News

Todd English's Olives Seized Over $780,000 and More News

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In today's Media Mix, owls illustrate coffee potency, plus Marilyn Hagerty reviews Applebee's

Jane Bruce

The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.

Owls on Coffee: An adorable illustration shows how caffeinated you get from various types of coffee drinks, via owls. [Laughing Squid]

Marilyn Hagerty on Applebee's: America's favorite food critic gives her take on Applebee's, with good portions and friendly service. [Grand Forks Herald]

Todd English's Olives Seized: The Boston branch of the chef's restaurant has been seized, as the restaurant reportedly owes $780,000 in fees and rent. [Eater]

Coffee Shop vs. July 4: A Britain coffee shop closed on July 4, with a cheeky sign (hopefully sarcastic) lamenting the loss of the American colonies. [Neatorama]

Barely a month after Todd English's Figs on Charles Street closed for repairs and then re-opened, it's shut again.

Sara snapped this photo of the window this evening, featuring a prominent apology for being "temporarily" closed. The restaurant is one of the just three outposts left in English's rapidly shrinking Boston empire, the others being the other Figs in Charlestown and Bonfire at Logan Airport.

Steamed Clams in a Jalapeño Chorizo Broth

  • 30 Littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 10 ounces chorizo sausage
  • 5 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 julienned shallot
  • 1 shaved jalapeño pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup Chablis wine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the chorizo until it is just done. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté until the shallots become translucent. Add the jalapeño and the clams, and then add the white wine to deglaze. Cover the sauté pan and reduce heat to a simmer, then cook until the clams are open. Discard any clams that don’t open. Remove the clams from the pan and bring the resulting liquor to a simmer. Whisk in the butter, add the parsley, and pour the sauce over the clams.

Gerber Group Now Operates Todd English's NYC Olives

Chef Todd English's 14 year-old location of Olives in New York City is about to get a whole lot less Todd English-y. The Boston Globe reports that the Gerber Group "took over operations of Olives at W Union Square last week." Gerber Group operates several restaurants and bars across the country with venues like Whiskey Blue and Living Room. English's reps tell the Globe that the restaurant has actually been "licensed by the Gerber Group" and that "menus, name, and concept are staying the same." The rep also says English is "still involved."

It remains unclear whether English's name will still continue to be attached with the restaurant formally the website still refers to the restaurant as "Todd English's Olives" and has his picture in an introductory slideshow on the homepage. Also unclear is whether English still has any ownership in the company.

English has been pulling out of several of his establishments for the past year. In July, the original Olives in Charlestown, MA was seized over a $780,000 debt. Then in October, English was about to cut ties with the Bellagio in Las Vegas (who didn't renew his contract to run Olives there) but then ended up staying. In December, English split from MCXDC in DC, supposedly to "keep focused on our core restaurant brands." Like Olives?

Irvington Replaces Todd English’s Olives NY

In 2001, Todd English’s Olives NY, in the W Union Square Hotel, was the place to go, especially if you were looking for a scene out of “Sex and the City” to accompany your chestnut ravioli with venison Bolognese sauce, washed down with an Appletini.

Of course, times change and hot spots dwindle, but Olives held on for longer than many—around 13 years.

In early 2014, the Gerber Group, which had run a basement lounge turned event space at the W that itself had a few incarnations, including Underbar and Lilium, took over operations of the restaurant and quickly renamed it 201, after the hotel’s address, 201 Park Avenue South. This week it reopens as the renovated Irvington, an homage to Washington Irving, a bust of whom resides around the corner, outside Washington Irving High School, on East 17th Street and Irving Place.

“He’s a quintessential New York kind of guy,” said Scott Gerber, the chief executive of the Gerber Group, of Mr. Irving, an author, diplomat and historian.

The restaurant features a lot of Mr. Irving’s writings, said Mr. Gerber, as well as a newly commissioned, humorous mural by Marcus Pierce hanging above the open kitchen that features one of Mr. Irving’s most classic creations from his 1820 short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

TV chef Todd English in financial hot water

(MoneyWatch) Celebrity TV chef Todd English faces some daunting problems. It isn't a bad shipment of fish, a broken dishwasher, or dinner rush with half the staff out sick. His company, Todd English Enterprises, has been under legal pressure in multiple lawsuits for alleged non-payment of large sums of money. And the result is that restaurants of his are being closed, and not of his volition.

The landlord of the building housing his first big hit, Olives in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, reportedly seized the property over $780,000 in allegedly unpaid rent and accrued interest. Last September, Carey Realty and City Square Holdings sued the company. Todd English Enterprises released a statement that the restaurant would reopen in a "new and shiny location."

A fire had closed Olives for two years. According to the lawsuit, William Carey claimed that English had stopped paying rent months before the fire. Carey also claimed that the fire was due to English's not cleaning grease out of the restaurant's ducts.

This is only the latest problem facing Todd English Enterprises. Back in May, Kingfish Hall in Boston's Faneuil Hall closed after the company was reportedly sued for $1 million, mostly in back rent. According to a Boston Globe report, the space was left with thousands of dollars in physical damage.

According to the Boston Globe, as of last September, English was the defendant in at least six lawsuits "related to claims of unpaid bills and the closing of several restaurants."

MoneyWatch sent the following questions to Todd English Enterprises:

-- How many properties have been taken back or closed down because of outstanding debts?

-- What is the basic problem facing the company at this point? Is it too rapid expansion?

-- What business model might work?

--In how many suits is the company a defendant at the moment?

Here is English's answer, according to the company's vice president of communications:

The response came earlier this week after English had returned from "opening a restaurant in the Bahamas," according to the company.

First published on July 12, 2013 / 1:22 PM

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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The 19 Most Notable Restaurant Closings of 2013

Nothing lasts forever in the restaurant business: every year, a new crop of restaurants becomes lost to history, leaving only a trace of archived Yelp reviews and Foursquared photos. And the industry does not discriminate: In 2013, multiple Michelin-winners suffered shutters and some of the industry's biggest celebrity chefs (Graham Elliot, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay) nursed shattered dreams as they saw beloved concepts close. Some of this year's shutters were noted shitshows whose closures surprised no one (Flavor Flav's fried chicken concept Dans Le Noir), others were beloved neighborhood spots (like a Parisian bakery in business for 202 years). All are eulogized in this look back:

Boulangerie du Grand Richelieu, Paris

1811-January 2013

[Screengrab: Reuters]

The first shutter of 2013 may also be the year's most historic: Paris' Boulangerie Pâtisserie du Grand Richelieu, the oldest bakery in the city, closed up shop in January after a shocking 202 years in business. (For reference: In 1811, the year of the boulangerie's opening, James Madison was president of the United States.) Head baker Claude Esnault was somewhat of a neighborhood institution himself, having been with the bakery for nearly 45 years according to a Reuters report, the neighborhood spot was forced to close due to escalating rent.

Hutong, San Francisco

March 2013-April 2013

[Photo: Patricia Chang]

Eighteen-year-old San Francisco restaurant Betelnut decided to reconcept itself as a small plates restaurant called Hutong back in February. The menu focused on Chinese, Malaysian, and Vietnamese street food, and the entire space was redecorated. But Hutong was not long for this world: literally the day after Chronicle critic Michael Bauer deemed the rebirth a "like a Disney theme park," the restaurant announced it was reverting to the Betelnut format.

Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, London

2011-June 2013

[Photo: s_bukley/]

After a 12-year run, shouty chef Gordon Ramsay checked out of London's iconic Claridge's Hotel due to "a series of delays in renewing his deal." Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's was considered a major coup by the relatively unknown Ramsay back in 2001, and under the guidance of longtime sous chef Mark Sergeant, the restaurant earned a Michelin star. Recent years, though, saw its quality slip, and Claridge's lost its star in 2010. At the time of its shutter, the restaurant celebrated by releasing a series of statistics chronicling its run. Fun facts: the most popular main course over the dozen years was the restaurant's signature beef Wellington (with more than 300,000 served), the biggest single bill was £48,000.

Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia

1970-June 2013

[Photo: Eater Philly]

Iconic Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec Fin called it quits this summer after a 43-year run as one of the city's fine-dining stalwarts. Its present-day iteration was already a departure from the French spot's glory days: Original founder Georges Perrier stepped down in winter 2012, and the restaurant re-opened a few months later under the guidance of "a private equity group of investors" and Walter Abrams, a French Laundry alum, in the kitchen. The revamp had a shaky reception, however, and after much rumormongering and personnel shuffling, the space is now home to Avance, a "progressive American" restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Justin Bogle.

Dans Le Noir, New York City

2012-June 2013

[Photo: Eater NY]

Unabashed shitshow Dans Le Noir — the eat-in-complete-darkness concept which may have given two Eater editors the most terrifying experience of their lives — closed up shop after 15 months terrorizing New Yorkers. In an announcement, the Dans owners reported [sic] "during 15 month more than 10,000 New Yorkers lived this unique experience. But we don't have enough visitors to continue as it is not financially reasonable. You are now welcome to our franchise in Europe (Paris, London, Barcelona, St Petersburg)." The only thing people didn't see coming: that the restaurant would even last that long.

Todd English's Olives, Boston

1989-July 2013

[Photo: Todd English Enterprises]

Celebrity chef and Eater NY Shitshow all-star Todd English was forced to close his flagship location of Todd English's Olives after a 12-year run in Charlestown, Massachusetts. A judge ordered a seizure of the Olives space (and everything in it) after English's landlord sued, alleging the restaurant group owes $780,000 in back rent and interest stretching back to 2010. In a statement, English's PR team did not address the suit, but promised Olives would "reopen at a new and shiny location" in the "greater Boston area." No new restaurant has been announced yet, but the restaurant's implosion did lead to a dishy Boston Globe Magazine feature investigating English's "fumbles, mishaps, and personal foibles, of which there are no shortage."

Flavor Flav's Chicken and Ribs, Michigan

2012-July 2013

[Photo: Facebook]

Rapper/giant-clock enthusiast/imaginary restaurateur Flava Flav is persistent: After the blink-and-you-missed it opening and closing of this Las Vegas restaurant House of Flavor in 2012, Flav attempted to rebound with a new concept, Flav's Chicken & Ribs. The Michigan fast-food restaurant debuted in late 2012 and lasted six months before suffering its first almost-shutter in June, nearly getting evicted thanks to an ongoing legal battle with its landlord. By July, the restaurant shuttered for good, with Flav allegedly owing his landlord $20,000 in back rent. Is another Flavor Flav concept coming in 2014?

Neely's Bar-B-Que, Memphis

1979-July 2013

Neely's Bar-B-Que, Memphis, TN [Photos: Foursquare and Foursquare]

TV Foodnetworkpeople Patrick and Gina Neely (of Down Home with the Neely's) announced this summer that they would close both Memphis outposts of Neely's Bar-B-Que, their family-owned barbecue chainlet that preceded their Food Network fame. Last fall, Gina Neely announced both locations would be closed for "renovations," but by July 2013, the Neelys confirmed neither spot would reopen. The couple's NYC offshoot, Neely's Barbecue Parlor, remains open despite an Eater NY Deathwatch and "aggressively negative" reviews.

El Racó de Can Fabes, Barcelona

1981-August 2013

[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]

Two years after chef/founder Santi Santamaria passed away unexpectedly at age 53, his daughter Regina Santamaria was forced to close his Michelin-starred Barcelona restaurant El Racó de Can Fabes in August. In a press release, Regina Santamaria announced that despite the restaurant's current two-Michelin star rating, it lacked "the necessary financial viability to maintain a project based on excellence." In 2012, after Santi's death, Regina Santamaria revamped the restaurant and its menu, and with chef Xavier Pellicer in the kitchen. In a eulogy for the restaurant, Spanish newspaper El Pais lamented that "without Santamaría himself there, Can Fabes had lost its soul."

Grahamwich, Chicago

2010-August 2013

[Photo: grongar/Flickr]

It has not been a good year for celebrity chef Graham Elliot. Despite endless early buzz and onetime expansion plans, Elliot shuttered his Chicago sandwich spot Grahamwich with little fanfare earlier this summer. In its three-year lifespan, Grahamwich earned mixed reviews and experimented with menu revamps its closure, however, came after a successful weekend selling lobster corn dogs at Lollapalooza 2013.

Krave Massive, Las Vegas3>

June 2013-August 2013

[Photo: Eater Vegas]

The purported "largest gay nightclub in the world" Krave Massive shuttered after just two months in business at Las Vegas' Neonopolis entertainment complex, amidst accusations that owner Kelly Murphy failed to secure proper tax permitting. In the ensuing, massive fallout, Murphy's bizarre business dealings and past felony convictions came to light. But Krave the brand still isn't dead: In October, former owner Sia Amiri announced plans to resurrect the nightclub inside the TW Theater & Nightclub.

Mesa Grill, New York City3>

1991-September 2013

[Photo: Foursquare]

Celebrity/Iron chef Bobby Flay bid farewell to his 22-year-old flagship NYC restaurant, Mesa Grill, after ongoing lease negotiations failed. Flay promised a return was "imminent" elsewhere in New York: The lease expiration has been a long time coming, and Flay told Eater in June 2012 that Mesa was planning a move. "We have our eyes open about moving Mesa Grill. It's not going away, that's for sure." This one may not be dead yet stay tuned.

Chez Dominique, Helsinki

1998-October 2013

[Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

The only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Finland, Helsinki's Chez Dominique, closed in October after a 15-year run. Chef/owner Hans Välimäki announced the shutter in August — after a lengthly summer break — and closed out the restaurant's run from September 4 through October 10. In 2001, Välimäki earned one Michelin star for his tasting menus, and was bumped up to two stars in 2003, a distinction he held until the restaurant's closure.

Veritas, New York City

1999-October 2013

[Photo: Facebook]

Longtime Flatiron District restaurant Veritas closed up shop in October after a 14-year run. Its newest incarnation, with chef Sam Hazen running the kitchen, had been in place since 2010 and earned a three-star rating from notoriously fickle NYT critic Sam Sifton according to Hazan, the closure occurred due to ongoing "issues with the landlord."

Hybird, New York City

May 2013-November 2013

[Photo: Facebook]

Flavor Flav, oddly, wasn't the only musician to flop with a fried chicken concept this year: In May, Roots drummer Questlove teamed with restaurateur Stephen Starr to open a fried chicken stand inside NYC's touristy Chelsea Market. Hybird lasted less than six months, and its shutter would've been considered a "quiet" one had Questlove himself not taken to Facebook with a long, stream-of-consciousness rant about its closure. The closest thing to an explanation can be found in this line: "if anything its from the heart (my real one) and it's not satisfying that heart it's not satisfying at all. and so bye bye birdie. chicken, scratched."

STREET, Los Angeles

2009-November 2013

[Photo: Facebook]

Chef Susan Feniger's four-year-old Hollywood spot STREET pulled a switcheroo earlier this fall, quietly closing to make way for a new Feniger project, a pub dubbed Mud Hen Tavern. The onetime buzzy restaurant earned mixed reviews in its lifetime, and in an interview with LA Weekly, Feniger blamed the location for the closure: "If we had opened in Silver Lake or on Rose Avenue in Venice, maybe it would have been different. Also, it maybe could have been more relaxed, I maybe wanted it to feel a little dumpier. It was too much of a commitment — it felt like you should go there for a special occasion." Its replacement, Mud Hen Tavern, debuted earlier this month.

Graham Elliot, Chicago

2008-December 2013

[Photo: Facebook]

Just a few weeks after the Grahamwich shutter was announced, Elliot announced the imminent closure of his two Michelin-starred flagship eponymous restaurant, Graham Elliot, after a five-year run. The restaurant's final service will be on New Year's Eve, and Elliot told Chicago magazine that the restaurant would reopen in a different Chicago location, albeit with a revamped concept serving "creative, higher-end" food. He also makes a promise that suggests a softer, cuddlier version of Graham Elliot, the human: "Every day I will be cooking in the kitchen and making amends to everyone in Chicago, including Chicago magazine critics and food bloggers who I told to fuck off."

Oud Sluis, The Netherlands

1990-December 2013

[Photo: Hans Sterkendries/Google Earth]

The Netherlands' three-Michelin-stared Oud Sluis — which was also #35 on the World's Best Restaurants list in 2013 — closed up shop in December after a 23-year run. Chef Sergio Herman announced the closure on his website, writing, "I've literally and figuratively reached my peak at Oud Sluis" and "everything I ever wanted to achieve with Oud Sluis has been achieved. So now it's time to end this chapter of my life." Herman will focus on his other restaurant projects, Pure C and La Chapelle.

Pulino's, New York City

2010-January 2014

[Photo: La Citta Vita/Flickr]

The newest NYC restaurant in Keith McNally's lauded portfolio, Pulino's, will shutter in January 2014 after a shaky but nearly four-year run. The Italian concept debuted in March 2010 with chef Nate Appleman in the kitchen, but he departed six months later in what was described as a "mutual split." (During the Appleman tenure, an unfavorable review by NYMag's Adam Platt led to a very public spat in which McNally called the critic bald and overweight, among other things.) According to Eater NY, replacement chef Tony Liu turned out "really great" rustic dishes, but McNally decided to pull the plug in October, announcing plans to open a new French concept, Cherche Midi, in the space.

Chef Todd English’s Food Hall Opens With Pizzas, Vegan Fare, Barbecue, and More

Chef Todd English marks the beginning of his return to Las Vegas when he opened the Beast Food Hall at Area15, the 200,000-square-foot entertainment venue with interactive artwork. Since the venue opened in September, English served his food as a pop-up, but now the entire 6,500-square-foot food hall reveals its dishes.

Unlike a food court that generally offers a variety fast-food national chains, a food hall mixes smaller artisan restaurants. English set up the food hall as a test kitchen for his restaurants around the globe. Different stations focus on specific cuisines, with a wok station, burning station for Roman-style flatbreads, barbecue station, and even a vegan stall serving dishes. English plans to rotate the menu, and chefs will bring different recipes that, if successful, will roll out to English’s restaurants worldwide.

One stall features pizzas in Caprese, Peking duck, smoked mushroom with Camembert, fig and prosciutto, vegan with Beyond Meat sausage, Buffalo cauliflower, and more. Breakfast dishes at a stall called Whacky Waffle Bar offers waffle dogs with all natural franks, while the Beast Breath Smoke House serves skewers of wagyu beef, black dry rub brisket, smoked short rib churrasco, Alabama white barbecue, and more. Other options include the Amsterdam burger made with house pastrami, Gruyere, and kraut at the Beast Burger Singapore street noodles and pineapple fried rice at Wok the Wok truffle cacio e pepe over pappardelle with toasted garlic at the Pasta Beast and a black bean burger with mango ketchup at the Veggie Beast. Korean corn dogs, wings, salad bowls, macarons, and doughnuts round out the menu.

English at one time had Olives at the Bellagio, now occupied by Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, as well as Todd English P.U.B. at the Shops at Crystals, now called just the Pub. English’s most enduring venture, Olives, debuted with the Bellagio in October 1998. The Bellagio announced the restaurant would close back in 2013 before a very surprising reprieve. The Mediterranean-inspired restaurant closed for good in January 2018. Todd English P.U.B. closed in December 2017. English was also once behind the menu for Beso, the Las Vegas restaurant and nightclub fronted by actress Eva Longoria that closed in 2011 a few steps away from his former pub. When Virgin Hotels opens, English revives Olives at the resort that’s renovating the former Hard Rock Hotel.

The Beast Food Hall, Area15, 3215 S. Rancho Drive. Free admission. Hours vary.

Legal Oysteria to open in former Olives space

Cooks prepared food on the second floor at the new three-story Legal Sea Foods flagship location at Liberty Wharf. Jessey Dearing for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Todd English at Olives in 1996 Mark Wilson/Globe Staff/file/Globe Staff

The newest restaurant from the Legal Sea Foods empire is slated to open in Charlestown (10 City Sq.) on July 16, in the former Olives space. Expect coastal Italian-style seafood—much of it from a custom brick grill and rotisserie — at Legal Oysteria. Executive chef Rich Vellante, an Italian citizen, designed the menu to highlight family recipes.

Signs of strain in English’s empire

For chef Todd English, who made his name in Boston, “It’s been a year of reinvention.’’ (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)

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An hour late, Todd English breezes into Olives, the restaurant in Charlestown he opened 20 years ago, the place where he made his name. He is wearing a freshly pressed chef’s jacket, has a BlackBerry in one hand, an iPhone in the other, and a TV crew tailing his every step. He is, as ever, juggling ventures and appearances and texts away furiously as he talks.

“Don’t mind me, I’m ADD,’’ he says, slouching to the table, head in hands, a portrait of mock fatigue.

Todd English tired - an impossibility. The handsome, square-jawed chef who helped put Boston’s food scene on the map now has 21 restaurants, from coast to coast, and more on the way. But while the ageless energy, brash optimism, and love of the spotlight that helped make him a celebrity are still there, fault lines are starting to show in the English empire.

For every splashy restaurant opening, it seems there is a closing - three in the last 18 months. He has had to deal with a court ruling last summer that he and his companies owed $4.5 million in unpaid rent for the space where his Washington, D.C., Olives restaurant operated for almost a decade before closing last year. And there are at least five pending lawsuits against English claiming he or his business enterprises owe more than $280,000 in unpaid bills, including one from his last-minute canceled wedding last September.

English offers explanations for each case and, on Thursday, his publicist issued a bullish statement: “Todd’s restaurant group continues to prosper and grow.’’

On the personal side, it has also been a challenging stretch. Even for someone like English who thrives at center stage, the tabloid-frenzy around his last-minute breakup with Erica Wang last September was unwelcome. Though physically he appears unscathed following the tumultuous breakup during which Wang allegedly slugged him in the face with a heavy watch - leading to stitches for him, an assault charge and anger management program for her - the events did scar him.

“It’s been a year of reinvention,’’ the 49-year-old chef says.

“The way the world economy has gone, people have had to rethink things, their way of thinking about business,’’ he says. “Like music, like fashion, we’re in the entertainment business and need to stay current. It’s very much about staying fresh.’’

But if, as his publicist’s statement concluded, his business figure is bright, how then to explain the recent closings and line of lawyers chasing after him, from New York to Los Angeles?

The publicist, George Regan, says English’s stardom has made him a “celebrity piñata’’ and an easy target for “gossip, rumors, and especially lawsuits.’’

Olives in Aspen and Washington, D.C., and Fish Club in Seattle all shuttered recently. The D.C. closing was forced, after the building owner sued English for failure to pay rent and a judge said he was in default and his business owed $4.5 million. Of that, English personally was held responsible for $813,000, but the final amount he and his companies actually paid was agreed to in a settlement that was not made public.

Other figures, however, are laid out in court documents.

Dan Klores, the public relations titan in New York whose firm has represented Jay Leno, Howard Stern, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears, filed a lawsuit last November against Todd English Enterprises, alleging it did publicity work for English in June 2008 for $15,662, and has not been paid a penny of it. English, via Regan, says it was merely a “discrepancy in the hours and services provided’’ and will be resolved.

Limore Shur, the owner of a company that runs high-end, turnkey apartments in New York, says in 2006 he leased to Todd English and an acquaintance, Andrew C. Stranberg, a third-floor loft off Broome Street in SoHo. Shur’s lawsuit alleges that English, Todd English Enterprises, and Stranberg owe $64,242 in unpaid rent, $11,000 to cover damage to the property, and $5,000 in legal fees for the defendant, for a total of $80,242.

“It was $10,000 a month, with bed turn-down service, almost like a hotel,’’ David Katz, the attorney for Shur, said in an interview. “Todd was there for a month or two, maybe three, and just skipped out. . . Nobody ever bothered turning the key in, paying the rent.’’

Stranberg, in a March 17, 2009, profanity-laced deposition obtained by the Globe, lashed out at English.

“I don’t know what Todd English did,’’ Stranberg said. “I’m not in business. I don’t like Todd English. He is a [expletive] loser.’’

In his statement to the Globe, English said he had sublet the apartment and his name was supposed to have been taken off the lease.

And then there’s Avatar Studios, a recording studio in midtown Manhattan whose artist clients include Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel. Avatar sued English last year for $68,265, alleging that he rented its studio and never paid. English said he is settling that case. The same New York attorney pressing the Avatar case, Amos Weinberg, also represents Building Maintenance Services, a New York cleaning services company that has cleaned everything from the Empire State Building to W Hotels to Radio City Music Hall. It sued for $69,567, for janitorial services at two English restaurants in New York, and his closed one in D.C. English said the matter is still in litigation and his business is not at fault.

More recently, a suit was filed in November in Los Angeles Superior Court against English and Todd English Enterprises LLC, by a consulting firm he hired almost a decade ago to negotiate exclusive restaurant deals. According to the complaint, Fred Bestall brokered deals for English to open restaurants at the Marriott Hotel in Seattle and at Walt Disney World in Florida. The complaint says English paid off $94,948 of the $120,000 he owed, but that payments stopped in August 2007 and he still owes $24,052. English says it’s a dispute over the final amount due and is being settled.

But of all the complaints against English, the smallest one might sting the most.

On Dec. 16, Chestnuts in the Tuileries, a boutique florist hired to do all the flowers for English’s Oct. 3 wedding, sued both English and Wang. The wedding at the opulent St. Regis Hotel in New York never happened, and the florist didn’t get any of the $22,054 it was owed.

“The day of the wedding, Chestnuts delivered all of the flowers to the St. Regis and set up the flowers as ordered by the Defendants,’’ the complaint reads. “On the morning of the wedding, Todd English called the wedding off. After abandoning his nuptials and leaving his fiancée at the altar, Todd English contacted American Express and falsely denied authorizing payment for the flowers.’’

John Crossman, the attorney for Chestnuts, said even though Chestnuts sued both Wang and English, he has no doubt who owes the money.

“When you order flowers, you’re supposed to pay for them,’’ Crossman said. “It seems clear to us Mr. English was supposed to sign. We have his credit card number.’’

English offers a different explanation. Through his spokesman, he says a “third party used his American Express card without his permission, and the florist was told not to deliver the flowers prior to the event.’’

But the economy isn’t his only challenge there have also been some wounding reviews for his food. Of the Fish Club in Seattle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer restaurant critic wrote: “For that kind of money, I want some or all of the following: great food, great atmosphere, great service, maybe even a view. Yet my three visits to Fish Club can be summarized as follows: lousy, OK, not bad.’’

To criticism that the food his restaurants serve has suffered as he’s shifted from restaurateur to entrepreneur, the chef says nothing has changed. “Not at all,’’ says English, who is fond of quoting renowned French chef Paul Bocuse. “People would ask him who was cooking when he wasn’t in the restaurant. And he’d say, ‘The same people cooking when I am there.’ ’’

When Olives in Charlestown was his one and only, it was hottest place in town serving, by general acclaim, some of the city’s best food. Replicating that, he concedes, is hard.

“You are always looking for the hottest place in town,’’ he says. “I am, certainly. But I’m also realistic . . . There is an ebb and flow. It’s the business.’’

But still, some raise this question: Can his restaurants truly shine if he’s not actually in them, as he was at the start of his career?

“When a chef himself is not in the restaurant, even if the greatest sous chef in the world is cooking, [the quality] is down 10 percent,’’ said GQ’s wine and food critic Alan Richman. “If the chef is never there, it’s down 30 percent. After that, there is no way to go but down.’’

Richman said of English, “I might be his greatest fan. I thought his food at Olives, when the restaurant was new, was magnificent. Every dish on the plate had too much of everything in it, and you know what? It was great!’’

He said he interviewed English about a year ago at Olives in New York, and after the interview English dashed into the kitchen and “threw together’’ a simple flatbread pizza for him. “It was fabulous!’’ said Richman, who was working on a story about pizza at the time and was sure it would make his top ten list.

But when he went back to the restaurant when English wasn’t there, Richman tried it again and said “it was just so-so.’’

“The man is a near-genius as a chef,’’ he said. “And yet people who are near-geniuses are often the ones whose food is hardest to translate into mass production. I think his restaurants are okay . . . I just get disappointed by seeing a truncated version of what a great chef might do.’’

But Gordon Hamersley, who has presided over Hamersley’s Bistro for more than 20 years, defends English’s desire to expand.

“I have one restaurant,’’ he says. “I go to my restaurant and I stand behind the line and work with 22-, 23- 25-year-olds because that’s what I like and love. But there are other kinds of chefs who happen to be entrepreneurial chefs, who have a love of food and a variety of food ideas they want to explore, and they can’t just do it in one restaurant. And there’s not a darned thing wrong with that.’’

He adds: “The only thing that’s important is: Does the food taste good, and is the food great quality? There are good cupcakes and there are bad cupcakes and my guess is that Todd’s cupcakes will be very high quality.’’

English is sure of it. For all his myriad ventures and challenges, he says he is still driven by the culinary passion that made Olives, Olives.

“I love the entrepreneurial side of the business,’’ he says. “The conceptual side of it, the creative side of it.’’ But then he adds, “I never want to lose my sense that I started out as a chef.’’

Watch the video: ODD SQUAD 2- (August 2022).