I so wasn’t going to write this story, but I have now been contacted by five people in or around the restaurant business. I feel that if I don’t step in and attempt to clear the air, the tale will grow longer and more sordid with each telling. I have heard multiple versions of the heated exchange between chefs John Tesar and Nick Badovinus at The Commissary late Wednesday night.
Round One: I received the following text from John Tesar at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday night: “Nick from Neighborhood [Services] just assaulted two of my staff and created a violent scene in my restaurant…Crazy drug drunk chef stuff. I was calm but he has lost his mind. Sorry for the bad news just wanted you to hear the real story.” I didn’t see the text until the next morning. I texted back: “Huh? Just got this. Call me when you get a chance.” A little after noon yesterday, Tesar texted back: “It’s just best to let this one go thank you.”
Oh, but we didn’t let it go. Jump.
UPDATE: Saturday, May 28, 2011. I have just had a long conversation with chef John Tesar. The bottom line is he is reversing the story he told me yesterday. Here is his statement. “I was wrong. It was an error in judgment. I did it to cover up the event. The only reason I did that is that I tried to protect everybody who was involved, not only myself. I had a selfish motivation. I didn’t want to draw attention to a brand new restaurant. At the same time I wasn’t going to throw another member [Badovinus] of my profession under the bus.”
Round Two: I let it go. Then came the first hey-did-you-hear email. Then another, and another, and another. At 6:30 p.m. yesterday, I received a phone call from a reputable person in the restaurant business. I have known this person for many years. He is a straight shooter. He told me he had just left The Commissary, where he’d had a conversation with John Tesar. According to my acquaintance, Tesar said Badovinus had been in the night before, and Tesar was pressing charges because Badovinus had created a scene. Tesar also said, “Boy, I would sure hate for Nancy Nichols to get ahold of this.”
Round Three: What? At that point, Tesar and I had already discussed the event. Even though I was skeptical of Tesar’s late Wednesday night text, followed by my friend’s Thursday afternoon report, I slept on it.
Round Four: This morning, I called Badovinus. He told me he and one of his chefs were out on town, celebrating the Mavs victory. They ended up at The Commissary. “I’ve never met John Tesar,” Badovinus said, “but the guy kept coming by the table and talking crap about my restaurants in front of my chef. My people work hard for me, and I will defend my business in order to keep them employed. But when a guy attacks my hard work, I’m gonna stand up.” Badovinus, who admits he’d been drinking, claims Tesar tossed several derogatory statements like “gotta get rid of those sweaters” his way. Badovinus got up and went over to Tesar. “I told him to meet me outside,” Badovinus said. “We went outside of the restaurant, and I told him to quit talking bad about my restaurant in front of my people.” Badovinus said he went back to the table, tried to pay the bill, and, when it was comp’d, he handed the waitress a hundred dollars. On his way out, Badovinus, accompanied by two Commissary staffers, says Tesar passed by him and provoked him by calling him a “pussy.” Before Badovinus could make a move, the two Commissary employees restrained him.
Round Five: No punches were thrown, but security was called. Badovinus talked to them briefly on the way to his car. Game off. Right?
Round Six: I called John Tesar around 2 p.m. today to tell him I was writing an account of what went down Wednesday night and to clarify some of the facts. “Nothing happened,” Tesar said. “I would tell you if it did. These kind of rumors are just being spread around about me by the guys at Smoke and Bolsa and Marquee. They are all just jealous.” I asked him about the text he sent me. “Somebody picked up my cell phone and was messing with you,” Tesar said. “I didn’t write it. I keep my phone at the end of the counter. It could have been anyone.”
Round Seven: Now I’m totally confused. I said, “So, Nick never said, ‘Let’s go outside?’ He didn’t tell you to quit talking trash about his restaurant?” “Nope. Never happened,” Tesar said. “I walked up to his table and talked about sous-vide burgers, and I may have said I wouldn’t work at his restaurant because of the white sweaters, but I walked away. That was the end of the story.” I asked him if he told anyone the next day that he’d filed charges and he said no. I asked him if he called Badovinus a “pussy” on the way out. “I was in the back,” Tesar said. “I didn’t know anything happened until the next morning.”
Round Eight: I just spoke with Michael Flynn, the sommelier at the Mansion, who was in the Commissary on Wednesday night. “I can’t tell you details because I didn’t see anything,” Flynn said. “But I did see the staff running out the front door, and I did see security taking statements from the staff in front of the restaurant.”
Decision: I’ve called security at One Arts Plaza and can’t get an answer. The PR rep did not answer her phone. Much ado about nothing? Probably. Chefs get into it all the time. However, it seems like when one of the chefs is John Tesar, the mess is always bigger.