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‘Top Chef’ John Tesar splits with Dana Point restaurant after spat with union protesters

After a heated encounter with union members protesting outside the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa on July 25, John Tesar, executive chef of Modern Knife Steak, the luxury hotel’s anchor restaurant, will leave his position.

The altercation, which a protester captured on video, shows Tesar yelling profanities and unsheathing his middle finger at picketers from the Unite Here Local 11 union. The chef, who appeared on season 10 of “Top Chef,” also admitted to breaking a drum carried by one of the protesters.

“The Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa and John Tesar have mutually agreed to end their relationship, effective immediately,” a spokesperson for the Dana Point resort said in a written statement.

Tesar was not on the clock the day of the incident; he and his family were guests of the hotel. According to Tesar, his family awoke in the early morning of July 25 by protesters outside his hotel window leading to the verbal spat.

In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), Tesar wrote:

I want to apologize to the members of Unite Here for my behavior on July 25th, 2023. My concern for my children clouded my judgment and I lost my cool. I especially want to apologize to the members of my team. 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 Cliff Resort & Spa. I wish everyone well and hope an amicable settlement to the strike is reached as soon as possible.

Unite Here 11 accepted his apology.

Hotel hospitality workers have been on strike in Southern California since July to obtain pay raises and comprehensive work benefits. The hospitality strike is part of a larger labor movement that includes the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild strikes.

Knife Modern Steak will remain open in light of Tesar’s departure. The hotel plans to rebrand the venue with a new upscale concept later this year.

Source: Orange County Register

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