Spitzer's Corner Chef Made "Apprentice" Toil 90 Hours A Week For Peanuts, Lawsuit Alleges

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012

Gothamist -- An aspiring cook has filed a lawsuit against the chef and owners of Spitzer's Corner, the popular Lower East Side scenester hangout that's previously been in trouble for serving booze to minors. According to the lawsuit (in full below) executive chef Sung Park, general manager David Moon, and owner Robert Shamlian violated multiple federal and state labor laws. Former employee Edward Kim claims they told him he would gain invaluable culinary experience from a renowned Michelin star-awarded chef, but instead made him slave away for up to 90 hours a week for as little as $3 an hour.

"I worked for them as hard as I could, sometimes 19 hours a day, because I was promised I would be trained by as skilled a chef as Chef Park," says Kim. "I never even took a day off. Now I realize they exploited me to get basic kitchen labor for next to nothing, for as long as they could. I gave up so much time and energy. I feel like they've set me back on my dreams."

Kim claims he did all the tasks of an entry-level prep cook, including butchering in the basement, cleaning, moving heavy shipments, and running errands. He often worked 19 hours a day, and was paid as little as $2.91 an hour without overtime. The lawsuit alleges that Chef Park instructed Kim not to clock in his hours like other kitchen staff because he was "on salary."

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed the suit on Kim's behalf, and they're demanding compensatory and liquidated damages of more than $63,000. Shamlian, the owner of Spitzer's Corner, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but we'll update if he does.

By John Del Signore

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