The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump Organization settles restaurant suit with chef José Andrés

José Andrés and Donald Trump. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post; Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

President Trump’s company and D.C. chef José Andrés have settled a nearly two-year-old legal dispute stemming from the chef’s decision to shelve plans to open a restaurant in Trump’s D.C. hotel following Trump’s controversial immigration rhetoric.

The Trump Organization, now run by Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric, issued a joint statement with the chef’s firm, ThinkFoodGroup, Friday morning. Terms were not disclosed and spokespersons for both companies declined to comment.

“I am glad that we are able to put this matter behind us and move forward as friends,” Donald Trump Jr. said in the release. “Since opening in September 2016, Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C. has been an incredible success and our entire team has great respect for the accomplishments of both José and TFG. Without question, this is a ‘win-win’ for both of our companies.”

The dispute began after Andrés pulled out of a lease to open a restaurant in Trump’s hotel in the summer of 2015. An immigrant from Spain, Andrés took offense when the then-candidate railed against Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists on the campaign trail. Trump sued him for $10 million.

[Donald Trump, José Andrés and the death of a grand Washington restaurant]

“I am pleased that we were able to resolve our differences and move forward cooperatively, as friends,” Andrés said in the statement. “I have great respect for the Trump Organization’s commitment to excellence in redeveloping the Old Post Office. At TFG, we have long been committed to using our resources to improve the D.C. community as well as the lives of those less fortunate by our active involvement in D.C. Central Kitchen, World Central Kitchen and many other worthwhile causes. Going forward, we are excited about the prospects of working together with the Trump Organization on a variety of programs to benefit the community.”

Andrés, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment, had planned a $7 million restaurant befitting the Trump’s $212 million makeover of the Old Post Office Pavilion into the Trump International Hotel. According to court documents, the chef planned to call it Topo Atrio and prepared a menu featuring hand-carved cured ham from the black-footed Iberico pigs and squid ink pasta with head-on red shrimp, cuttlefish and aioli.

During the spring of 2015, Andrés and Trump’s daughter Ivanka traded design ideas and advanced plans for the restaurant, according to court documents. But the deal unraveled shortly after the billionaire developer announced his candidacy for president that summer and, in the process, railed against Mexican immigrants.

Andrés countersued for $8 million, with his firm arguing in court that the comments made it next to impossible to hire Hispanic staff or attract Hispanic patrons. Pressing to open his restaurant by the fall of 2016, Trump built his own restaurant in place of the Andrés concept and signed BLT Prime and chef David Burke to operate it.

Trump famously says he never settles lawsuits although he has done so repeatedly, including when he agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to end fraud cases against his Trump University seminar program last fall. Trump has resigned from active positions with the company while in office, though he continues to own it.

The settlement ends a distraction for Trump that, two weeks before entering office, required him to sit for a legal deposition in Trump Tower. The Trump Organization made no comment on a similar suit with chef Geoffrey Zakarian. In that case, the court has scheduled a May hearing and an August mediation session.

Trump’s attorney on both cases, Rebecca Woods, of Seyfarth Shaw, declined comment.

This story will be updated. Keith L. Alexander contributed.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Celebrity chef Jose Andres, currently locked in a legal battle with President Trump, says he's supporting 'A day without immigrants' protests. (Video: Reuters)