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José Andrés hits back at Trump over restaurant deal; counter-sues for $8 million

The lawsuit could drag on for months. (Photos by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post and Reuters)
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Washington-based celebrity chef José Andrés isn’t bringing a whisk to a knife fight. In court documents filed late Wednesday, the top toque says real estate mogul-turned GOP candidate Donald Trump is the one to blame for the bust-up of a deal in which Andrés was to open the flagship restaurant in Trump’s redevelopment of the Old Post Office Pavilion into a luxury hotel complex.

Andrés, a native of Spain who recently became a U.S. citizen, backed out of the plan in August after Trump made some unsavory comments about illegal Mexican immigrants. Trump promptly slapped the chef with a $10 million breach-of-contract suit.

But in the documents filed with the D.C. Superior Court, Andres and his company, ThinkFoodGroup, contend that Trump’s comments themselves constituted the initial breach of the contract — and so Trump has no one to blame but himself.

That echoes what Andrés said when he nixed the deal: that Trump’s statements made it impossible to open and run a high-end Spanish eatery. “The perception that Mr. Trump’s statements were anti-Hispanic made it very difficult to recruit appropriate staff for a Hispanic restaurant, to attract the requisite number of Hispanic food patrons for a profitable enterprise, and to raise capital for what was now an extraordinarily risky Spanish restaurant,” the filing states.

The culinary team counter-sued, seeking more than $8 million in damages from Trump.  Trump general counsel Alan Garten in a statement called Andres’ filing “legally meritless and clearly intended to divert focus away from his baseless decision to walk away from his obligations under the lease.”

“We are confident that the court will view it the same way and dismiss Mr. Andres’ claims accordingly,” Garten said.

One particularly tasty nugget among the legalese: in his lawsuit against Andrés, Trump had cited a statement attributed to the chef praising the hotelier’s “business acumen” included in the press release Trump released announcing the restaurant deal. In his filing, Andrés indicates that he wasn’t the one who actually wrote those glowing words about Trump.

Guess who wrote those words, according to Andres? Why, that was the work of Team Trump.