Jason Neroni leaving NYC restaurant Porchetta amid allegations of scandal
Once upon a time, in a place far far away, was a restaurant called Porchetta. A man named Jason Neroni was head chef; a man with so much potential he was in the running as Best New Chef in New York, and is generally regarded as the man who put Porchetta on the map. Among other credits are Spago Saucier, The Tasting Room Chef de Cuisine, and Fish Tourmant at Alain Ducasse of the Essex House.
Then something happened. On April 6th, Neroni left along with his pastry chef and other kitchen staff. A terse statement was issued specifying ‘irreconcilable differences’ with owner Marco Rivero. From The Village Voice,
According to the chef, Rivero wanted to readdress the menu, adding sandwiches, lowering the price-point, and opening for lunch. Neroni was in favor of none of those changes.
“I don’t agree with his business practices,” Neroni said. “It’s a great location, and if they can get someone good in there, maybe they’ll do well. I have no ill will against Porchetta, and I wish them the best, but I don’t think he really knows what he wants. I know what I want.”
Neroni said the restaurant was “practically giving food away” when he first took over the kitchen. “We started getting better product in there, all organic, and it was more expensive,” he said, “but we were still full. Then there were a couple of slow weeks, which is common in March when it’s still cold and it’s tax season, and [Rivero] wanted to revert [to the old approach].”
Neroni told us there had been ongoing animosity over food-costs, which Rivero claimed to be way too high. Neroni claimed his calculations were overly simple and inaccurate.
It all sounds like the normal infighting that goes on in these types of situations, mostly innocuous stuff, but then it got interesting.
A week later, Marco Rivero fired a broadside at his ex-chef, saying he was “fired for unauthorized misappropriation of funds from the business” and that “A warrant is currently out for his arrest”.
From Eater.com, (link no longer valid)
On the one hand we can his understand his need to “spin” the story in such a way as to preserve his professional reputation in the face of an embarrassing set of circumstances regarding his termination. On the other hand, there is no justification for his use of invectives and mistruths directed against us in doing so – something that perhaps reflects the same impulsiveness and overall lack of sound judgment behind the grounds for his original termination. To add some substance to an open-ended phrase used by Neroni – the “irreconcilable differences” here were those between the owner of a small business in a highly competitive industry, seeking to provide a livelihood to his employees, a pleasurable dining experience to his customers, and a living for himself and his family, on the one hand, and a self-absorbed chef with very little interest in the long term viability of the business, on the other.
Later the same day, Chef Neroni responded saying that the accusations were absolutely not true. In a letter published by Eater.com, he states “there was ABSOLUTELY no criminal behavior on my part or any misappropriation of funds.”
Even later the same day, Neroni was reportedly arrested for petit larceny, and thrown into the slammer. A court date was set for mid-may. More from eater.com (link no longer valid),
the charge is petit larceny because Jason signed his own paycheck as, according to him, he has done many times in the past. Marco claims that he is the only person allowed to sign checks, but Jason says he has signed checks for vendors and his staff before. Marco told Jason that he’d drop the charges if he publicly apologized to him, Jason feels he has nothing to apologize for.
Is this messy or what? Doesn’t it sound like something right out of Portland? I immediately think of
Hemmeroid Hebberoy or Stu Stien. Why Chef Neroni would fit right in here!
I haven’t been able to track down what happened next, but I can tell you what is rumored to be happening now. Brace yourselves – Once again from the eminently readable Eater July 10th EaterWire (another link gone bad),
Former Porchetta chef Jason Neroni, who gained notoriety after being briefly jailed a few months back and who was last seen working at Alias, is fleeing the city. A tipster writes: “Jason Neroni, the “Deserate [sic] Chef” and notorious “check writer” is leaving NYC for Oregon. Talk is that he can’t secure a job as a porter these days. He leaves this week to, “get away from the stigma of the last year and the bitchiness of the NY restaurant scene.” Bye Bye Neroni!” Hm, does this mean Oregon will soon see a spike in restaurant-related crimes? Sorry, that was bitchy.
Now you all can read all the links above and draw your own conclusion, but my gut feeling is this guy got a bad rap. I’ve worked in lots of business where check signing was pretty fast and loose. It seems to me he tried to get out of the restaurant, hurt the owners feelings, and jackass that Marco Rivero seems to be, he decided to get even. Petit larceny, give me a freaking break. This could have all been settled out of court and saved everyone lots of money. However, this is just my opinion. What do I know? I hope he lands on his feet here in Portland. he’ll fit in just fine.
Note: He did just that – Neroni ended up as the new chef at Saucebox restaurant.