Tom Hurley has made a big splash in the Portland area, but not because of his restaurant. Instead, the focus is on his ability to maintain a position as chef and manage a restaurant, all while receiving disability from the city of Portland.
This according to the Oregonian. Let’s look at the sequence of events:
- Hurley is a city firefighter. In 1993, he hurts his back and gets full disability from the city.
- Hurley’s goes to the French Culinary Institute in New York, which is paid for by the city, to start him on a new career.
- Hurley opens his own eponymous restaurant in Portland, all while continuing to claim disability payments of almost $4,000 a month.
- Portland voters approve a reform measure to eliminate disability payments for people who are successfully working. Hurley loses his payments, but he’s making good money from his restaurant.
- In 2007, Hurley closes the restaurant and heads to Coupage in Seattle, while making snarky comments about how unsophisticated Portland is, and how much more he will be appreciated in Seattle.
- Things don’t go well at Coupage, and most of the staff left when he arrived. The restaurant closed in August 2007. I guess Seattle wasn’t sophisticated enough for him either.
- Mr. Hurley moves to Triangle Lounge, also in Seattle. In October of 2008, they “parted ways”. Reports around the blogosphere say that he was impossible to work with.
- These days, according to the Oregonian, Hurley has moved to the bay area but is now suing Portland for $2,000,000 to restart his disability claim because
he can’t hold a job since no one will work with himof his pain and suffering.
Read the Oregon Live article for lots more details, and then come back here and comment. The whole thing will make your blood boil. I’d love to hear your comments.
Talk about no personal responsibility…
He is obviously able bodied. I find it sickening that he could possibly bring home more money a month for doing nada than a husband that goes to work @ 6am and gets home @ 7pm & actually works!
far away says
it is unfortunate to see people with such an entitled mentality. looks like the karma is coming back.
As far as all of his employees leaving when he came to Coupage and his other latter ufortunate “splittings” i have seen it all to much, the impossible chef soon becomes the unemployable chef. even Thomas Keller eventually settled down. Just because you are a chef doesn’t mean that you can treat people in “that manner” and some how what you do is so amazing that people will still put up with it, whether business partners, employees, or restaurant owners.
queen artoeat says
In the Oregonian article it mentioned that Hurley hurt his back and knee. I find it hard to believe that a 10+ hour a day standing and cooking as well as being rather over weight doesn’t take a toll on his body as well. No more dough for dough boy.
What galls me is that this is an example of a system that has been shown not to work, and yet one the city has done little to correct [cosmetic “reforms” aside]. I’ve spent the last year watching my neighbor build his house, hauling heavy lumber up ladders, wielding a nail gun, painting, etc., etc.. while collecting disability for an alleged injury suffered as a firefighter. The funds for the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund come directly from property taxes. This is one of the most egregious wastes of taxpayer money, and even more so during a deep recession.
I am totally with KingofPain. These guys should be cooking for the prisoners and stay in the jail.
It seems like a doomed suit. They keep saying on one hand “He is very able” and then elsewhere “He is unable”. And refusing to do a make-work job – but getting your 4k/month or whatever it is back – is ballsy. I would work my butt off for that kind of money. If he is WORKING in SF, than that also shoots him in the foot.
I will be very surprised if they grant him the pay. Also, isn’t he suing for $2 million? What a prince.
In a related “you have to be effing kidding me” lawsuit: anybody know what happened to the Lake Oswego woman who was suing her hairdresser? This, because the woman, who lives in a $6 million home, asked the salon to process and process and process her hair. They did. It started to fall out. She’s suing.
She got zilch. My favorite detail is that her alleged damages included $526 she paid babysitters to watch her kids while another salon put in her new hair extensions. That is some high-priced babysitting.
Insecure, hostile, angry, greedy, preening, delusional.
Here’s a compromise…let him cook for our local firehouses. He would continue to work as a firefighter at his traditional pay and be able to pursue his passion as well. Not a bad solution for the city.
Oh no, let him stay of that. Else he will teach all the other firemen the art of Cooking-sueing
Our lovely platinum blonde pal from LO was awarded nothing. Jury was 11-1.
I know it’s tempting to bash the man publicly, but the repercussions of his actions surely are payment enough. In the end, he never wins. It’s unnecessary and disheartening to discuss it yet again.
This lawsuit most likely is on contingency base either way it means taxpayers will have to foot the bill to pay lawyers to fight this.
SadSadSad. Sounds as if he will never join us in the real world. He needs a shrink and Jenny Craig.
queen artoeat says
My friend in the Bay area tracked down Soltner Jr.-
at Left Bank
New Left Bank
Chef Tom Hurley
hails from Oregon and
pursued his life-long
love for food through a
course of study at the
-French Culinary Insti
,tute in New York
which he completed with honors. Working for a
time under the most renowned culinary names in
New York, he returned to Portland in 2003 to open
-Hurley’s, one of the best received and top-rated eat
eries in the city. He opened Coupage in November
of 2006 and also owned the historic Triangle
.Lounge in the Fremont district of Seattle
As a 20-year aquaintence of Left Bank CEO
Richard Miyashiro, Tom found his way south and is
lighting up the cuisine at Left Bank. His passion
and talent is fine tuning the Brasserie menu and
transforming the menu of the Bar Americain. At
Left Bank‘s new Bar Americain you can taste
Tom’s famous short rib burger, spicy cross cut ribs
.and apple wood smoked chicken
Left Bank is considering an opening in Jack London Square this year,
but management has its hands full with its Pleasant Hill branch’s move
to Walnut Creek set for late ‘09. The soon-to-move brasserie has
brought in new executive chef Thomas Hurley, acclaimed in Portland/
Seattle dining circles, while the new value-oriented bar menu offers
great deals, all for under $10.
Mmmmmmmmmm… boiled blood….
This was the article that I believe was his demise. This article was written back in 2005.
“Retrained but still paid”
Like other disability systems, Portland’s fund helps injured cops and firefighters by paying for vocational rehabilitation. The fund has sent one worker to flight instructor school, another to real estate classes and another to improve his private investigator’s business.
But unlike other systems, Portland keeps paying after they’ve landed new careers.
Firefighter Tom Hurley, one of Portland’s best-known chefs, benefited from the retraining. At his Northwest Portland restaurant, featured in Gourmet magazine last year, Hurley serves up wild Scottish pheasant and other entrees with prices as high as $32.
Contacted by The Oregonian on a recent Friday afternoon, Hurley stood in the restaurant’s kitchen wearing a blue Fire & Rescue shirt, fixing a broken freezer before an event with a French winemaker.
A fifth-generation firefighter, Hurley, 46, said he fractured his right knee when he fell through a second-story floor that collapsed in a fire. In a subsequent injury, he said, he hurt his back when he was thrown by the force of a fire.
Hurley declined to offer more details, except to say that he worked on and off before going on long-term disability in November 1993. Records from city archives show an independent medical examiner said in May 1995 that he was able to return to work. Instead, the fund’s board sent Hurley to another doctor and he remained off work.
State records show that Hurley was a licensed drywall contractor from 1992 to no later than 1995. He said he also worked as an estimator for a construction company.
After that, Hurley took advantage of the fund’s vocational rehabilitation program, which helps retrain injured workers in hopes that benefits can be reduced when they go back to work. “I presented a business plan to show them how they could save money by giving me a chance to be retrained,” he said.
The fund helped send him to the French Culinary Institute of New York in June 2000 to study classic culinary arts with artisanal baking. Hurley said he wanted to work in the “food capital of the world.” He graduated July 26, 2001, according to the institute, which said tuition at the time was about $25,000.
Hurley said the fund subsidized his training. By how much, he would not say.
Records from December 2004 said Hurley received $3,948 a month in benefits. Hurley disputed that, putting the amount at about $2,600. Fund officials say Hurley’s benefits and how much was spent on his training are confidential.
It’s funny, after reading this article back then, I refused to ever give a dime of my money to him, but according to “others” it was about him and his restaurant serving Foie Gras and the protesters outside of his place.
Meow! Love the title…. sooooo catty! No one does snarky like Portland’s food blogging community!!! ;)
Poor Tom Hurley… What an unfortunate fate for someone who singlehandedly alienated himself from two of the Pacific Northwest’s best cities. He was impossible to get along with, arrogant, condescending, and unfortunately for him… not nearly as smart as he thought. He learned to cook with the objective to make tons of money, not for the love of food. He didn’t even like onions! What chef doesn’t like onions? All I have to say is good ridden.
Sacramento person says
“Chef Hurley” Is currently a “consultant” for Classique Catering in Sacramento, despite his track record of failed restaraunts, and no catering experience. Word around town is that he’s just as lazy, and pompous as recent blogs suggest. I feel sorry for all the good, hard working cooks that have to put up with his arrogant crap everyday.
Purple Shamrock says
Shame on you all for your bitter comments with out all of the facts! It is a well known fact that Police & Firefighters have the most dangerous jobs. I personally know the pain & suffering these debilitating injuries have caused. Just because a person is retired from service and retrained for another carrer doesn’t erase the lifetime of pain & suffering these people experience. My father was a firefighter that was retired on a disability. No job or no amount of money would negate the fact that his lungs were fried and his knees were shot from the same injuries Tom Hurley suffers. The type of his personality or his business ability really has no bearing on the fact that he will still have a lifetime of pain & suffering received in the performance of the duty of protecting the people of Portland. In times past this very publication hailed Tom for his culinary genius. He does have an imeasurable talent as a culinary artist and yes he could probably have better people skills but again that has no bearing on the fact that the city was paying him for the pain & suffering caused by injuries recieved, not once, but twice while performing the duties of one of the most dangerous jobs. And yes, he has cooked for fire houses. During his culinary training in New York it was not uncommon for him to be seen in the kitchens of local fire houses preparing meals. In fact, after 9-11 he returned to New York and provided meals for the fire houses that were affected the most severly by the devistation even though many firefighters he grew to call friends were lost in the disaster. So, let he who lives in the glass house cast the first stone. Or, let he work through the same knee and back pain as another then cast the allegations. And, I say to the City, they were injured in the service and protection of the people of your City so pay up and shut up!
I’ll happily throw the stones and cast the allegations. The issues with Mr. Hurley have little to do with this disability crap. They are more with his ridiculously abrasive personality and the way he treats employees and people in general. The fact that he has taken a lot of money from the City of Portland for vocational rehab, did construction work spent a fortune (i.e. burned through) on restaurants and chose 2 jobs that are exceptionally hard on the back and knees aside, he was and most likely is an ass. And by the way, I have been through 6 knee surgeries and have my own back issues from various trauma and worked on plenty of lines and in plenty of kitchens so consider the stones thrown.
Thank you for coming to Tommy’s defense. I knew him when we were teenagers. We were close friends. This is not a man who takes advantage of the system. He’s a man who followed generations of his family into burning buildings and the wreckage of cars with tools you and I can’t even lift to save people’s lives and property. He is an uncommonly strong man. In a game of football on the beach when we we’re in our teens, lined up across from each other, he delivered the hardest hit I ever received. It was bone crunching. He is a competitor. A very smart man. A very kind man. And he is a phenomenal chef. And a gracious host. Does he have some personality quirks? Yes. He’s cocky, sometimes arrogant. But he’ll give you the shirt off his back. He will never lie to you. He will always be there for you. And as for his injuries, they are real. This man suffers. Because of his service to his community. Chronic debilitating pain that prevents him from doing the job he was born to do. He can still work in a restaurant, and many other normal occupations. But through no fault of his own, he no longer has the super human ability to fight fires. And that is something he has a reasonable expectation to be compensated for. The man is nothing short of a hero, though even in his most braggadocious cockiness, you will never hear him use that word or complain about his injuries.
Sincerely, Lance Silver
Could be Tom. Hurley is an Irish name; correct me if I’m wrong. Hence “Shamrock”. Quasi-biblical grandiose language. Run-on sentences. Angry ranting rambling writing style. Hmmm…
Surely is Tom. who else would write so specifically about his ‘knee and back’ pain…? Just in case your getting this, Tom. You should know that all the wounds you left in Seattle are healed (not to mention all your stupid murals have been covered with thick black paint!).
Purple Shamrock says
FYI – This was NOT written by Tom but by someone close to the situation.
Food Dude says
It’s not Tom, it’s someone with the state of Oregon.
Sacramento Person says
I find it hard to believe that “someone with the state of oregon” had nothing better to do 11:35 pm on the fourth of July than defend a sub-par “chef”. I’m pretty sure however, that Tom (who is currently sleeping on his brother couch) doesn’t have anything better to do.
Hey Tom! Stuffing everything with foie gras is not cooking!
Seattle Patron says
I met Tom while dining at Coupage, which I visited frequently; during that time I got to know him quite well. I only know him as an honorable, hard working and accomplished man. Shame on all of you for passing judgement without know circumstances or him. He did a wonderful job serving his community and his injuries are valid. And to the original comments about him making good money, have you ever worked in restaurants or know someone that has opened one? There is no way he was making good money with restaurants that closed.
It’s humorous to see how many people are victims of Tom’s sob story. He was a great firefighter, he hurt himself, he took the money from the city and made something of himself, he was talented and got a big head, he became a pompous jerk with a chip on his shoulder, he pushed everyone away, and now he is trying to start all over again. I empathize but I do not sympathize. He was making good money and he screwed it up. Now he is paying the price for burning so many bridges and making so many wrong decisions. Quit trying to justify his mistakes and just let them be made and let him go on trying to fix them. That’s life. no need to defend him like he is a defenseless child, he can take care of himself. After all, he did accomplish so much and he surely could do it again… if he realizes his mistakes and doesn’t have other people trying to soften the blow.
Spice Guy says
I’ve been in the business over two decades. I’ve never met anyone who incites anger to the extent Hurley does; even heard one of the mellowest chefs ever offer to kick his ass…
one who cooks says
as one who has logged many kitchen hours, i question the thought process of someone who has bad knees and back choosing a second career in the kitchen. lots of cooks who start out with GOOD knees end up blowing them out from the brutal hours standing. also, isn’t the whole point of the city paying someone for retraining in a different career to get them off the payroll? otherwise, why pay for culinary school, if the “chef” continues to draw disability? makes no sense to me.
i’ve seen a few chefs like this in my time…insecurity, masked by arrogance. doesn’t make for a happy or smoothly run kitchen. don’t talk the talk…just put out the food. show people you know something, and they’ll respect you. the bravado is unimpressive.
sounds like he may have been a decent firefighter at one point, but he seems intent on burning a buncha bridges now. two failed restaurants in a fairly short period. again, unimpressive.
Sacramento Person says
“True confessions of a former food critic” A recent article from a former food critic in Oregon including a great sketch of a Hurley dish…
Food Dude says
Thanks for the tip!
Good article, thanks. Love the sketch and description of the dish. Made me laugh heartily. Also there are some comments from a former associate – nothing new, but illuminating just the same.
Sacramento Person says
Former associate as of yesterday….. I worked my ass off for classique catering for over a year and a half, until Tom came in and got me fired. I know you’re reading this Tom, and I know you know who I am. Everything that you’ve done to me and my co-workers is sure to come back to you tenfold…
Raven's feast says
For the love of god enough. Kill the thread.
one who cooks says
hurley is still out there pissing people off and screwing up kitchens, perhaps while still drawing “disability”. he oughta draw disability for his disability to run a kitchen. perhaps he’ll claim that california’s budget woes were the reason (or excuse) that he’s a failure here, too. portland wasn’t ready for him, seattle….i can’t remember what that excuse was…oh, the PETA people chased him out. want a little foie with that whine, tom? excuses, excuses. man up and cook, “chef”, and quit making good cooks flee from your bs.
those who can cook, do. those who can’t, “consult”.
why kill the thread, raven’s feast? you’re still reading it, and i bet “purple shamrock” is, too.
Raven's Feast says
We’ve been b**tching about this since May 23rd. The topic is about as washed up as the chef in question. Just give it a rest. The point has been thoroughly communicated; all interested parties have been warned. It’s nice to visit this site for interesting bits on PDX food, not to take part in an interminable tirade. And no need to put on your investigative toque to implicate sympathizers. It’s tiresome and rude (although somewhat humorous). If I could manage to get unsubscribed from this thread, I would (Food Dude?).
Food Dude says
You should have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every notice. I’m not sure if I can do it manually, but I’ll give it a try.
Again, no one is forcing you to read even if you are subscribed to it, which you chose to do. And yes, I do find it valid to investigate sympathizers, as it could very well be Tom himself or someone whom he put up to the task. I wouldn’t put it past him. And it’s not washed up; there has been news since 5/23, at least stuff I didn’t know.
Thanks for admitting you are amused.
Well, I guess we know what Hurleys been up to…..
Portland firefighter-turned-chef Tom Hurley won a big victory at arbitration last week. Hurley went out on permanent disability in 1994 after a back injury. Then, in April 2007, the City of Portland fired Hurley—who said he was then working 12- to 14-hour days as a chef-restaurateur—because Hurley ignored an order to return to a newly created light-duty position at the Fire Bureau. But an arbitrator ruled Jan. 8 the firing was “unlawful and unreasonable” and ordered the city to make good on nearly three years of disability payments worth an unspecified amount and reinstate him as a member of the pension and disability fund (see a copy of the arbitrator’s decision here). A city attorney declined to comment.
This fat piece of meard is set for life, and I’m struggling to pay my bills
Thanks. “Meard”. I learned a new word today!
Arbitrators couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the law, precedent, industry conventions, common sense, fairness, or much of anything else. Their decisions are, by definition, arbitrary. Certainly gives him no vindication in my eyes.
I think Sacramentoperson meant “merde” … the French word for … well, I’ll let you look it up. :-)
Nancy Rommelmann says
The latest chapter in the Tom “you owe me!” Hurley saga:
As Caryn Brooks tweeted to me, “because restaurant work is easy on the knees and back. Ridiculous…”
Its astonishing to see the hateful comments about a man that would have been willing to risk his life to save all of yours in an ablaze building.
While rescuing your peers, be was injured and could no longer do the job he wanted to do.
Instead of claiming disability for life, he took the option provided by the city and got re-educated as a chef. That is a noble approach, with amazing results!
Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of eating at Hurley’s a few times, and the food is mind blowingly good. Ethereal.. surreal. He is one of the top 10 chefs in the country.
So, the education worked, the economy did not. We have had a financial crash that has been on going since 2008 and there is no end in sight. 50% of restaurants have been closed in this time of economic down turn, Mr Hurley is unfortunately one of those restauranteurs.
Whether his restaurants succeeded or not is really not material in this debate. Every fire fighter signs a contact with the city when the join…
If they are injured on the job, as many are, they are fairly entitled to disability, regardless if they chose a different career. Contractual law is one of the underpinnings of our society, and to not honor it is the start of the decline in western civilization.
Portland, wake up to the fact that Mr Hurley is a man to be lauded for his achievements both in the fire department and in the food and wine industry! You should be happy to have him in your community.
Food Dude says
I don’t normally say things like this to commentors on my site, but you, ma’am, are an idiot. Try reading the article before you comment.
Also, a bit of homework for you:
Please list your source for the phrase, “50% of restaurants have been closed in this time of economic down turn”.
Thank you for commenting!