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Grace Restaurant - Duffy and Muser have quit

Grace Restaurant - Duffy and Muser have quit
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  • Grace Restaurant - Duffy and Muser have quit

    Post #1 - December 20th, 2017, 5:08 pm
    Post #1 - December 20th, 2017, 5:08 pm Post #1 - December 20th, 2017, 5:08 pm
    Kevin Pang tweeted this out: "Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser, the faces of 3 Michelin-starred Grace in Chicago, is out of the restaurant. The New York Times lands the scoop"

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/dini ... -quit.html
  • Post #2 - December 20th, 2017, 6:07 pm
    Post #2 - December 20th, 2017, 6:07 pm Post #2 - December 20th, 2017, 6:07 pm
    According to a variety of sites, including Eater and the NYT, both left because they had been negotiating to buy the restaurant and got nowhere with the owner, Michael Olszewski.

    I can hardly think of anything sadder than this. The one saving "grace" is that they will certainly open something new, staff it with Grace personnel, and Olszewski will be left with little. I have no idea what the details are, but if anyone could imagine Grace would be worth much--or anything--without those two, he's completely clueless.

    Such a pity.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #3 - December 20th, 2017, 6:20 pm
    Post #3 - December 20th, 2017, 6:20 pm Post #3 - December 20th, 2017, 6:20 pm
    Wow. Just... wow.

    I must say, though, given Duffy and Muser's stature and track record even before Grace opened, I'm a bit surprised that they weren't partners rather than merely employees, and under a partnership agreement with provisions for dissolution in the event of a disagreement. Who knew?

    Earlier today I was reading this article about the challenges of the restaurant industry in Chicago magazine:

    Is Chicago’s Dining Boom Over?

    This paragraph was particularly prescient:

    Peter Frost in Chicago wrote:Of course, closings are common in this high-failure industry. What’s different now is the caliber of the restaurants that may not survive—ones putting out great food and packing the house. In the past year alone, such critical darlings as MK, Tru, Intro, 42 Grams, Dixie, Ruxbin, and Vera have bitten the dust. Expect others to follow.

    :shock:
  • Post #4 - December 20th, 2017, 7:02 pm
    Post #4 - December 20th, 2017, 7:02 pm Post #4 - December 20th, 2017, 7:02 pm
    This sucks, and even more, this guy Olszewski is an idiot. I hope the space sits unrented for eons, just like the old Shine space on Armitage, where a greedy landlord tried to raise the rent and ended up with an empty space for years.
  • Post #5 - December 20th, 2017, 7:08 pm
    Post #5 - December 20th, 2017, 7:08 pm Post #5 - December 20th, 2017, 7:08 pm
    As Phil Vettel writes in the Trib, "On hearing the news, most of Grace’s staff members reportedly have tendered their resignations as well."
  • Post #6 - December 21st, 2017, 11:30 am
    Post #6 - December 21st, 2017, 11:30 am Post #6 - December 21st, 2017, 11:30 am
    Per Eater and the Sun-Times, it looks like it's closed for good now.
  • Post #7 - December 21st, 2017, 11:49 am
    Post #7 - December 21st, 2017, 11:49 am Post #7 - December 21st, 2017, 11:49 am
    According to the piece in the Eater:

    "The Sun-Times received a statement from the restaurant’s majority owner, real estate agent Michael Olszewski, who confirmed the shutter: 'This space will live to see another day with yet another great restaurant headed by a new team that will make Chicago and the restaurant community proud.'”

    It's hard to imagine what planet this guy lives on. Whether money can buy happiness may be open to debate, but it's clear that it can't buy brains. [Or, as my grandmother would have said, saichel (Yiddish for intelligence, or wisdom, or common sense).]
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #8 - December 21st, 2017, 12:08 pm
    Post #8 - December 21st, 2017, 12:08 pm Post #8 - December 21st, 2017, 12:08 pm
    This is a real shame, though talent of this level will surely land another prime gig soon. Whether or not Duffy and Muser will be able to negotiate for equity is another matter.

    As for what happens next in this space, I can see it going either way. Perhaps, given his actions here, the owner will find it difficult to recruit top-level talent to run his "new" place. On the other hand, we're a pretty myopic group here; far more focused on happenings like this than most other folks. I wonder if most potential diners will ever know or care what happened to bring Grace to its end.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #9 - December 21st, 2017, 12:10 pm
    Post #9 - December 21st, 2017, 12:10 pm Post #9 - December 21st, 2017, 12:10 pm
    Everybody seems pretty quick to blame the owner without knowing any of the facts. My experience in these kinds of disputes is that there is plenty of blame to go around.
  • Post #10 - December 21st, 2017, 12:19 pm
    Post #10 - December 21st, 2017, 12:19 pm Post #10 - December 21st, 2017, 12:19 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:This is a real shame, though talent of this level will surely land another prime gig soon. Whether or not Duffy and Muser will be able to negotiate for equity is another matter.

    As for what happens next in this space, I can see it going either way. Perhaps, given his actions here, the owner will find it difficult to recruit top-level talent to run his "new" place. On the other hand, we're a pretty myopic group here; far more focused on happenings like this than most other folks. I wonder if most potential diners will ever know or care what happened to bring Grace to its end.

    =R=


    I think in this case, Duffy leaving will doom things for that space and the owner. All of the focus was on Duffy in coverage of the restaurant and For Grace is on Netflix, so this is going to resonate more than a typical staffing kerfuffle.
  • Post #11 - December 21st, 2017, 12:56 pm
    Post #11 - December 21st, 2017, 12:56 pm Post #11 - December 21st, 2017, 12:56 pm
    Jonah wrote:Everybody seems pretty quick to blame the owner without knowing any of the facts. My experience in these kinds of disputes is that there is plenty of blame to go around.


    Agreed completely. And I've thought about this quite a bit, actually. Still, for Olszewski not to expect Muser and Duffy to eventually seek some (or all) of the ownership would have been remarkably short-sighted on his part. I think you're right to note that this result is not the result of a black/white situation, every scenario I work through in my mind leaves me in the same place: how could Olszewski not seen or expected to deal with this issue at some point?
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #12 - December 21st, 2017, 1:10 pm
    Post #12 - December 21st, 2017, 1:10 pm Post #12 - December 21st, 2017, 1:10 pm
    Jonah wrote:Everybody seems pretty quick to blame the owner without knowing any of the facts. My experience in these kinds of disputes is that there is plenty of blame to go around.


    I've thought about this quite a bit, actually. Still, for Olszewski not to expect Muser and Duffy to eventually seek some (or all) of the ownership would have been remarkably short-sighted on his part. I think you're right to note that this result is not the result of a black/white situation, every scenario I work through in my mind leaves me in the same place: how could Olszewski not seen or expected to deal with this issue at some point? The only way this works so he's not the bad guy is if Muser and Duffy insisted on buying him out 100% and he wanted to keep a stake--a not unreasonable position. But I doubt we'll find much out any time soon.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #13 - December 21st, 2017, 1:11 pm
    Post #13 - December 21st, 2017, 1:11 pm Post #13 - December 21st, 2017, 1:11 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:
    Jonah wrote:Everybody seems pretty quick to blame the owner without knowing any of the facts. My experience in these kinds of disputes is that there is plenty of blame to go around.


    How could Olszewski not seen or expected to deal with this issue at some point?


    How do you know that he didn't? Based on what's public to this point, we don't know who demanded what from whom and what was or wasn't reasonable.

    Fact is, it takes big money and a certain appetite for high risk ventures to back these places--I don't think it's a big stretch to say that that often comes from folks who could be difficult to work with. The alliances who are successful, like One Off, BRG, Alinea Group, have, obviously, managed to overcome the pitfalls of ego, authority and respect between talent and finance.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #14 - December 21st, 2017, 1:14 pm
    Post #14 - December 21st, 2017, 1:14 pm Post #14 - December 21st, 2017, 1:14 pm
    The specifics of this will probably never be known to the public, so I'm reserving judgement.

    My question is, when will the fire sale for those chairs featured in For Grace be?
  • Post #15 - December 21st, 2017, 1:28 pm
    Post #15 - December 21st, 2017, 1:28 pm Post #15 - December 21st, 2017, 1:28 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I work through in my mind leaves me in the same place: how could Olszewski not seen or expected to deal with this issue at some point?

    Not taking sides here but one could look at the other side of this and ask why Duffy and Muser would agree to deals in which the right to eventually acquire equity was not specifically promised to them.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #16 - December 21st, 2017, 1:30 pm
    Post #16 - December 21st, 2017, 1:30 pm Post #16 - December 21st, 2017, 1:30 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:According to the piece in the Eater:

    "The Sun-Times received a statement from the restaurant’s majority owner, real estate agent Michael Olszewski, who confirmed the shutter: 'This space will live to see another day with yet another great restaurant headed by a new team that will make Chicago and the restaurant community proud.'”

    It's hard to imagine what planet this guy lives on. Whether money can buy happiness may be open to debate, but it's clear that it can't buy brains. [Or, as my grandmother would have said, saichel (Yiddish for intelligence, or wisdom, or common sense).]


    You never know. When Henry Adaniya was left holding the bag at Trio after Gand and Tramonto left he managed to do alright with Shawn McLain followed by Grant Achatz.
  • Post #17 - December 21st, 2017, 1:53 pm
    Post #17 - December 21st, 2017, 1:53 pm Post #17 - December 21st, 2017, 1:53 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Not taking sides here but one could look at the other side of this and ask why Duffy and Muser would agree to deals in which the right to eventually acquire equity was not specifically promised to them.

    =R=


    That's my question, too. It's not like it was Duffy & Muser's first rodeo. Why would a chef of Duffy's calibre and experience not negotiate at least a small stake from the get go. I'm sure we will never know the full story, but I'll bet it's an interesting one.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #18 - December 21st, 2017, 2:00 pm
    Post #18 - December 21st, 2017, 2:00 pm Post #18 - December 21st, 2017, 2:00 pm
    stevez wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Not taking sides here but one could look at the other side of this and ask why Duffy and Muser would agree to deals in which the right to eventually acquire equity was not specifically promised to them.

    =R=


    That's my question, too. It's not like it was Duffy & Muser's first rodeo. Why would a chef of Duffy's calibre and experience not negotiate at least a small stake from the get go. I'm sure we will never know the full story, but I'll bet it's an interesting one.


    The reports are that Duffy and Muser wanted to either totally buy out Olszewski or at least buy a controlling interest (not that they were attempting to acquire equity in the first place). If that's the case, it doesn't seem surprising to me that they couldn't arrive at a price that satisfied everyone.
  • Post #19 - December 21st, 2017, 2:39 pm
    Post #19 - December 21st, 2017, 2:39 pm Post #19 - December 21st, 2017, 2:39 pm
    Curtis promises the full story eventually:

    http://makeitbetter.net/dining/curtis-d ... hats-next/
    "People are too busy in these times to care about good food. We used to spend months working over a bonne-femme sauce, trying to determine just the right proportions of paprika and fresh forest mushrooms to use." -Karoly Gundel, Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg, 1954.
  • Post #20 - December 21st, 2017, 3:36 pm
    Post #20 - December 21st, 2017, 3:36 pm Post #20 - December 21st, 2017, 3:36 pm
    Royal Lichter wrote:Curtis promises the full story eventually:

    http://makeitbetter.net/dining/curtis-d ... hats-next/


    Thanks for that. Good interview!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #21 - December 21st, 2017, 6:10 pm
    Post #21 - December 21st, 2017, 6:10 pm Post #21 - December 21st, 2017, 6:10 pm
    Agreed; nice to hear what he has to say and have the reassurance that they intend to stay right here. Nice stuff.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #22 - December 21st, 2017, 7:33 pm
    Post #22 - December 21st, 2017, 7:33 pm Post #22 - December 21st, 2017, 7:33 pm
    Just to put into perspective how much we don't know about the story, the Times has an updated story that mentions things that either weren't reported, or are in conflict with the way things were previously reported:

    "Mr. Duffy had quit in May, but returned to the restaurant in September."

    "Although Mr. Muser announced his departure on Wednesday, he confirmed through a spokeswoman that he had actually been fired on Dec. 1." (It had previously been reported that he quit, as indicated in the title of this topic.)

    "After news that the men had left the restaurant was published in The New York Times on Wednesday, some of the roughly 40 staff members who worked there arrived to discover that they no longer had jobs." (It had previously been reported that the staff members quit when they heard the news.)

    I'm not saying that this latest story is true and the previous reports were not, but rather, that we just don't know.
  • Post #23 - December 22nd, 2017, 6:03 pm
    Post #23 - December 22nd, 2017, 6:03 pm Post #23 - December 22nd, 2017, 6:03 pm
    Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine has posted his take:

    Without Grace, Chicago’s Restaurant Scene Is Forever Changed
  • Post #24 - December 22nd, 2017, 7:51 pm
    Post #24 - December 22nd, 2017, 7:51 pm Post #24 - December 22nd, 2017, 7:51 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine has posted his take:

    Without Grace, Chicago’s Restaurant Scene Is Forever Changed

    Here's the biggest take-away from Ruby's piece . . .

    Duffy and Muser reportedly have a non-compete clause that will prevent them from opening another restaurant in the near future.

    Ouch.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #25 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:08 pm
    Post #25 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:08 pm Post #25 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:08 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Here's the biggest take-away from Ruby's piece . . .

    Duffy and Muser reportedly have a non-compete clause that will prevent them from opening another restaurant in the near future.

    I can't imagine why an already-accomplished chef and GM would sign such a contract unless it contained provisions for severance (or equivalent compensation) to cover their income for the period in which they would not be able to compete. (This is complete conjecture on my part.)
  • Post #26 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:15 pm
    Post #26 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:15 pm Post #26 - December 22nd, 2017, 8:15 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    nsxtasy wrote:Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine has posted his take:

    Without Grace, Chicago’s Restaurant Scene Is Forever Changed

    Here's the biggest take-away from Ruby's piece . . .

    Duffy and Muser reportedly have a non-compete clause that will prevent them from opening another restaurant in the near future.

    Ouch.

    =R=


    The critical key word in that sentence being "reportedly," of course. There's all kinds of non-compete clauses; at this point, knowing what we don't know--which is pretty much everything--we're left just sorta hoping for the best. And boy am I hoping. :cry:
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #27 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:13 am
    Post #27 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:13 am Post #27 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:13 am
    IIRC, noncompetes have to be limited in time and location. So if they move to another city...
    I'm not Angry, I'm hungry.
  • Post #28 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:33 am
    Post #28 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:33 am Post #28 - December 23rd, 2017, 9:33 am
    AngrySarah wrote:IIRC, noncompetes have to be limited in time and location. So if they move to another city...


    Lawyer here. In a past life I dealt with non-competes semi frequently. That said it's been a while and this comment may be outdated... And wrong. So take it with a grain of salt.

    That said, they may be able to escape the chains of their non-compete relatively easily because the restaurant closed down.

    In order to enforce a non-compete, the business has to have a "protectable interest", which usually refers to its ongoing business. If the restaurant has ceased operations, then there's nothing left to protect.

    Now this is a huge over simplification, especially since none of us have read what their non-competes actually say. Plus there could be other grounds for them to get sued... Especially if they had any improper hand in the staff walkout.

    All of that being said, I wouldn't necessarily read too much into the non-competes.
  • Post #29 - December 23rd, 2017, 12:41 pm
    Post #29 - December 23rd, 2017, 12:41 pm Post #29 - December 23rd, 2017, 12:41 pm
    Per a Sun-Times article this morning (https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mihalopoulos-dream-restaurant-run-of-grace-became-kitchen-nightmare/amp/?__twitter_impression=true), the potentially enforceable/binding non-compete:
    block[s] them from investing in or even working for another restaurant in the Chicago area for 18 months. That clause covers Cook, Will, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry Counties.

    The restriction seems broader than necessary to protect legitimate business interests, especially when viewed from the current perspective where there is no current restaurant operating. However, I believe the enforceability determination would hinge on the circumstances when it was agreed to. It would be perverse to allow a coordinated walk-off to defeat a non-compete designed to protect the very situation of the restaurant after Duffy/Muser.
  • Post #30 - December 23rd, 2017, 11:44 pm
    Post #30 - December 23rd, 2017, 11:44 pm Post #30 - December 23rd, 2017, 11:44 pm
    As a craftbeer aficianado, I notice all the areas in their 'non-compete' area are in Illinois.
    There is nothing preventing them from opening a restaurant in Munster, Indiana, just outside Cook County, Illinois (just like 3 Floyds Brwg.)
    Would Munster, IN., like to get on the map of venues to hit for out-of-area visitors (as well as you and I here on LTHF)? Oh boy - I suspect it would be. It would start looking into its funding folders for ways to convince it to locate there.
    Learn what Bing prefers you not know: http://208.84.112.25/~pudgym29/bookmark4.html

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