Famous Chef In Hot Water Over Wire Foul-up, Restaurant Ordered To Pay Customer $1.3 Million In Fines

Grilled food
A premier Manhattan restaurant has been ordered to pay $1.3 million in fines after one of their customers accidentally ate a piece of wire that came from a grill brush. Pixabay, Public Domain

It’s the sort of food horror story that’ll make you cringe in sympathy.

Last week, a New York jury ordered a restaurant owned by celebrated French chef, Daniel Boulud, to dole out $1.3 million to one of its disgruntled customers, the AFP reported Tuesday. The stiff fine was issued after the customer, Barry Brett, sued the restaurant, db Bistro Moderne, for having served him a piece of wire lodged in his coq au vin in February 2015. If that wasn’t bad enough, Brett ate the wire and as a result, his lawyer claimed, developed a potentially fatal infection that required emergency surgery. The wire had apparently come from a grill brush.

"In speaking with the jurors afterwards, they were shocked that one of the most famous chefs in the world had no oversight, no policies, no procedures, no nothing which would have prevented this incident from occurring," said Elizabeth Eilender, Brett’s attorney, according to the New York Post. "They wanted to send a clear message...to the entire restaurant industry that it is unacceptable to use wire brushes anywhere near food."

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned against the risk of accidental wire ingestion from using that style of brush to clean grills as far back as 2012, the restaurant’s lawyers argued there was no negligence involved because the brush was only used to clean grills where chicken wasn’t being prepared.

Brett, himself a retired lawyer, was directly awarded $300,000 and his wife $11,000 by the 8-person federal court jury, who then stacked another $1 million in punitive damages on top. Large as that sum may seem, there are likely more legal battles ahead — the restaurant’s lawyer,  P.J. Bottarri, said he plans to file an appeal.

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