While Donald Trump is working overtime to appeal to women, minorities, and everyone else he’s offended, he may also want to consider making amends with chefs. Jose Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian nixed plans to open restaurants at Trump’s forthcoming D.C. hotel following the candidate’s disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants, sparking a series of lawsuits, finding replacements proved awfully difficult. According to a new report from the Washingtonian, dozens of chefs ultimately passed on the offer to work with Trump.
The magazine obtained transcripts from Zakarian’s deposition, as well as emails from executives at Streetsense, the firm responsible for finding retail and restaurant tenants for the hotel. "I think this issue has evolved to a point where we need to discuss if we want to maintain Trump as a client," Streetsense’s co-CEO and vice chairman wrote to his partners after both chefs dropped out of the project. "The public outcry continues to grow. It is toxic as of today. Not sure how long before it gets better, at least not until he drops out of the race and probably not then either."
Trump, of course, never did drop out of the race and the firm eventually decided to continue backing the project. But they had their work cut out for them when it came to scouting new restaurants for the hotel: Stephen Starr, Richard Sandoval, Tom Colicchio’s restaurant group (no surprise there, given Colicchio is a vocal Democrat), and Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio all turned down the project. D.C. area chefs Cathal Armstrong, fellow Top Chef alum Fabio Trabocchi, and Eric Ziebold also found the negative press surrounding Trump to be "too much to swallow."
Another Top Chef alum, Spike Mendelssohn, also apparently had discussions regarding the project, but those in charge found his ideas to be "scatterbrained" and said he lacked the star power of others on the list.
Ultimately, the Trump family found a replacement for Andrés’ restaurant: BLT Prime, a tenant that the Streetsense execs thought was a mistake due to its proximity to a BLT Steak restaurant several few blocks away.
According to the deposition, the space intended for Zakarian’s restaurant will now serve as a conference room.