Plaza chops chef Geoffrey Zakarian, “abandons” Oak Room renovation

Geoffrey Zakarian (photo credit: STUDIO SCRIVO) and the ceiling of the Palm Court
Geoffrey Zakarian (photo credit: STUDIO SCRIVO) and the ceiling of the Palm Court

LLNYC cover star and celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian has been abruptly chopped from the Plaza Hotel, where he oversaw the food and beverage programs at the famed Palm Court and Oak Room. He is now seeking $1.6 million in damages from the hotel.

It has been about two years since Zakarian completed his well-reviewed renovation of the landmarked Palm Court, where a vintage sidecar cocktail costs $3,000. And he had since moved on to renovating the famed Oak Room, which has been closed to the public for years.

“It was excruciatingly difficult to restore. It was a landmark landmine,” Zakarian told LLNYC of the intense oversight by city’s preservation commission. “When you have a landmark building, no one wants to touch it, but when you touch it you get known for it.”

Now, according to the lawsuit, the Plaza has abandoned, or at least shelved, its plans to renovate the Oak Room, and fired Zakarian as a result. Zakarian was sent a termination letter sent on May 19 and has since been barred from the premises.

However, the Plaza denies that they have given up their plans for the Oak Room.

“The Oak Room hosts private events on a regular basis.  It is, in fact, one of the most popular venues at The Plaza.  It is the intention of the owners of The Plaza to have it reopened to the public,” Suzanne Wenz a spokeswoman from the Plaza told LLNYC.

Furthermore, Zakarian claims that he has a five-year contract with the Plaza, extending through July 2018, for continued consultation and fine-tuning of the programs at both the Palm Court and the Oak Room. He also claims that he was not paid the contractually agreed upon $150,000 termination fee.

More over, he says that the Plaza engaged in a “whispering campaign” suggesting that “Zakarian is out,” damaging his reputation and thereby breaching their contract which prevents either party from making “disparaging” comments about the other.

For damages to Zakarian’s “excellent reputation” he is seeking at least $1 million. He is also seeking his $150,000 termination fee and at least $450,000 for breach of contract.

Zakarian did not return LLNYC’s requests for comment.