French chef-turned-New York City restaurateur Daniel Boulud is being forced to pay a $1.3 million fine after a piece of wire wound up in a customer's order last year, the New York York Post reported Friday.
Back in 2015, a retired lawyer named Barry Brett was eating a $32 plate of coq au vin at Boulud’s Manhattan restaurant, db Bistro Moderne, when the piece of wire made its way into his esophagus.
Brett claimed that he almost died after the one-inch bristle caused an infection. Now, after more than a year of legal proceedings, a federal jury has awarded Brett $300,000 in damages, slapping an extra $1 million punitive fine on Boulud and his restaurant.
Though every month a new object seems to fall in the deep-fryer at a fast-food restaurant (most recently, an employee's blunt wrap was mixed in with an order of French fries at Wendy's), the decision shows that even the country's most respected kitchens are not impervious to health scares. In particular, many are calling the fine an expensive warning against the use of cheap wire brushes in the back-of-house.
“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,” Brett’s attorney, Elizabeth Eilender, said in a statement. “When this jury awarded $1 million in punitive damages they wanted to send a clear message not only to the Daniel Boulud organization….but also to the entire restaurant industry that it is unacceptable to use wire brushes anywhere near food.”
Though the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning in 2012 about using wire brushes in commercial kitchens, there has never been an official law or health department ruling to ban them from restaurants. Still, Boulud's lawyer isn't taking the decision lying down, and plans to appeal the verdict.
“There are no regulations about using a brush on a grill where chicken isn’t even prepared," P.J. Bottarri, the restaurant’s attorney, said in court. "This case is far from over.”
[via New York Post]