More than two months after Chef Matt McCallister’s Deep Ellum eatery Filament abruptly closed its doors, restaurant employees are alleging that they still have not been paid what they are owed.
Andrew Asaff, a former line cook at Filament, tells Eater that he and other kitchen employees at the restaurant were only paid 82.5 percent of their final paychecks. Asaff, who worked more than 40 hours a week on the line, claims that he is owed more than $500, which exceeds the 17.5% shortage he was told by management to expect. Other employees, including former lead line cook Justin Jett, confirm Asaff’s account.
“We were reassured by our head chef [Filament chef de cuisine Jason Perkins] that the money was going to be forthcoming. That never happened,” says Asaff. “I tried to call (managing partner) Jeff Gregory, I emailed him, my mother emailed him. It was told to me that he was hiding and not responding to anyone.” Asaff said he has also repeatedly asked for pay stubs from his time at Filament, and has not received a response from anyone at the restaurant.
Asaff, Jett, and a third kitchen staffer who asked to remain anonymous say that they have spent the last two months trying to track down funds owed to them. According to Asaff, he and other employees were told by former Filament partner Jeffrey Gregory that the restaurant’s bank account had been closed, and that there was no money with which to pay them. Gregory has not responded to Eater’s repeated requests for comment.
“I was struggling to eat,” says Jett. “I hit up Jeff Gregory again and was like ‘this is bullshit’, and I got a text from him that he was trying to sell off kitchen equipment to pay us. He said the company went bankrupt and there wasn’t any money.” When Filament closed in August, McCallister told Eater that the restaurant didn’t make enough money to cover his costs.
“[Jeff] said, ‘I’m sorry about the $150 we owe you, but I lost $90,000 on my investment [in the restaurant],” Jett said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t care. You drive a Porsche, and I can’t eat right now.’”
McCallister, who still owns Design District restaurant FT33, told Eater that he knew nothing about any employees receiving short paychecks, and says that he could have helped every cook who became suddenly unemployed when Filament shuttered find a job. “Jeff [Gregory] dealt with a lot of that stuff. This is completely new info for me,” he says. “We’ve always been good about paying our vendors. And paying our employees their last checks is the one thing we made sure was squared away.”
When asked what he plans to do to rectify the missing payments, McCallister said, “I’ll need to look into it and figure out what exactly we’re talking about, and see what we can do about it, if that’s the case.” He invited former employees to contact him in order to calculate what’s due.
Asaff is skeptical that the chef was completely unaware that his former employees were owed wages. “There’s no way that he didn’t get notified. I talked to the executive chef and the sous chef. There’s posts on social media. It’s absolutely implausible,” Asaff says.
After this experience, Asaff is taking some time away from working in the restaurant industry, and is considering filing a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission, the state agency responsible for handling allegations of wage theft. “I’ve been in the service industry for a while. I’m hardened to expect some under-the-table goings-on,” he says. “But I draw the line at not getting paid.”
Update: 10/18, 12 p.m.: Jason Perkins, former Filament chef de cuisine, tells Eater that he is yet another employee who was not paid in full after the restaurant’s closure. Perkins claims that “not a single person” who worked in the restaurant was paid the full amount that they were owed with their final paychecks, including restaurant management. He also says that he was in the room with McCallister when the wage shortages were being discussed. “At that point in time, Jeff Gregory had left the restaurant. He’d left a bit of a mess for Matt to clean up, but I know for certain Matt knew the situation that was going down with paychecks,” he says. “I was standing in the room with him when I was told.”
“I was told everybody was going to be taken care of, ” says Perkins. “But when we went to go pick up our checks, I was told outright that our check was only going to be 82.5 percent of the full pay, and at the time I’d been arguing with the owners for two months and I was kind of done. I’ve been through enough restaurant stuff to know that I was probably never going to see that money. I was done with the headache. I didn’t want to fight it, it was easier for me to move on to another job.”
In a follow-up conversation with Eater, McCallister reiterates his assertion that employees never directly reached out to him in order to square up their pay, but did acknowledge that he wasn’t completely unaware of the shortages. “I’ve been dealing with this fucking lawsuit,” he says, referring to the suit filed by Filament’s former landlord. “I understand that everybody’s checks were short. In order to fix it, I need all this information from Jeff (Gregory) — everybody’s hours, what was paid, what was set aside for taxes. It’s a giant clusterfuck.”
Editor's Note: Asaff's statement has been updated to clarify the amount of money he believes is owed to him.