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November 14, 2003


Renowned NYC chef caught in 9/11 fraud

The NY Post reports today that David Bouley, the owner of Bouley and Danube, two big-time Tribeca restuarants, is under investigation for 9/11-related insurance fraud. He reportedly charged the Red Cross $5.8 million for feeding their workers from his temporary food service stations, but then neglected to report this income to his insurance company when filing claims for losses sustained by his two restaurants.

This is a shame. I worked for Bouley serving meals to rescue/recovery workers in the aftermath of 9/11. He and I spent several hours one night in the back of a semi-truck throwing 50-lb sacks of carrots and potatoes to a line of workers who conveyed them to the kitchen where meals were prepared and then shuttled to Ground Zero. Although I didn't know him well, I may have never seen anybody work as hard (besides the recovery workers) as Bouley did in the weeks following the attacks. He was onsite almost 24 hours a day for weeks on end, and almost single-handedly established "the green tarp" food service location just a few feet from the pile of rubble. The firefighters and steel workers I met were universally grateful for the amazing food David and his team provided while they worked long and dangerous hours on the pile.

And yet, as the weeks wore on, there was some buzz that Bouley was going to take the unusual step of bidding on the long-term catering services for Ground Zero employees who, within 5 weeks of the disaster, were comprised mostly of non-unionized day laborers who were given inadequate training and protection. While everyone from (I think) Aramark/Marriott to the Red Cross bid on providing services, Bouley low-balled everybody, and people wondered how he was able to provide services for such a low cost. The answer: volunteer labor. The word around was that while all the other service companies had to pay their employees, Bouley was going to continue to rely on the volunteers (like me) who had worked the site in the earlier days after the attack. This rubbed some people the wrong way, but Bouley got the contract anyway. I am not sure how it worked out, but I do know that his restaurants' staff members were working long hours for no pay while the restaurant remained closed, and Bouley got into a rather heated and prolonged confrontation with them about what, if any, pay they could expect. I imagine that after the volunteer spirit wore out, Bouley relied on paid employees, but it was no secret that he stood to make a windfall from the Ground Zero contract, despite the closings of his restaurants.

If you Google around for info on Bouley, you'll see a lot of negative comments on his personality and management practices, and this latest report only seems to buttress these allegations, but in the days after the attacks, he was doing something to take care of the rescue workers' basic needs, while nearly everyone else was sitting around wondering what to do.

A bit of a disclaimer: this account is based mainly on my memory of events around 9/11, and most of that info was based on rumors I would hear around Ground Zero. I'm sorry if any of it is inaccurate.

categories: NYC
posted by adm at 1:50 PM | #


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