He may not be the most popular chef on earth (certainly Gordon Ramsay has a few choice words to say about him) but there is no denying Conrad Gallagher’s ability in the kitchen.
The youngest chef ever to receive two Michelin stars, his remarkable talent in the culinary industry has never been in doubt. I’ve had his dim sum, I'd give him a star for that myself. So why then does financial controversy follow this Irish chef around like a dark cloud?
His most recent venture, Geisha Wok & Noodle Bar at the Cape Royale in Cape Town has a notice on the door stating that the staff are on leave and the restaurant will re-open in mid-September. It should read “The staff had enough and left“.
The long-suffering chefs and front of house staff at Geisha apparently had enough of Gallagher’s promises that he would return from his trip to Dublin to pay them their two-month overdue wages, clear debts with suppliers and that business would return to normal.
So on a Saturday night, in the middle of service, they downed tools and walked out of the restaurant. Dramatic? No. Just fed up with being treated like their lives and and well-being don’t matter.
Memoirs of Geisha
According to a member of the team at Geisha who wishes to remain anonymous “The staff were left high and dry as Conrad left promising to come back, but there was always an excuse or delay. The staff found out the hard way that salaries were not forthcoming (again!). This is not the first time he has done this to staff, he also never registered the staff with UIF or any other tax.”
“As for getting stock,we battled to get suppliers as no one would take the chance to work with Conrad, I have used my own money to buy stock so that we could at least open the doors.”
Not a very pretty picture.
Gallagher is married to former P.E model Candice Coetzee and together they recently started another venture in South Africa, Sundance Gourmet Coffee Co. The four Cape Town outlets all closed doors earlier this year.
According to various reports Gallagher owes ABSA bank R1.8 million and Mac Brothers Catering Equipment in the region of R300,000 and he was recently provisionally sequestrated by the Western Cape High Court. I think the writing is pretty much on the wall.
Meanwhile the in-debt-and-due-in-court chef is in Dublin, allegedly job-hunting and talking to Irish tycoon Louis Murray about the possibility of working at Murray’s Balzac restaurant in the La Stampa hotel. But perhaps Louis Murray will think twice when he hears the stories doing the rounds.
So has he left for good? Judging from the reviews we’ve been getting for Geisha Wok & Noodle Bar, it sounds like he won’t be missed.