Editor’s Note: This article was updated on March 28, 2017, at 5:50pm to reflect new facts and include a statement from Samantha Wasser, By Chloe co-founder and creative director.
In 2015, a little restaurant called By CHLOE opened its doors on Bleecker Street in NYC’s West Village. Co-founded by chef Chloe Coscarelli, who is famous for being the first vegan chef to ever win a television cooking competition, the little eatery quickly established itself as the fast-casual restaurant for hungry New Yorkers.
It didn’t matter that the menu was completely vegan — everyone wanted a taste of Coscarelli’s housemade burgers and air-baked fries (with a generous side of beet ketchup) or to grab one of her famous “Chlostess” cupcakes, a veganized version of the classic creme-filled Hostess cupcakes. Coscarelli’s first restaurant was such a success that shortly after its opening, her partner/mega-hospitality company ESquared, which also owns restaurant chain BLT Steak, wanted to expand. And why not? It would mean bringing more of the vegan food that has people lining up out the door daily to even more customers. With five locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, one location each in Boston in Los Angeles, and plans to open new locations in Rhode Island and – a second location in Boston – business in the By CHLOE chain was booming … but the mastermind behind it all may no longer be a part of the picture.
As reported by Eater, ESquared CEO Jimmy Haber had been planning a $10 million expansion without consulting Coscarelli, which led to legal trouble. According to The New York Post, Haber had allegedly planned to open non-vegan restaurants under the By CHLOE brand, which lead to a heated argument with the co-founder of the famous vegan chain. The argument apparently got so bad that Haber warned Coscarelli that “she would need a bodyguard if she dared to meet with him in person.” Eventually, it was decided that it was within ESquared’s rights to sever ties with Coscarelli, and continue to expand the brand without her input, which may include future locations that serve meat. But, Coscarelli is determined to ensure that her name is removed from the chain that has introduced so many people to delicious vegan food, telling The Wall Street Journal “I will protect the integrity of my brand.”
Samantha Wasser, By Chloe co-founder and creative director (who also happens to be Haber’s daughter), explained in a statement that the company had no plans to serve meat in the chain.
“We pride ourselves on offering a menu of whole, plant-based vegan dishes and would never do anything to compromise the integrity of our brand or vegan menu,” said Wasser. “The vegan community has been the backbone of our amazing customer base that have helped us grow so successfully these last two years. We have dedicated ourselves to that community, and the by CHLOE brand, and that will never waiver. We have further tried to expand our ties within the vegan community, bringing on bright and talented vegan chefs to contribute to our blog, market specials and more, even at the disapproval of Chloe. We look forward to continuing to grow the by CHLOE. brand and hope our customers will come along for the ride.”
According to legal documents shared with One Green Planet by ESquared, Coscarelli was ousted from the brand due to “gross negligence” of the business.
Given the massive success of the By CHLOE chain of restaurants, ESquared’s alleged decision to open restaurants that serve meat under the name of a vegan chef would be a huge miss. Vegan food is so popular now that amazing vegan options, like the Impossible Burger, are being added to the menu of meat-centric restaurants — not the other way around. Regardless of the unfortunate and complicated legal battle that seems to have ensued (and may likely continue), we applaud chef Chloe Coscarelli for standing up for vegan food. We certainly hope that ESquared stands by Samantha Wasser’s statement and continues to keep the by CHLOE brand vegan. Whatever way this ends, Coscarelli has firmly established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the food world.
If you’re looking for more ways to cook plant-based food, we highly recommend that you check out the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone. With over 8,000 vegan recipes (and over 10 new recipes added daily), you’re going to find something you love!
Lead image source: by CHLOE