UPDATE: Corner owner Philip Bellber tells SFoodie he just wants to put the Jackson drama behind him.
Grub Street's Jay Barmann posted first word last night on what promises, ultimately, to be a complex story: Claims that Alex Jackson, the chef once at the helm of the Corner, and whom SF Weekly food critic Jonathan Kauffman reported to have an ownership stake in Parada 22, allegedly misrepresented his role in some way. Kauffman first interviewed Jackson in May 2010, when he reviewed Parada 22, and SFoodie has spoken to him a number of times over the succeeding months. From Grub Street:
Jackson became chef at The Corner back in August '09, and Tablehopper immediately took note of his high-end, out-of-town pedigree (Fergus Henderson's St. John in London, Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern in New York). He later remade the menu at Weird Fish, and we first reported on Jackson's empire building plans back in February of this year, when he announced his plans to open something called Black Sheep Pub in the Mission. No sooner was that project on our radar, but Jackson let us know that he had "partnered" on Parada 22, a small Puerto Rican restaurant in the Upper Haight that has gone on to garner some nice write-ups. We were then curious reading Patricia Unterman's rave review of Parada 22 last month (which has since gone missing off the Examiner site), why there was no mention of Jackson, only of [owner Philip] Bellber ― who has been in the industry locally for decades ― and his Puerto Rican cousin Gloria Pinette, who were solely responsible for the menu. As we now learn, Jackson's role at the restaurant was limited, though he did work there briefly as a chef when it opened, and that his claims to being partners with Bellber in SF Weekly were false.Jackson also told Barmann about a steakhouse he was planning, a place called Sympathy for the Devil that would pay homage to the Rolling Stones.
Most of the information in Grub Street's report seems to have come from Ron Gompertz, who's associated with Philip Bellber (owner of Cha Cha Cha and The Corner, in addition to Parada 22). Gompertz says Bellber has hired him to manage the press surrounding Parada 22, including Jackson's involvement.
We should say that Gompertz also contacted our Jonathan Kauffman yesterday, offering allegations against Jackson similar to the ones in Grub Street. Since we hadn't spoken to any of the principles, we were still ― and are continuing to be ― looking into the matter.
Apparently, Jackson told different stories to different people. For SF Weekly's part, Jonathan Kauffman says, "I never heard much about this steakhouse, Sympathy for the Devil, that he was talking up to Grub Street. What Jackson told me was that he was a partner in Cha Cha Cha and Boogaloo's and was in the process of revamping the menus. The future location of Black Sheep, which I wasn't allowed to write about? Cha Cha Cha Mission." Gompertz told him that all those statements were false.
Another thing: After a SFoodie post mentioning Jackson's self-proclaimed connection with Fergus Henderson's St. John restaurant in London, Kauffman received a tweet from St. John:
@jonkauffman hi, do you think you could drop me an email re a recent feature you wrote?Kauffman responded, but never heard back.
Grub Street's editor, Jay Barmann, did an impressive job of summing up the story and contacting other sources to attempt to verify Gompertz's claims. SFoodie offers a caution, however: The only fact we know so far is that someone named Alex Jackson is no longer chef of the Corner. The rest is just the word of a Bellber friend and employee ― Gompertz ― telling media about alleged lies spun by a former Bellber employee. As we learn more from the parties involved, we'll pass along what we know.