Chef Omar Jose Pereney, who was chef at Houston’s Galleria-area Peska Seafood Culture until February 2017, when the restaurant rebranded itself as a Tex-Mex eatery, has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant owners, a press release announced today.
The lawsuit alleges that Peska's owners won't let Pereney out of his non-compete contract, and they won't give him back rights to his name and likeness. It also alleges that restaurant owners broke an agreement not to disparage Pereney when one of them told local media his work was too artistic to be appetizing.
“A world famous chef was asked to go from gourmet seafood to mac and cheese and onion rings. Then he was disparaged, told he could not compete and that the restaurant still owned rights to his name and likeness. We need the courts to help this superb chef get back to his craft,” Pereney’s lawyer, Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru P.C., announces in a statement released to the Houston Press today.
In 2015, the Press's contributor Mai Pham wrote of Pereney:
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Though he is young, Pereney's career in the culinary world is akin to that of someone close to twice his age. Born in Venezuela, he started cooking in a fine-dining kitchen at age 12. He's been all over Latin America — was even given his own Spanish-language cooking show on The Gourmet, a Latin American cooking channel.
At Peska, he deftly breaks down a huge mahi-mahi in minutes, slicing up chunks and using his culinary wizardry to create a mahi-mahi and octopus ceviche — seasoned with an aji amarillo (yellow pepper) leche de tigre (tiger's milk) — that is easily one of the best versions you'll find around town.
UPDATE 5/23 at 1 p.m. Peska owner Maite Ysita has released the following statement concerning the lawsuit: "Omar Pereney chose to resign as chef of Peska in late 2016. Our attorney is aware of the lawsuit and strongly believes it is without merit. We look forward to resolving this issue and continuing to expanding our new Gulf Coast and Prime steak menu while holding true to our Latin inspired beginnings."
Read the full lawsuit below.