The owners of Coral Gables restaurant Piripi announced Wednesday that chef Najat Kaanache was no longer associated with the restaurant.
“We have a talented team in place in the kitchen that will continue to deliver authentic Spanish cuisine and the Piripi experience seven days a week,” co-owner Gus Abalo said. “We wish Najat the best of luck in her future endeavors.”
The ouster came soon after Abalo said he was made aware of an eight-page letter, written in Spanish, being circulated to Spanish and U.S. media by former Piripi kitchen employees.
In the letter, titled The Truncated American Dream, the cooks allege Kaanache lured them to work with unfulfilled promises about salaries and visas, misled her superiors and underlings about her cooking abilities, demanded marathon work hours “to the point of slavery,” and maintained a communal house in west Kendall for the workers with rules and chores that created “much tension.”
One of the signers, Miami-based chef Raimundo Rincón, said in an interview that he worked at Piripi for about a month and feels deceived by Kaanache’s promises. He noted that Abalo and co-owner Teo Arranz were not the target of the former employees’ anger.
“It was Najat who lied to us, lied about everything,” Rincón said. “She can’t cook anything!”
Piripi’s owners said they were investigating the letter’s claims, and they distanced themselves from the allegations directed at Kaanache:
“The letter you are referring to was just brought to us,” Abalo said in a statement. “It is the first time we are learning of the serious allegations referred to within. In the months leading up to Piripi’s opening, my partner and I were involved in the construction and design of the restaurant; and were unaware of hiring practices and unfulfilled promises related to the team in the chef house. We are looking into these claims and talking to various parties that have firsthand knowledge of the situation, and will take appropriate action.”
Attempts to reach Kaanache were not immediately successful.
Miami.com writer Galena Mosovich contributed to this report.