Ex-wife of Jeff McInnis says former Yardbird chef abandoned her & infant daughter for Top Chef New Orleans contestant

Some pretty horrendous allegations have arisen out of the announcement that Jeff McInnis has moved to New York to open Root & Bone with former Yardbird and Khong River House chef and Top Chef-testant Janine Booth. We ignored them until we were contacted by Melissa McInnis, the now-ex-wife of Jeff. The couple has a  1-year-old daughter Bryce. When we spoke with Jeff after he left his tenure at 50 Eggs, he told us he needed some “daddy time.” According to Melissa, that time is up. “Jeff abandoned me and his small infant child to put that girl Janine on Top Chef so they could go to New York and open a restaurant,” she told us in a phone interview.

The miffed ex Mrs. also says that the chef’s former Yardbird partner, 50 Eggs honcho John Kunkel, gave him a million bucks when he left. “He lied about the money he got from John and emptied our bank account,” she says. But money wasn’t all he gave McInnis, says Melissa. “John and the staff at Yardbird knew what was going on between Jeff and Janine and tried to get him to stop,” she says. Instead of stopping, “Jeff bullied me into divorce. He said we were an infringement on his life and didn’t want us standing in the way of his dreams.” While Kunkel was unavailable for comment, a source close to him tells us that “Everything Melissa says is true. That is part of the reason Kunkel wanted him out of 50 Eggs. It’s a family company, and his lifestyle and what he was doing just didn’t fit in.”

Melissa, who was married to McInnis for a year and a half and together for a total of five years, says Booth “stole my husband.” She also says her ex owes her $39,000 and sends less than $3,000 a month to support her and their child, of whom she has full custody, and both are living with his parents in Niceville. According to the ex-wife, “Jeff’s parents are sick over this. He’s been cheating on me for over nine months. He lied and played with my emotions.”

We contacted the chef for comment on this, and he told us “Yes, we did get a divorce. It’s sad. Unfortunately I’m not in love with her anymore, but I did not abandon my daughter, who was here in New York for the past eight days. [Melissa] did get a nice settlement.” McInnis was clearly not enthused over discussing the situation, saying that it wasn’t good for his father’s poor health.

Melissa, who says she has no source of income and is in the process of seeking legal counsel,” says despite the bitterness and the anger, she’s “So happy to have my daughter, she’s a blessing. The one and only good thing from this mess is her. I will fight until we get what’s rightfully ours. We helped him build his name, his brand, everything, and for him to be this despicable and abandon us, it’s absurd. I do not know how he can look himself in the mirror every day.”

Update: Jeff McInnis contacted us over the weekend asking us to run a statement he had also given to the Miami New Times. Click here for that statement.