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Pit Master Lee Ann Whippen Sues Chicago Q A Year After Departure

She says the restaurant hid financials so they could pay her less

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Former Chicago Q Pit Master Lee Ann Whippen
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

A mystery popped up last year after chef Lee Ann Whippen left her post as pit master at upscale Gold Coast barbecue restaurant Chicago Q. The announcement came in October, though she said she had quietly left back in August 2015. Part of the answer may lie in a lawsuit Whippen filed this week against Chicago Q’s majority owner, Fred Latkso.

Whippen alleges Latkso and Chicago Q’s parent company, 1160 Dearborn Entertainment, diluted financials to reduce her pay and failed to giver a stake in Chicago Q, as promised. Crain’s has details on the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, in which Whippen also claimed Chicago Q failed to reimburses business expenses paid on Whippen’s personal credit card.

The lawsuit seeks $33,000, a 49-percent stake in the restaurant and wants her name and likeness to come down from marketing materials, including social media references. Whippen alleges Chicago Q is using her likeness without authorization.

Since leaving Chicago Q, Whippen has been involved with Frozen Foodies, a store that sells high-end microwavable meals in Lincoln Park. Art Smith, who just opened Blue Door Kitchen and Table (the refreshed Table Fifty-Two) was named Whippen’s replacement as Chicago Q’s pit master.

Latkso’s Idealogy Entertainment operates four neighboring establishments on that Gold Coast block of Dearborn and Elm. There’s Chicago Q, Blue Door, Biggs Mansion and La Storia Ristorante. Latkso told Crain’s he hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet.