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Grace Owner Blames Chef Curtis Duffy for the Three-Star Restaurant’s Shutter

Michael Olszewski says “I’m not a jerk”

The Grace fallout continues.
Barry Brecheisen
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.

The fallout from the Grace shutter continues as the restaurant’s former owner says it wasn’t his fault that the revered West Loop restaurant closed in December. Michael Olszewski, a prominent developer, blamed chef Curtis Duffy and said he found out that the chef had quit by reading about his departure. Olszewski said Duffy didn’t show up for work, then staff didn’t show up, and that lead to its closure.

When Grace closed in late December it was one of just 14 restaurants in America to earn a full three-star rating from Michelin. Chicago now has only one three-starred restaurant, Alinea in Lincoln Park. The shutter of one of the city’s most-successful restaurants still baffles diners across the country.

Olszewski told Crain’s that “I’m not a jerk,” reacting to online criticism. He was the restaurant’s main investor. This was his first interview with the media, as he provided a statement and copies of Duffy’s and GM Michael Muser’s contract last month to the Sun-Times. Olszewski fired Muser before Duffy’s departure. Duffy and Muser said they were unhappy with their contracts and tried to buy Grace from Olszewski. Grace opened five years ago and Olszewski said he later renegotiated Duffy and Muser’s contracts to increase their salaries including better revenue sharing. Duffy was Grace’s star, and the subject of the documentary For Grace. Olszewski shared credit with Grace’s team for the restaurant three-star rating in the Crain’s story. He said he was partially responsible for its success as a financier.

Duffy and Muser still aren’t talking publicly. Three days after the shutter, Duffy did talk with Make It Better magazine. He made a vow and said “right now my focus is that we’re going to build another restaurant that makes Grace look amateurish.” He said he will team with Muser to open multiple restaurants in Chicago. Whatever their plans it’s going to wait thanks to a non-compete clause in the Grace contract that bars Duffy from working at any restaurant in Chicago or its surrounding suburbs for 18 months.

While observers aren’t keen on future success of another restaurant opening in the Grace space, Olszewski displayed confidence by telling Crain’s his future top-of-the-line restaurant is going to be “awesome.”


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