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Acadia Chef Ryan McCaskey Countersues Against Ex-Employee in Harassment Case

Plus, it’s the last day restaurant owners can apply for the Chicago Hospitality Grant Program

The exterior of a colorful restaurant taken from across the street.
Acadia remains closed in South Loop.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Acadia chef Ryan McCaskey is suing a former server and accusing him of planting “false allegations” in the media “in order to intimidate and embarrass.” McCaskey filed the lawsuit on Friday, November 20 claiming his former subordinate was angry he was fired from the Michelin-starred South Loop restaurant. In the lawsuit, McCaskey asks for excess of $50,000 in damages against the server and his attorney for her part in an alleged “scheme” to discredit him.

More than two months ago that server, Cody Nason, filed for an emergency “no-contact” order against his former boss, claiming McCaskey started a retaliatory harassment campaign which included impersonating Nason’s dead brother using Instagram and email. A judge granted the order, which remains in effect after it was extended in October. McCaskey, in the counterclaim, says he fired Nason last year from Acadia after six months for drinking and that Nason is intent in getting back at him.

Acadia has remained closed during the pandemic and McCaskey has denied that he harassed Nason or that he created, a website with defamatory statements against Nason including claims that he is a pedophile. It was pulled after Nason was granted the no-contact order against McCaskey.

Over the summer, McCaskey was the subject of several allegations that were shared anonymously on @The86dlist Instagram handle. The Instagram account used some stories from former Acadia employees, including Nason. Meanwhile, more than a dozen former Acadia employees and members of the restaurant industry, in interviews with Eater Chicago, said McCaskey created a toxic workplace. In his court filing, Nason claimed McCaskey harassed him for speaking out.

McCaskey and Nason appeared on Friday, November 20 before Cook County Judge Thomas Cushing for a Zoom hearing on the no-contact order. It was the case’s third hearing; another is scheduled for January 15.

McCaskey’s team is trying to get the no-contact order thrown out and the countersuit is a unique legal maneuver for the domestic relations division of Cook County circuit court. While discussing the counterclaim during last week’s hearing, Nason’s attorney, Daliah Saper, questioned if domestic violence court was the proper venue for such a move. Cook County Judge Thomas Cushing, who hadn’t seen the filing, only said that it was “a question that we need to resolve.”

The counterclaim states Cook County judge Callie Lynn Baird sealed the September emergency order case file and that it shouldn’t have been made public until McCaskey was served, Therefore, McCaskey’s attorney say the case should be dismissed as Nason’s legal team shouldn’t have shared filings with Eater Chicago and the Chicago Tribune. Saper writes that McCaskey ignored a cease-and-desist letter that was sent September 1 with a September 11 deadline to respond. The order was filed on September 10 and granted on September 14.

“Cody is the victim here and he had no reservations about sharing the order under the circumstances,” Saper writes in a statement sent to Eater and the Tribune.

In other news...

— Today (November 23) is the deadline to apply for the Chicago Hospitality Grant Program. The program is to help restaurants dealing with COVID-19 challenges.

— Local restaurant resource guide Dine-It-4ward aims to help support more than 75 Chicago restaurants during the pandemic with its 2020/2021 Culinary Guide. This year’s guide ($50) includes two-for-one deals, plus contests, giveaways and specials, and includes restaurants like sushi spot Arami, Fulton Market’s BLVD Steakhouse, and French patisserie Vanille, among many others. More details area available on the Dine-It-4ward website.

— Past and present Illinois-based employees of Nando’s, the South African chicken chain, will receive a combined $1.8 million in a settlement agreement in a lawsuit over fingerprint data, according to the Tribune. In requiring workers to clock in and out using a fingerprint scanner — collecting, storing, and transferring biometric data — Nando’s violated an Illinois law because the company did not appropriately obtain consent from employees.

— Lorraine Nguyen (Chicago Athletic Association), along with Joey Pham and Darlene Phan (who worked at Fat Rice), make up a trio of Vietnamese-American chefs behind a new Instagram pop-up called Snack Collective. They spoke with the Reader about bringing their own comfort food and platforming other local hospitality workers who’ve been displaced by the pandemic.

Pipeworks Brewing is bringing back its Pastrami on Rye ale, originally brewed a decade ago, in partnership with venerable Chicago Jewish deli Manny’s, both companies announced on social media. Packaging is scheduled for Tuesday, but a release date is not yet confirmed, according to a rep. Porch Drinking has more on the collaboration.

Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli

1141 South Jefferson Street, , IL 60607 (312) 939-2855 Visit Website


1639 South Wabash Avenue, , IL 60616 (312) 360-9500 Visit Website

Fat Rice

2957 West Diversey Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-9170 Visit Website

Chicago Athletic Association

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL (312) 940-3552 Visit Website

Nando's PERi-PERi

1717 Post Oak Boulevard, , TX 77056 (832) 669-9930 Visit Website

Pipeworks Brewing Company

3912 West McLean Avenue, , IL 60647 (312) 841-7574 Visit Website