Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant Angler stored food amid rodent droppings, lawsuit claims

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At Michelin-starred restaurant Angler on the San Francisco waterfront, a grilled bass filet goes for $46, crispy blowfish tails will set you back $38, hot fried quail cost $40 and you can order a $24 plate of antelope tartare from the raw bar.

But according to a just-filed lawsuit by the fired culinary director for Saison Hospitality, which owns Angler and the world-renowned San Francisco dining room Saison, food and beverages at Angler were stored amid rodent droppings and dust. Saison Hospitality on Friday said the claims in the suit were untrue.

“We vehemently deny these allegations, which were made by a disgruntled former employee who was terminated due to poor job performance,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We pride ourselves on creating a safe and fulfilling work environment for our team at Angler, evidenced by our low turnover rate and many longstanding, loyal employees.”

Jonathan De Wolf began working as culinary director for Saison Hospitality in August 2017, according to his lawsuit, which alleges he was fired in retaliation for reporting health and workplace problems at Angler. De Wolf’s job required him to be involved in the build-out of Angler, which opened in September 2018, according to the suit filed Thursday in San Francisco County Superior Court.

Leased space in a basement of the building was left unfinished, and after the restaurant’s opening, the suit alleged, “items such as pickles, fermented watermelon radishes, flour, sugar, grains and spices” were stored there.

The storage area was not sealed off to prevent vermin and insect infestation, lacked adequate ventilation, was not cleaned regularly and “suffered from generally unkempt conditions, including dust and rodent feces,” the suit alleged.

Angler, with one Michelin star, has the highest rating of “good” from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, with a score of 92 out of 100. An inspection Jan. 29 noted two violations in the “moderate risk” category, related to cleaning of food-contact surfaces and the labeling or display of shellfish.

De Wolf’s suit also claimed that in a poorly ventilated makeshift office in the Angler basement, employees worked in “inhumane temperatures.”

De Wolf, charged in his job description with ensuring compliance with health, safety and labor regulations, complained several times about the alleged problems to Saison Hospitality management and ownership, but nothing was done, the suit claimed.

On January 8, De Wolf emailed the company’s human resources office and ownership, again raising his concerns about conditions in the basement, the suit alleged. He was fired the same day, “in blatant retaliation,” the suit claimed.

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