Now, this has to be a first — a PR company e-mailing us a lawsuit? We’ve already documented the strange public-relations strategies that Philippe and Mr. Chow have employed in their longstanding feud, but now it has come to this: Mr. Chow is suing Philippe for “unfair and deceptive trade practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, conversion, trademark infringement, false advertising, and other violations of the Lanham Act and common law.” The suit charges that Philippe Chau has willfully caused brand confusion by changing his name to Chow, taking credit for dishes that Mr. Chow actually invented, using Internet ads and search tags to lead Mr. Chow’s would-be patrons to his restaurant, and passing himself off as Mr. Chow’s former executive chef when he was really just the lead expediter and “primarily a food chopper” who, though he contributed “nothing whatsoever” (emphasis theirs) to the Mr. Chow menu, ended up taking its dishes over to his own restaurant and passing them off as his own.
Do yourself a favor and read the complaint. Clearly written for public consumption, it tells the story of Mr. Chow in cinematic scope, touching on Mr. Chow’s father (“one of the eight most influential people in the history of China”), the creation of one of the first “designer restaurants,” Mr. Chow’s 30th-anniversary party (“it is unlikely that such a famous and diverse group of people has ever been brought together before, or since, to commemorate such an event”), the restaurant’s hand-pulled-noodle show (as seen on the Kung Fu Panda DVD!), and the establishment of Michael Chow as a cultural icon (“in the company of Ray Croc, founder of McDonald’s”) whose work has “inspired great artists, designers and producers.” Philippe’s owner, Stratis Morfogen, meanwhile, is presented as just some dude who owned an amusement park and tipped a busboy $20 to steal away Mr. Chow’s chef, er, vegetable chopper.
If Philippe really was just a lowly cook at Mr. Chow, he really has pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes— not that it really matters given how tepidly critics responded to his restaurant (in his review, Platt called certain dishes “possibly as good as your local takeout joint but not worth the extravagant price”). But then again, it’s the people, not the critics, who keep restaurants like these going. Anyway, can’t these guys just get along? You don’t see Super Taste suing Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles! Actually, all this makes us want to do is order cheap Chinese.