Long-standing Senate Dining Room chef Don Perez was unceremoniously terminated in October after butting heads with Restaurant Associates over how best to perform the job he’d been doing — to critical acclaim — for nearly two decades.
Perez has been seeking a champion ever since. Help may be on the way, courtesy of a formal inquiry being explored by his Senator, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
RA assumed control of Congressional dining functions from the Architect of the Capitol in 2008. Perez was the only critical hire explicitly included in the bid for the deal.
“The Executive Chef will be designated as ‘Key Personnel’ for purposes of the Contract with the AOC of the Senate,” the proposal articulates.
About four dozen other pre-existing “transfer employees” were bundled in the business transfer; around 35 remain employed with the company.
With his coveted status long since expired, Perez is now dogged by bureaucracy and anxiety. He filed for unemployment the day after he was abruptly escorted out of the Capitol (Oct. 14) but hasn’t been able to collect a dime because he claims RA hasn’t filed the paperwork necessary to process his claims. And he is worried his COBRA health insurance benefits may soon run out.
Things got dicey for the career toque this summer. That’s when RA executive chef Benjamin Cadmus alerted Perez he was being placed on a “performance improvement plan.” The internal review tackled everything from his appearance to his handling of the sacrosanct Senate bean soup.
Perez agreed to step up his game but said he could see the writing on the wall.
“They said, ‘You’re on your way out,’” he recalled of the condolences his colleagues communicated after learning of the crackdown.
Sources close to the dining operations went from being alarmed to disgusted.
“To be railroaded in six months after 18 years of service just really sucks,” one source groused.
Their biggest beef? That other RA employees were shuffled into less stressful positions, whereas Perez was overburdened, then shown the door.
RA declined to comment. Repeated calls and emails regarding Perez to the AOC and Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has jurisdiction over Senate dining issues, were not returned.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.