The untold truth of celebrity restaurants

The stars — they're just like us! Which is to say, they're mostly terrible at opening and managing restaurants, even when that's supposedly their raison d'être. 

Owning a restaurant does sound fun. After all, wouldn't it be nice to cook delicious meals for your friends, family, and neighbors, all while gaining a little bit of fame? But the reality is that managing a restaurant is a lot harder than it seems, especially when you have an out-of-control ego. 

Some of the restaurants on this list were started in good faith by singers, actors, and directors who just wanted to branch out from their Hollywood careers, learning the hard way that you can't just jump into the restaurant biz and become an overnight success. Others are restaurants helmed by famous chefs, including more than a few cooking show hosts, who couldn't keep their demons to themselves and ended up underpaying or straight up harassing their employees. It's pretty grisly stuff, honestly. Read on to learn about what really goes on behind the scenes at the most famous celebrity restaurants. Chances are, it'll make you think twice the next time you find yourself dreaming of opening your own little bistro. 

Gordon Ramsay has lived his own kitchen nightmare

Pot, meet kettle. Gordon Ramsay, the host of Kitchen Nightmares and Master Chef, is notorious for screaming his face off at restaurateurs and aspiring chefs for not being great at their jobs, but it looks like he might not be so good at running things either. 

The chef has opened a whopping 49 restaurants in his lifetime, which is truly impressive. The catch? An unbelievable 23 of those restaurants have closed, including Gordon Ramsay at the London, which at one time even had some Michelin stars behind its belt before slowly sinking into dysfunction.

This all being said, the restaurant industry is brutal, and even the best of the best have a hard time keeping their businesses afloat. In fact, it's often been cited that 61 percent of all restaurants fail within three years, while 80 percent of all restaurants in New York City close within five years. With those stats taken into consideration, Ramsay's failures seem a little less dramatic, but still — if an internationally famous chef with multiple television shows can't keep a restaurant open, what hope is there for the rest of us? 

Mario Batali stole tips from workers in his restaurants

Remember the days when the most hateable thing about Mario Batali was his insistence on wearing bright orange Crocs every darn day and his weird recipe for mashed potatoes (containing celery root and vermouth)? How naive we were. 

These days, most of our vitriol is focused on the sexual harassment allegations that have been lodged against him, with complaints going back several decades (please, for the love of all that is good in this world, can our former idols stop being pieces of garbage in disguise?). But it turns out that he was hurting his employees in another way all along.

In a lawsuit, former employees of Batali and restaurant partner Joe Bastianich accused the pair of taking 4-5 percent of employees tips and using the money to pay for the salary of sommeliers at their restaurants. There were also allegations of wage violations, like not paying employees overtime or even minimum wage. More than 1,100 employees were part of the class action lawsuit, and Batali and Bastianich eventually settled, with $5.25 million being paid out to the employees who hadn't been properly compensated. 

Just another reason to say "good riddance" to Batali. 

Michael Chiarello's restaurants allegedly have a sexually hostile environment

We grew up watching Easy Entertaining With Michael Chiarello on the Food Network, but it turns out working with Chiarello, the Northern Californian chef whose food has a distinctly Mediterranean flair, was anything but easy. 

In 2016, two lawsuits were filed against the chef. The first was a class-action suit that alleged Chiarello was ripping off his employees, failing to pay them overtime, fudging time sheets and clocks, and forcing employees to pool their tips with the kitchen staff to make up for their inadequate wages. 

Worse, two former employees filed a separate lawsuit alleging that the chef's restaurant was rife with sexually inappropriate behavior. The details are pretty gross to read, but they include everything from making sexually inappropriate jokes to his staff, making sexual comments about customers, groping and touching his employees, and ordering hiring managers to only hire women they found to be sexually attractive. 

Sadly, this wasn't the first time the chef was hit with a lawsuit. In 2009 a former pastry chef at his restaurant Bottega filed a claim against Chiarello for sexist behavior and inappropriate touching, including reaching between her legs and giving her unwanted kisses. 

We just lost our appetite. 

Steven Spielberg had a submarine-themed restaurant that, surprise, failed

It's always truly fascinating to see what rich people do with their money, and director Steven Spielberg is no exception. 

We know the director loves the ocean (or at least, the terrifyingly murderous creatures within it), so it is any surprise that in 1993 he and business partner Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to open a submarine-themed restaurant called "Dive!"? Okay, that is still kind of surprising. The 90s were ... an interesting time. 

When you're a multi-millionaire it can be hard to have perspective. Spielberg apparently truly believed the restaurant, inspired by his childhood love of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, his work on Jaws, and his brief television series Seaquest DSV, would be a success, saying at one point that they anticipated opening more than 60 Dive! locations worldwide. 

Sadly, the restaurant was not a hit. Though they did manage to open two locations, neither was open for long. Luckily, Spielberg's gone on to be quite successful (obviously), so we can all breathe a little easier knowing his pet project was a total bust. 

Britney Spears' restaurant left her $400,000 in debt

Oh, Britney. The early 2000s were a trying time for Britney Spears, the pop star extraordinaire who, at the height of her fame, started making some very questionable decisions with her money. One of the strangest was the opening of her restaurant Nyla in New York City. 

The eatery was named for the postal abbreviation of New York and her home state, Louisianna, and initially served Cajun food. But when it turned out that the good people of NYC weren't exactly lining up to try the singer's fairly mediocre take on the cuisine, they switched to Italian. This confused both customers and critics alike, and after just seven months Nyla closed.

No harm, no foul, right? But unfortunately, this isn't just a tale of "well, at least we tried!" When Nyla shuttered, it left the star more than $400,00 in debt. She owed the landlord, the electric company, and the state of New York (sales taxes) thousands of dollars each, not to mention equipment suppliers and investors who were expecting a return on their investments.

Then again, it's maybe not that surprising that the restaurant didn't work out. Spears was a 21-year-old singer, not a chef or businessperson. Give a 21-year-old that much responsibility in anything and chances are it's not going to work out.

Eva Longoria once owned a weird steakhouse for women

Steakhouses are traditionally masculine environments, but women have been frequenting them all along, eager to get a taste of that buttery seared beef that only a real steakhouse seems able to churn out. 

Actor Eva Longoria, however, wanted to make eating beef a more comfortable experience for the ladies, and in 2013 she opened her own steakhouse, SHe, in Las Vegas. 

Working with Morton's, Longoria's restaurant and nightclub offered the usual menu, but with weirdly gendered touches here and there, like mirrored dessert menus so customers could re-apply lipstick after dinner and portion sizes labeled as "He-Cuts, She-Cuts, and We-Cuts," with the She-Cuts being the smallest portion. Kind of strange considering it was a restaurant for women who love meat — you'd think it would be the other way around. 

It turns out we're not the only ones who gave the restaurant major side-eye, and SHe went down the drain. The restaurant closed soon after it received 21 health care violations in a single inspection. 

This isn't Longoria's first shuttered restaurant, or even her first shuttered steakhouse. Her restaurant Beso similarly failed to thrive, and these days, we can only assume the actor has to get her red meat fix at restaurants owned by others.

Lisa Vanderpump's PUMP rejected January Jones

Lisa Vanderpump's restaurant PUMP is most well known for being the backdrop of some of the wildest drama to go down on her show, Vanderpump Rules. The food is, by all reports, meh, but it's a good place to see the stars of the show. 

But the stars of the show aren't exactly A-listers, so you'd think when an actual celebrity calls to make a reservation, it would be a big deal. Yet according to January Jones, former star of Mad Men and the woefully underappreciated Last Man on Earth, when she called to reserve a spot at the restaurant for her 40th birthday no one called her back. 

"My publicist called. My best friend called. We called and called and called and called," she told Yahoo! Lifestyle. She was so enthusiastic about having her party there that she even got Andy Cohen, host of Bravo's Watch What Happens Live, to try to make the reservation for her, but she got nada. 

In the end, Jones scheduled her party at a different venue — but she made sure to let PUMP know. She showed up at the restaurant in person, where she told the host she had tried to schedule an event there. They apologized and immediately tried to accommodate her but it was too late. That's what you get for not returning your messages! 

Anne Burrell's restaurant employees sued her for discrimination

Usually when we hear about women being mistreated at work, it's at the hands of a male colleague. Not so in the case of the restaurant Centro Vinoteca, whose chef Anne Burrell was sued for discrimination and harassment against her female employees. 

Shortly after Centro Vinoteca filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, it was reported that Burrell and the owners of the restaurant were being sued by several former employees. Among the complaints? Burrell called her workers names (including sexually charged insults), commented on their appearance in a sexual manner, criticized their breasts and other body parts, and badgered them about their sex lives. 

The lawsuit ended in a settlement with the accusers, and Burrell has since gone on to major success on the Food Network, including a lucrative co-hosting gig on Worst Cook in America. But it's hard not to feel wary about supporting Burrell after learning of these allegations. It's pretty disappointing to see a woman succeed in such a challenging field only to learn that she was harassing other women all along.  

Paula Deen underpaid her employees — even when they were her friends

Everyone knows Paula Deen's major fall from grace occurred when she casually admitted to using racial slurs at her restaurant and seemed honestly confused about why it was a big deal. Yet that's just one of the ways in which Deen mistreated and created a hostile environment for her employees. 

After these allegations, several former employees came forward to expose the ways in which they were expected to work for free. 

Sheldon J. Ervin, a former cook, said he and other staff members were forced to work for free at parties held at Deen's house. They'd be "paid" in beer and alcohol even though several of them didn't drink, and he says that they were threatened with losing their jobs if they refused to work the events. 

Another former employee, Deen's once close friend Dora Charles, alleges the chef was full of false promises. Charles helped open Deen's restaurants and came up with many of the dishes on her menu and featured on her show, yet after decades of working closely together, Charles was being paid just $10 an hour. Deen had promised she would be partners with Charles, saying that if Deen got rich, so would Charles. But she never made good on her promise. 

With friend like that, who needs enemies? 

Geoffrey Zakarian went bankrupt after employees sued him

Anyone who's seen chef Geoffrey Zakarian as a judge on Chopped probably won't be surprised to learn he's just as insufferable in real life. It's not just his attitude (though a former business partner did blame one restaurants failure on Zakarian's "narcissistic behavior and arrogance") that rubbed his employees the wrong way — he's also been sued for purposely underpaying them.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, employees of the shuttered restaurant Country in the Carlton Hotel accused Zakarian of refusing to pay overtime wages, charging staff members for meals they didn't eat, and falsifying documents in order to shortchange employees. They sued Zakarian for $1 million in damages and $250,000 in penalties, and Zakarian's former business partners sided with the employees in the lawsuit rather than standing by him. 

As a result, Zakarian filed for bankruptcy in April of 2011, claiming it was because of legal costs stemming from the suit. This effectively stalled the proceedings. Zakarian ended up settling with the claimants for $200,000 in November of 2011.