The Chow wars are on: Michael Chow sues Philippe Chow [Updated]
Restaurateur and art collector Michael Chow, a.k.a. Mr. Chow, filed a lawsuit against Philippe restaurants this week in U.S. District Court in Miami that lists claims of "misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition and trademark infringement," among others. The lawsuit states that Philippe Chow (formerly Chak Yam Chau), chef and partner of Philippe restaurants, willfully caused brand confusion partly by changing his name.
Philippe Chow and partner Stratis Morfogen have opened Philippe restaurants in New York, Mexico and Miami, with one in Las Vegas in the works. Another is scheduled to open in West Hollywood this fall in the former Dolce space on Melrose Avenue. Michael Chow has Mr. Chow restaurants in New York, Beverly Hills, London and soon Las Vegas and Miami.
Philippe Chow worked at Mr. Chow in Manhattan from 1980 to 2005. According to the lawsuit, Philippe went by the last name "Chau" until 2005 before switching to "Chow." Defendants say he changed his name in 1977 when he arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong.
Morfogen called the lawsuit meritless and without substance.
"It’s unfortunate that we have to take this action,” said Michael Chow. “Philippe has aggressively and shamelessly worked to confuse people into thinking our restaurants are connected, even to the point of referring to himself as 'Mr. Chow.' "
The lawsuit recalls the brouhaha dubbed "battle of the Wolfgangs," when Wolfgang Puck unsuccessfully pursued a suit last year against Wolfgang Zwiener after Zwiener opened a steakhouse called Wolfgang's Steakhouse in the same Beverly Hills turf as Puck's Cut steakhouse.
“I specifically chose to name my restaurant Philippe to alleviate any confusion with Mr. Chow," said Philippe Chow in a statement. "I have nothing but respect for Michael Chow, and the fact that we have the same last name is pure coincidence."
Updated at 6:49 p.m.: Comment from Michael Chow was added to this post.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Michael Chow Credit: Roger Karnbad/Celebrity Photo Agency