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Pump House sues former executive chef for taking away employees

Moosah Reaume

One of Chicago’s most storied restaurants is suing its former executive chef, claiming he poached numerous employees to work with him at a new enterprise that caters to celebrities and film moguls.

Pump Management LLC, which operates the Pump Room, an iconic restaurant established in 1938 at the now PUBLIC Chicago Hotel at 1301 N. State Parkway, filed the lawsuit Thursday against Moosah Reaume, its former employee.

Reaume was hired by Pump in 2011 and was given a raise of 30 percent in November 2014, with a stipulation that he couldn’t poach any current workers for at least two years after his departure.

On Jan. 16, 2015, Reaume left Pump to work as executive chef at SOHO House Chicago, a members-only enterprise with locations all over the world. Membership is only available to people who are either creative or work in film or media, according to the group’s website. Membership typically includes an application process and annual fees.

SOHO House also operates restaurants in Chicago that are open to the public, such as Pizza East and The Allis.

About five months after Reaume joined SOHO House, at least two cooks, a pastry cook and a sous chef gave notice to Pump that they would be leaving to join Reaume, the suit said. Reaume also tried to hire more workers from his former employer shortly after his departure, the suit said.

Pump alleges the loss of so many employees in a short period of time has caused significant business disruption.

“The market for high-end culinary employees is a tight one, and so Pump is left with a slim culinary staff and the need to replace culinary staff with new employees who will need significant training in order for Pump to be able to operate in the manner in which a high-end restaurant should be run,” according to the suit.

The two-count suit claims breach of contract and seeks more than $50,000 in damages, along with preliminary and permanent injunctions against Reaume.

Calls made to both parties were not immediately returned Thursday evening.