Three Birds owners sue former chef in contract dispute

ST. PETERSBURG — Three Birds Tavern owners Robin and Jack King filed a lawsuit against their former chef Domenica Macchia this week in Pinellas County. The Kings have claimed their former chef, who departed in October to become the chef at Beak's Old Florida, is in breach of contract.

Macchia previously served as chef at Redwoods, MJ's, Diner 437 and Shackleton's Folly, all in St. Petersburg, before taking a job in March 2011 at Three Birds, 1492 Fourth St. N, overhauling the menu and bringing her comfort food vision to the pub that was once Limey's. According to the Kings, Macchia signed a non-compete clause that forbids her from working at competing restaurants in Pinellas County through 2014.

In her move to Beak's, Macchia joined forces with another former employer, Dan Soronen, who is also named in the Kings' suit. Formerly the owner of the Old Northeast Tavern, Shackleton's Folly and Brewburgers, all in St. Petersburg, Soronen took over Beak's in October, buying the bar/restaurant at 2451 Central Ave. from original owner Jamie Farquharson. Despite a falling out at Shackleton's Folly, Soronen hired Macchia and charged her with "revamping the whole menu."

After a renovation and relaunch in November, Macchia has slowly changed the short list of offerings. Last week Creative Loafing wrote a favorable review of the restaurant, which Soronen insists was a galvanizing force for the filing of the suit.

"The lawsuit says I hired (Macchia) for credibility. It mentions my bankruptcy. It's a slander campaign to hurt me," says Soronen, adding wryly, "I do enough to ruin my own reputation."

The Kings could not be reached for comment on the suit, filed on Wednesday.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293.

Three Birds owners sue former chef in contract dispute 01/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 11:56pm]

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