Upperline hired chef James Cullen to lead its 35-year old kitchen this past September, but according to the chef’s Twitter account, he was fired last night.
Shortly after midnight Cullen posted to Twitter that he’d been fired from his job at the Uptown Creole bistro, and proceeded to tweet overnight about the restaurant, its owner JoAnne Clevenger, and the New Orleans restaurant industry.
Among Cullen’s tweets were allegations that Clevenger shoved him on his last night at the restaurant and that he previously discovered a sexual harassment complaint against a server. More generally, Cullen went after the restaurant industry and New Orleans kitchens, claiming they “operate like a modern plantation system.”
Not only did I get fired tonight, but I was assaulted. JoAnn Cleverger attacked me and started going through my bags accusing me of stealing. I had to push her off me and she claimed assault #boycottupperline— JC (@AccidentalCajun) January 7, 2019
Clevenger told The Advocate that while she would not address any of Cullen’s allegations directly, they did cause her to be concerned for staff and her reputation in the community.
Clevenger, who opened the critically-acclaimed Upperline with her son in 1983, is known for being present in its dining rooms, greeting and socializing with customers. She has been named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurateur award for four years in a row.
Cullen previously led kitchens at the now-closed Treo and Press Street Station, as well as French Quarter-adjacent bar St. Lawrence and most recently the Southern Yacht Club. Eater has reached out to Cullen and Clevenger for comment.
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