Workers Obtain Court Judgment Against Mike Isabella, Former Celebrity Chef

GREENBELT, MD— Workers prevailed in their legal claims that Mike Isabella failed to pay their wages for weeks despite public statements that his restaurant, Requin, would be successful.

A few months after the opening of Requin in 2017, Mr. Isabella’s once successful restaurant empire began to show serious signs of financial trouble. Several of Isabella’s restaurants experienced exponential declines in revenue and filed for bankruptcy. Despite these growing financial problems, Mr. Isabella publicly proclaimed that Requin was successful and would not be part of the bankruptcy proceedings. However, by the end of December 2018, the restaurant had permanently shut down, with no prior notice to employees.

In 2020, a group of former employees filed suit seeking their lost wages.

The Maryland federal court ruled on March 29, 2024 that Mike Isabella, onetime “Top Chef” contestant and owner of a D.C. restaurant empire, is now on the hook for $88,347.64 in unpaid wages to his former employees, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs, in a default judgment. Mr. Isabella had failed to respond to the lawsuit since its filing.

The court also certified the case as a class action, for workers who did not receive wages they were owed, and workers who did not receive overtime pay. Earlier in their lawsuit, the workers had also reached partial settlements with executives who had run Requin.

“We applaud this decision, which allows our clients to pursue a long-awaited recovery from Mike Isabella,” said Joanna Wasik, Deputy Legal Director at Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Kail Jethmalani of Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP, lead pro bono counsel for the plaintiff class, said, “We are pleased with the Court’s decision, as it not only vindicates our clients’ rights, it also ensures that they will finally receive the wages they rightfully earned. This outcome illustrates the importance of the work performed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to provide legal services to underserved communities in the D.C. area.”


Joanna Wasik, [email protected]

Kail Jethmalani, [email protected]

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic, and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting, and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.

About Axinn

  • Axinn combines the skills, experience, and dedication of the world’s largest firms with the focus, responsiveness, efficiency, and attention to client needs of the best boutiques. The firm was established in the late 1990s by lawyers from premier Wall Street firms with a common vision: provide the highest level of service and strategic acumen in antitrust, intellectual property, and high-stakes litigation. Axinn’s lawyers have served as lead or co-lead counsel on more than half a trillion dollars in transactions and, in the last 10 years alone, have handled more than 500 litigations.

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Axinn encourages all our attorneys to actively engage in pro bono activities, emphasizing social justice. Our pro bono representations have included rights disputes on behalf of indigent artists, immigration/asylum matters, veterans’ affairs cases, discrimination claims, First Amendment issues, excessive force cases, prisoner civil rights matters, matrimonial and child custody disputes for low-income women, and fair housing claims.


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