Taste Test: The Impossible Burger
Two Miami newlyweds say their recent wedding left a bad taste in their mouths.
The couple placed the blame squarely on their caterer, Miami vegan chef Joshua Solis, aka Chef Sol, whom they say they paid more than $20,000 to cater their vegan rehearsal dinner, wedding and Sunday brunch.
But Solis, who has whipped up food for such celebrities as Jane Velez Mitchell, Common and Ty Dolla $ign, was a no-show for the couple’s big weekend. Instead, he took a security job connected to Art Basel and sent over a personal chef from Central Florida in his place — without telling the couple.
Solis blamed the personal chef, Luz McCook. She blamed him. The groom blamed both.
“We got stuck in the middle and they ruined our wedding,’’ Craig Denis, the disgruntled groom, wrote in an email to the Herald. “Greedy, terrible people, both of them.”
The conflict over the 70-guest rehearsal dinner and 160-guest wedding on Dec. 8 played out on social media, and is still not totally resolved.
On Dec. 22, Sol’s former publicist, JennyLee Molina, shared a post saying Chef Sol had some serious issues with a couple who had hired him to cater what was to be the happiest day of their lives at Villa Toscana, a wedding venue in the Redland in South Miami-Dade.
“I was recently representing a chef I trusted who left a $20k wedding catering gig completely hanging after he was paid,” posted Molina. “My biz was also left scammed out of a lot of invested time and money. As a marketer, I only wish to shine the light on those who are honest and have the utmost integrity, especially if I endorse them and recommend them to others.”
Molina forwarded the e-mail from Denis outlining what happened to a Herald reporter.
Among the complaints: The food, much of it not vegan, arrived late and not in the amounts ordered. On the wedding day, the caterer ran out of food and booze.
The Sunday brunch never happened — even though, Denis said, McCook banged on the hotel door of his fiancée’s parents at 6:30 a.m. the day of the wedding “demanding” a $1,900 check for the brunch the next day.
“They gave it to her because after the rehearsal dinner performance they feared she did not have the money to fund the wedding dinner that night even though Sol and Luz were paid about $18,000 six weeks prior to this event weekend.,’’ the groom wrote in an email to the Herald.
Solis told the Miami Herald he sent McCook because he thought she could handle all the details and she didn’t complain that anything was amiss.
When asked why he didn’t show up at the wedding, he said in an email to the Herald: “I am not responsible for Luz not communicating my absence with the wedding planner (this was discussed with Chef Luz) prior to the wedding. In addition no contract was finalized. Chef Luz took the lead and insisted that she would handle everything.”
Solis said the two had worked together at a previous wedding and everything came out fine.
Denis, the groom, wasn’t buying it.
“I hired Chef Sol. He had a good reputation and claimed he was a certified vegan chef. I didn’t hire Chef Luz.”
Rehearsal dinner snafus
The problems first surfaced on Friday night when McCook and her crew didn’t arrive until 11 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. rehearsal dinner, and brought only half of what the couple had ordered. (One tray of vegan lasagna, another of linguine with a vegan Alfredo sauce, instead of two trays of each, Denis said). Many of the guests had left by the time the food got there.
The family texted Sol after the dinner to find out what happened. He replied he had another gig, doing a security detail at a private party at Art Basel.
Molina, the publicist, captured a screengrab of the chef’s Instagram post from that evening, which read, “It was an honor to provide security detail for the hosts of an ultra private party last night. #baseling.”
The Instagram-happy chef didn’t show up to the wedding reception, either. Things went further south on the big day.
“They ran out of food before all the tables could be called up to get served,” Denis said. “There was only red sauce at the live pasta station and they were throwing frozen veggies into the pasta to cook up on the spot when we were promised fresh veggies.
“Many of our guests left early again because they were starving, at a wedding with a $20,000 catering budget. How is that even possible?” Denis asks rhetorically. “Our guests made the shuttle bus driver taking them back to the hotel stop to get pizza.“
The open bar was not up to snuff either, adds Denis, who was informed by waitstaff that the wine was from Walmart and the vodka was Skol. And the bar wasn’t fully stocked.
“They ran out of booze three hours into a six-hour event,” said Denis, who had brought his own keg of beer.
Vegan chef blamed
Sol said he apologized to the couple and offered them his services for free in the future. He repeatedly shifted the blame to McCook, whom he said was paid the majority of the money to handle the events.
McCook told the Herald she refunded the couple the money, but the groom says he has received no money or a credit from Jason Levie Design, the merchant that appeared on the American Express bill for the wedding.
The family disputed the charges with American Express. Denis provided the Herald with a Dec. 18 letter from American Express. The letter referenced the cardholder’s inquiry about the charge incurred from Jason Levie Design and said, “While we investigate this for you, you won’t be responsible for the $15,075.00 under review.”
Jason Levie Design does not show up in the corporate records database of the Florida Secretary of State’s Office. Corporations doing business in Florida have to register with the Secretary of State’s Office. The company does not come up in an Internet search. A Facebook page under the name Jason Levie Design had its last post on March 28, 2018, highlighting Nails By Von.
McCook, in a statement, said it wasn’t until the morning of the rehearsal dinner that Solis told her he couldn’t make it. She said he promised he would be there for the wedding and brunch.
“I kept it professional and didn’t out him ever because I was hoping he would come through,” she said in the statement, adding he told her he “had another gig to work and couldn’t miss the opportunity.”
Unfortunately, there was no contract among the parties, only a signed proposal, say both the groom and chef.
“After this experience I will never let anyone do business with me whether indirectly referred, sub-contracted, or collaborative efforts without a legally binding agreement,” said Solis. “It’s the most important thing to have.”
That didn’t satisfy Denis and his wife, who are still gobsmacked Solis took another job.
“What kind of [professional person] would choose to be a security guard instead of a chef at a specialized vegan wedding that we hired him specifically to do? All he does every day is promote himself as a vegan chef and he gets a huge job cooking for 160 people and this is what he chooses to do?” asks Denis.
“This is something I will never understand.”