The Palm Beach Post
> January 22, 2002
SECTION: LOCAL, Pg. 1B
HEADLINE: FIRED MAR-A-LAGO CHEF CLAIMS AGE DISCRIMINATION
BYLINE: Kathryn Quigley, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
DATELINE: WEST PALM BEACH
Was the sauce too rich? Were the truffles too chewy?
Is that why Bernard Goupy was fired as the executive chef at Mar-a-Lago?
Or was Goupy canned because, at age 62, he was too stale for the ritzy denizens of Donald Trump's resort?
The French chef has filed an age discrimination lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court and is seeking back pay and damages. Trump said he didn't fire Goupy because he was too old; he fired him because he was a bad chef.
Celine Dion and her husband, Rene Angelil, don't seem to think so. They hired Goupy a few months ago as their personal chef. In a way, they got Trump's leftovers. But in Goupy, they also got an award-winning chef who has worked in high-priced hotels and restaurants all over the world.
Goupy now cooks for the songstress and her family at their home in Jupiter. He also travels with the couple and their baby boy, Rene-Charles.
Goupy's new famous bosses can't escape the long, wealthy and influential arm of Donald Trump, however. Dion and Angelil are scheduled to give videotaped depositions on Jan. 23 at the West Palm Beach office of Mar-a-Lago's lawyer, John Marion.
Marion was out of town and unavailable for comment about what he intends to ask Dion and Angelil.
Goupy's lawyer, William J. Berger, said Mar-a-Lago is trying to harass its former chef by dragging his current employers into his lawsuit.
"It would seem to me to be unnecessary to videotape Celine Dion and her husband at a deposition," Berger said. "It has to be annoying for them to be videotaped."
Goupy claims in court documents that when he was hired in August 2000, he was given a verbal promise by Bernd Lembcke, the managing director at Mar-a-Lago, that he would be paid $80,000 for a full year's employment. Instead, Goupy was fired six months later - and soon replaced by a younger chef in his 30s.
Goupy, of Delray Beach, is suing to get the remaining $40,000 he says Mar-A-Lago owes him.
Trump said he has no intention of paying Goupy any more money.
"He got fired because he was a terrible chef," Trump said on Thursday. "We didn't like his food."
Trump wouldn't be more specific.
"People didn't like it," he said. "I didn't like it."
Trump also denied the accusation of age discrimination.
"I hired him at the same age I fired him," Trump said.
Since Goupy's departure, guests at Mar-a-Lago tell Trump they like the food much better now, he said.
Mar-a-Lago is Trump's spectacular home in Palm Beach. Trump bought the former Marjorie Merriweather Post home for $15 million in 1985 and turned the mansion into a private membership club. The resort hosts extravagant banquets, brunches, charity events and parties. Television talk show host Regis Philbin is expected to perform for Mar-a-Lago members and guests this weekend.
Goupy was trained to cook in his native France and has worked as an executive chef in elegant hotels around the world, including the Hilton chain in the Middle East and Wyndham hotels in the Caribbean. In the United States, he worked at such swank places at Chateau Elan in Georgia.
In 1993, he was named a Master Chef of France - a prestigious designation given only to chefs who maintain a high quality of professionalism and experience.
That doesn't figure into Mar-a-Lago's assessment of Goupy's skills, however. Court documents from Mar-a-Lago state that Goupy was fired because of complaints about: the quality of the food; the menu choices; the menu changes and his inability to manage the financial aspect of his position.
Goupy's lawyer said it's all untrue.
"He was a good chef and he got along with people," Berger said.
Goupy's job as executive chef at Mar-a-Lago involved more administrative work - such as planning menus and hiring staff - than actual food preparation, Berger said. He helped run banquets and dinners more often than making actual meals, the lawyer said.
He may have a new job, but Goupy still wants to fight over his old one. While the case winds its way through the court system, Goupy's cooking will go on and on.
Now, it's just in Celine Dion's kitchen.