Celebrity chef José Andrés’s weekend fight with Ivanka Trump, explained

The Cafe Milano flap has roots in a lawsuit between the first family and the chef.

Political divisiveness over the Trump family is spilling over into Washington, DC’s elite social scene after a restaurant mix-up and social media flap this weekend.

It all started when celebrity chef José Andrés, who owns about 10 restaurants in the DC area, tweeted a photo of himself standing alone, outside a Georgetown restaurant called Cafe Milano, looking exasperated.

Andrés claimed he was the only person who had been denied entry to an afterparty at Cafe Milano after the yearly Alfalfa Club dinner, an annual, moneyed Washington dinner whose speakers this year included former President George W. Bush, former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Andrés said he had attended the Alfalfa Club dinner but was stopped at the door at Cafe Milano as he tried to get into the afterparty. And he insinuated that Ivanka Trump had something to do with his invitation getting rescinded.

“‘Everyone welcome to the after party, but I’m the only individual not allowed in? Is because @IvankaTrump told you so?” he tweeted. Andrés’ tweet spread like wildfire on social media, getting retweeted nearly 13,000 times.

It was picked up by Mexico’s former Ambassador to China Jorge Guajardo, who slammed Cafe Milano’s owner Franco Nuschese, tweeting that Andrés was kicked out “apparently” because his presence made Ivanka Trump “uncomfortable.”

Fellow celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain also took Andrés’ side in the ensuing social media war, calling the situation “loathsome” and a “grotesque betrayal” of the chef.

As it turned out, Ivanka Trump was not behind Andrés’ lack of an invitation; he spoke with Nuschese later in the weekend, according to the Washington Post. Andrés issued more tweets chalking the whole thing up to a “misunderstanding” with Cafe Milano and walked back his Trump accusation with another tweet.

“Now let’s all be friends,” he concluded.

He also sent another tweet on Sunday saying he now believed Trump had nothing to do with his inability to get into the party. At the same time, he made a political statement, calling for immigration reform and a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which will sunset in March unless Congress comes up with a permanent solution. Congress was tasked with devising a fix after President Trump announced in September that he would end the program.

Ivanka Trump issued her own statement on the matter, saying, “I am thankful for Jose’s clarification. I had nothing to do with anything that transpired relating to him last night at the restaurant.”

But this weekend’s flap isn’t the first time Andrés and the Trumps have clashed.

Andrés versus Trump

Andrés and the Trumps have a history of disagreements and a protracted legal battle that ended last spring. The roots of the disagreements between Andrés and the Trumps have to do with another DC restaurant; specifically, the restaurant Andrés was supposed to open in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

But Andrés abruptly pulled his restaurant concept after Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015 with a speech that called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals.”

Andrés is Spanish-born and an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights. Saying he was offended by Trump’s comments, Andrés and another chef named Geoffrey Zakarian said they would no longer be working with Trump organization.

Trump then sued Andrés for breach of contract in August 2015, and Andrés countersued, kicking off a legal battle that raged for nearly two years until the two parties settled in April 2017. The terms of the deal were not released, but the Trump Organization and Andrés each released statements at the time that were cordial, with both sides saying they were happy to “move forward as friends.”

“I have great respect for the Trump Organization’s commitment to excellence in redeveloping the Old Post Office,” Andrés said in his statement in April. “Going forward, we are excited about the prospects of working together with the Trump Organization on a variety of programs to benefit the community.”

Apparently, some old wounds don’t heal quickly. But from his tweets acknowledging the misunderstanding at Cafe Milano this weekend, it seemed Andrés was willing to try to be “friends” with the Trumps again.

That is, until he tweeted again on Monday morning, insinuating again with no evidence that “someone with connections” to Ivanka Trump was behind the restaurant kerfuffle.