Restaurant Worker Sues Fried Chicken Joint For Religious, Sexual Coercion

Patrick Lockett, a former New Orleans restaurant operator and Katrina refugee, has sued GBL Soul Food Express, an East New York fried chicken–and–collard greens joint, for allegedly breaking minimum-wage and overtime laws. In the suit, Lockett claims to have been paid $600 per 40-hour week to work as a cook. But he often worked far more than 40 hours and was not properly compensated, the suit alleges. (GBL denied these allegations in court.) In an interview with Lockett, the cook told Grub Street of the bizarre kitchen culture that made his job even more difficult. His co-workers (one of whom he says made just $100 per week as a dishwasher) were all members of the neighboring Greater Bright Light Baptist Church, and their boss at the restaurant, H. Devore Chapman, was the pastor. Lockett claims the pastor repeatedly pressured him to join the church and foisted female co-workers and congregation members on him, while Lockett’s wife was ill, to do the same.

“All them women was coming at me,” says Lockett. “They all threw themselves at me, like, ‘You need to leave your wife; forget about her.’ A couple of them came in the kitchen, pull their shirt up, show me their titties.” (Now, now, girls, just because a guy’s from New Orleans...) Lockett says he wasn’t allowed a stake in the tip pool — “They told me I ain’t a member of the church; I don’t deserve no tips” — and was eventually fired by Dr. Chapman after taking a preapproved eleven-day leave to care for his wife. (No one at the church responded to our request for comment.) He now cooks at John Street Bar and Grill, the subterranean faux biker joint where we doubt anyone is trying to steer him toward the light.