Imagine having to try to get a job while not being able to use your name and likeness for business purposes. For chef Omar Pereney, that was his reality up until a few days ago. After a settlement with his former employer, he’s free to be himself again in the restaurant world.
The backstory: Pereney was all of 20 years old when he signed on to be the executive chef over at Peska, at the time known as Peska Seafood Culture. Before he landed at Peska, Pereney had a cooking show in his native Venezuela and had spent time cooking in Mexico City. Early looks at Peska Seafood Culture were positive, with Alison Cook placing the restaurant No. 37 on her top 100 list in 2015.
In late 2016, powers that be at Peska made the decision to change to a Tex-Mex spot, and Pereney made the decision to walk away from the restaurant. A few months later, Pereney filed suit against the owners; according to the suit, the contract he signed when he took on the position included a non-competition clause. The suit also mentioned a “Name and Likeness Agreement.” He claimed the Peska owners breached the contract when making certain statements about him in the media.
“A world famous chef was asked to go from gourmet seafood to mac and cheese and onion rings. Then he was disparaged, told he could not compete and that the restaurant still owned rights to his name and likeness,” Pereney’s lawyer, Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru P.C., said in a statement to the Houston Press at the time.
But that’s all changed now.
“Thanks to my lawyers I can cook in Houston kitchens again, and I can use my own name and likeness again,” Pereney said in a statement.
Pereney is staying busy. He’s joined the A’la Carte Foodservice Consulting Group (which has him working with restaurants in Houston, New York and Belize), has been writing a food column and advising for the Houston Food Bank.
As for Peska, when the Tex-Mex thing didn’t work out and they moved on to their third chef in a year, they rebranded as Peska Cocina Latina. We thought at the time that they had finally become interesting again. Then came Hurricane Harvey. In late November 2017, Peska closed its doors for good, citing the storm and construction issues.