WSVN — In five short years, Chef Michell Sanchez has made quite a name for himself with his mouth watering dishes. But now Michell is fuming, accusing a former partner of ruining his name and his reputation and what can be done about it? It’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Many South Floridians first heard of Michell Sanchez when he and his wife Bella rolled out their Latin House Grill food truck.

Michell Sanchez: “That first day we made $27. I was crying on the way home. I was like, ‘this isn’t going to work. This is crazy.'”

But it did work. It exploded in popularity and two years later, Chef Michell sold the trucks and opened the Latin House Grill on Sunset Drive.

Michell Sanchez: “We are a mix of Americana, Cuban and Mexican all thrown together and creating some pretty unique dishes.”

So unique and tasty, Michell has become famous across the country, appearing on TV shows, mingling with other star chefs and winning award after award, with his emphasis on only using fresh ingredients.

Michell Sanchez: “And that’s one of the things that have separated us from the crowd. We use some of the best meats at some of the highest costs.”

Michell calls the sandwiches mad love. People call his burgers, tacos and other dishes amazing.

Michell Sanchez: “When I come out of the kitchen and I talk to table to table and have that one-on-one. It’s like energy being pumped into you as you shake their hand.”

Then a year ago, a man offered him the chance to open another Latin House Grill in Pembroke Pines. Michell said Yes.

Michell Sanchez: “Handshake. My word is good. We are going to do everything, we can to make this work.”

His partner opened the doors. Michell decorated the place with his awards and ran the kitchen.

Michell Sanchez: “It’s our name. It’s our food. There is no input when it comes to the menu.”

Fast forward a year. Michell says his partner wanted to run the place differently.

Michell Sanchez: “One of our biggest arguments was he couldn’t understand why I bought fresh meat at $12 dollars a pound when you can buy it frozen at $3.50 a pound.”

It got worse…

Michell Sanchez: “He lost it. He began screaming and got in my face. I followed him into the restaurant. I shoved him over a couple of tables.”

Their partnership ended that day. Michell left the Pembroke Pines restaurant but he says the customers didn’t know he was gone.

Michell Sanchez: “They are being handed a menu which is mine. They are being told they just missed me. I was there in the morning, that I just left.”

Thru the door you can see Michell’s awards are still on the wall. The menu at the Pines restaurant is identical to Michell’s Sunset Drive Latin House, but Michell says the food doesn’t taste the same because they don’t have his recipes.

Michell Sanchez: “To be blatantly using my name and trying to copy my food, I think that’s out of line.”

As a result, accusations are flying and lawyers are trading letters.

Michell Sanchez: “Nothings in a can and everything is made fresh.”

But back in his Sunset Drive location, Michell says he has no hard feelings.

Michell Sanchez: “I don’t want him to lose his money. I don’t want him to close his business. Just take my name down off the building. My mad love off the wall and give my menu back.”

Well Howard, a court battle could take years but can a former partner keep Michell’s awards, menu and use the name of Michell’s restaurant?

Howard Finkelstein: “The name of Michell’s restaurant is trademarked and when he left that partnership, his name goes with him. That means the name of the Pines restaurant needs to change, and his property has to be returned and if it isn’t done immediately and Michell sues, he could get money for the damage done to his reputation and trademark.”

I spoke to Kitt Chance Marcellus, the former partner, he says he was closing the Pines restaurant that week because of an illness in his family but he was going to re-open it under new management. But he is still clearly angry at Chef Michell. When I asked if he would make the changes Michell wanted and return his property, he said, ‘Go to court and get a paper from a judge to order me to do it.'”

Michell hopes when the Pines location reopens, it’s with a new name and a new menu so there will no longer be any confusion.

Michell Sanchez: “There is only one Latin House Grill. I would like people to go to the Sunset location.”

Patrick Fraser: “Now court cases like this can take years, but if Howard is correct and this is a trademark violation, while they wait for a trial, a judge can issue an injunction stopping the Pines restaurant from using Michell’s Latin House name and the menu he drew up, plus return his property. We will keep an eye on it for you.”

Chewing on a problem that’s giving you indigestion? Ready for someone else to take a bite out of it? Contact us. The menu of our services is long ’cause we have the people to cook up a solution that’s tasty.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.


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