Well-known Tampa Bay chef Jeannie Pierola accused of stiffing seafood wholesaler out of $17K

in Local Courts by
Jeannie Pierola

One of Tampa’s most respected culinary artists is now facing accusations that she stiffed the bill from a St. Petersburg seafood distributor.

Jeannie Pierola, owner of edison: food+drink lab gastropub on W. Kennedy Boulevard in South Tampa, is considered one of the most inventive chefs in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Bay Times ranked edison one of 2016’s Top 10 restaurants in the region, and No. 1 in the ‘American Upscale’ category. For 10 years, she served as head chef for the iconic Tampa steakhouse Bern’s and SideBern’s.

In 2015, the Times reported Pierola, now 54, became only the fourth area chef ever to “be invited to do a whole dinner at the former home of James Beard.”

Sammy’s Seafood — led by Emilio Sosa as president and Vice President Kathryn Sosa — is a seafood wholesaler headquartered in St. Petersburg. According to the company website, the environmentally and sustainably-focused Sammy’s is “committed to sourcing our fresh seafood from local commercial fishermen, shrimpers and crabbers, environmentally friendly fisheries and sustainable aquaculture farmers, and we believe that educating our customers as to why we’ve chosen each supplier is just as important.”

In 2012, the year she launched Edison, Pierola submitted a credit application with Sammy’s, where she personally guaranteed any future outstanding debts to the supplier.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 12 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Sammy’s claims it sold Pierola’s company $17,504 in seafood for July and August 2016, but never received payment.

Sammy’s is asking the court to force Pierola, as guarantor, to settle the debt.

State records do not show a specific parent company for edison: food+drink lab; neither a corporation nor fictitious group listing exists by that name.

Pierola is also shown as owner of Chef Driven Restaurant Group LLC, which uses edison’s as its address.

The master chef is no stranger to controversy. Bern’s Steakhouse sued Pierola in 2008, alleging she made personal expenditures on company credit cards.

In 2006, Pierola purchased a $1.28-million home in Beach Park.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.