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Should Tucker Duke’s chef Brian Cartenuto still cook for James Beard Foundation?

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Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox in Tallahassee closed permanently this month in a ring of fiery accusations by investors who all but accused chef Brian Cartenuto of embezzlement and theft. Now, some are wondering whether the two-time winner of the popular Food Network show Cutthroat Kitchen should still be given the privilege of cooking for the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

As first reported by SaintPetersBlog, Tucker Duke’s Tallahassee site was damaged in a fire Feb. 2 that temporarily closed the business, but it was expected to reopen after repairs were completed. That was until the restaurant’s official Facebook page posted that the restaurant known for classic burgers and comfort food was permanently 86’d.

The author(s) of the Facebook page also alleged that “non-managerial investors” discovered problems including “financial mismanagement” and “misappropriation of funds” by Cartenuto.

“These matters have been reported to appropriate governmental authorities,” reads the Facebook page.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office and the Tallahassee Police Department both told Dusty Ricketts of the Northwest Florida Daily News that their agencies were not investigating the matter. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office did not return messages seeking comment on his article.

Cartenuto told Ricketts that he could not comment on the allegations made in the Facebook post or even who was responsible for posting on the restaurant’s official Facebook page.

Having spoken to some of those “non-managerial investors,” it’s clear that, allegations of stealing aside, Carnetuto was not well-liked by his partners.

What’s worse, several former employees of Tucker Duke’s, as well a handful of vendors, have been left holding the bag. Paychecks have bounced. Unpaid bills remain due.

The fall of Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox has many in the foodie community wondering aloud whether Cartenuto, obviously a talented chef, should still make an appearance at the James Beard Foundation on April 11, when he is set to serve a menu called, “Florida with a Southern Twist.” Cooking at the JBF is an honor, say Cartenuto’s critics who think he shouldn’t be toasted in New York City while questions go unanswered in Tallahassee.

A request for comment from Cartenuto has so far gone unanswered.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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