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2003-02-19 The Clarkston News


Wall Street Journal writes up local Mac & Cheese dispute





Curt Catallo, owner of the Clarkston Union, poses with Friday's edition of the Wall Street Journal, which details a dispute in November between Catallo and Rudy's Market co-owners Robert Esshaki and Chris Thomas. Catallo had accused a former chef at the Union of stealing their secret macaroni and cheese recipe for use by Rudy's Market.

A November dispute between two Clarkston restaurants regarding a secret recipe has reached a tasteful resolution and gained national attention.

According to Curt Catallo, owner of the Clarkston Union, he and Robert Esshaki of Rudy's Market came to a "gentleman's agreement" between the two restaurants regarding the Union's secret macaroni and cheese recipe, which Catallo contended one of his cooks has stolen for use by Rudy's.

As it turns out, Rudy's never used the recipe. Esshaki was unavailable for comment as of press time, but manager Jack Jones stated "we never made the macaroni and cheese."

The macaroni and cheese caper was featured on the front page of Friday's edition of the Wall Street Journal. Bryan Gruley, a senior editor for the newspaper, had been staying at the Mill Pond Inn in Clarkston and spent two days researching the story, according to Catallo.

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"I E-mailed a friend of mine about the situation, and then he E-mailed someone else, who contacted the Page One editor at the Wall Street Journal," Catallo said.

According to the Journal article, the story can be traced to last fall, when Catallo hired cook Javier Pinedo. The article stated Pinedo began inquiring about the recipe for the macaroni and cheese from prep cook Franco Reyes, specifically the bechamel sauce used in the recipe.

Pinedo stated he was going to make the sauce for his wife. Reyes offered to make some of it to take home, but Pinedo said he wanted the recipe to make it himself. Reyes refused, and later told Catallo about Pinedo's curiosity, the article stated.

When another cook needed the recipe book one day, it wasn't in its usual spot. Catallo began to suspect Pinedo was involved in wrongdoing when Reyes told him Pinedo was moonlighting for the Market Basket in Franklin, Mich. The Market Basket is owned by cousins Esshaki and Chris Thomas, who also own Rudy's Market.

According to Gruley's account, one Saturday in November, Reyes told Catallo he had heard the Rudy's owners had lent Pinedo money for a personal matter, which struck a red flag with Catallo. In addition, Esshaki and Thomas had reportedly ordered some of the Union's key macaroni and cheese ingredients from the Union's supplier, R. Hirt Jr. Co. of Detroit.

After he learned that bit of news, Catallo, in his apron, stormed down to Rudy's and confronted Esshaki, using profanity and contending Pinedo had stolen recipes for use by Rudy's Market, the article stated.

"Calm down, I've known you for 10 years," Esshaki is reported to have told Thomas.

The two parties then got Thomas on speakerphone. According to Gruley's account, Thomas had asked Pinedo if he knew how to make the recipe, and Pinedo replied he did. Thomas stated Pinedo wasn't offered any money, but did admit Rudy's had ordered cheese from the Union's supplier so they could try making the recipe. However, Thomas stated no one at Rudy's or the Market Basket ever made the macaroni and cheese, and they promised they never would.

The next day, the Union's general manager, Erich Lines, fired Piendo, according to the Journal article.

Despite the tension between Catallo and Esshaki at the time, the Union owner stated the incident is "water under the bridge."

"Robert didn't know our macaroni and cheese was that important to us," Catallo said. "It's a funny chapter, and I'm glad the Wall Street Journal got a kick out of it. Despite our little spat, it's good for Clarkston."


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