Celebrity-chef Miguel Maestre in legal stoush with restaurant boss Nelson Ng

Lisa Davies | The Daily Telegraph  | March 24, 2011 12:00AM

Restaurant boss takes out AVO against Maestre
Says TV chef repeatedly threatened him
Maestre's lawyer says AVO is "absurb" 

A BITTER battle that began in the kitchen has spilled into a courtroom as a top Sydney restaurateur alleges he was threatened by one of the country's celebrity chefs.

Master chef Nelson Ng, proprietor of Manly's El Toro Loco restaurant, applied for an apprehended violence order in Manly Local Court, claiming that his then employee Miguel Maestre had caused him problems since he started work in January 2010.

Maestre, the star of Miguel's Tropical Kitchen on the Lifestyle Food channel, had worked at top Sydney restaurants including the Bather's Pavilion, Bel Mondo, Cru and Minus 5 and at Tony Bilson's Number One Wine Bar.

But Ng claims Maestre repeatedly intimidated and threatened him, allegedly saying " I will make you cry" and "I will make sure that you suffer for this".

He claims Maestre would often stand close to Ng and make jabbing motions with his finger while he was making the threats.

Ng terminated Maestre's employment on December 19, 2010. On the day of his termination, Maestre is alleged to have threatened Ng and other staff, saying "There will be blood all over", the court papers show.

Maestre's lawyer Patrick Conaghan told The Daily Telegraph that the AVO application was "absurd", and had come about after a commercial dispute began over $100,000 in unpaid wages.

After he left El Toro Loco, Maestre told the media he and Ng "had different approaches". El Toro Loco has since changed its name to El Poco Loco.

At the heart of the battle is an expensive Range Rover which Ng claims was leased to Maestre during his employment at the restaurant.

Following Maestre's departure from the business, Ng claims he demanded the car's return - only to be threatened by Maestre, who allegedly told him he'd "kill him" if he tried to get it back.

Ng is seeking the AVO and a court-ordered return of the car.

In a mention at the court yesterday, the case was set for hearing in April, when a magistrate is expected to decide whether to grant an interim AVO.

Mr Conaghan said the AVO would be contested.

"All it does is highlight the ease with which a disgruntled neighbour, business partner or work colleague can abuse the legal process in a veiled attempt to better their own interests," he said.

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