Last week, the owner of INdustri Café on South Second Street in Walker’s Point – Robert Klemm – emailed to local reporters a press release about the restaurant’s new executive chef, Dan Morales. According to the brief summary, Morales has an extensive, impressive resume – chef de cuisine at Mesa Grill (owned by Food Network star Bobby Flay), sous chef at New York’s prestigious Le Cirque.
Not included in this curriculum vitae, however, was Morales’ stint running D Mo’s Pasta and Chop House in downtown Waukesha’s Clarke Hotel. Well, D Mo’s is now closed, and the hotel filed for foreclosure last month. Klemm says he ran into Morales, then looking for a new post, at a bar. Impressed by the chef’s background and skills, the restaurateur asked if he’d be interested in leading INdustri’s kitchen. And Morales said yes.
At some point, Morales shared information with Klemm that didn’t make it into the press release. Morales – who went by the name Ramon Antonio Mitre “Tony” Hernandez when he worked at D Mo’s – has a criminal history. According to the Waukesha Freeman, Morales, under the name Hernandez, was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor of fourth-degree sexual assault of a female patron at the Clarke Hotel in 2011. The same year according to Waukesha Patch, Morales faced misdemeanor domestic abuse charges in Waukesha County Circuit Court after an alleged “physical altercation” with his fiancée.
When the Freeman reported the hotel’s foreclosure in January 2013, it said Hernandez had “left town amid personal and legal troubles.” Turns out, he left behind his name as well. But Klemm, when reached by phone, stood by his new chef.
“Everyone is entitled to a second chance,” he said.
Klemm emailed INdustri’s official statement to Milwaukee Magazine this morning: "From the very beginning of our relationship, Chef Dan was honest and forthright with us. In the interviews and press release we did not disclose he had a failed business in the past, as it was not pertinent to his credentials. INdustri is an equal opportunity employer and it is illegal to discriminate when hiring an individual because of their background. We did our due diligence prior to hiring him, and it is obvious to all that his food speaks for its self. We are excited to have someone of his cooking caliber working for us, and we look forward to the bright future ahead."
Morales wasn’t immediately available for comment.