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Restaurant Weeks Scandal

Scandalous! Restaurant kicked out of Houston Restaurant Weeks for rules breaking & deceiving diners

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L'Olivier Houston Restaurant Weeks lunch menu actual
L'Olivier presented diners with this menu showing three courses cost $30 instead of the $20 on the HRW website.  Photo by a CultureMap Reader
L'Olivier menu Houston Restaurant Weeks August 2014 lunch menu
L'Olivier submitted this menu with a three-course menu for $20 to HRW organizer Cleverley STone/ Houston Restaurant Weeks
L'Olivier restaurant & bar, Olivier Ciesielski
Chef Olivier Ciesielski has yet to respond to a request for comment.  Photo by © Jill Hunter
L'Olivier Houston Restaurant Weeks lunch menu actual
L'Olivier menu Houston Restaurant Weeks August 2014 lunch menu
L'Olivier restaurant & bar, Olivier Ciesielski

As they say, rules are rules. But, rules are meant to be broken. What happens when two cliches come into conflict? 

One Houston restaurant found out this weekend that no one breaks the rules of Houston Restaurant Weeks and gets away with it. After Montrose French restaurant L'Olivier appeared in Friday's list of restaurants offering $20 lunches and $45 dinners during Restaurant Weeks, a CultureMap reader passed along the menu the restaurant actually presented to diners when they visited the restaurant.

Instead of the menu listed on the Houston Restaurant Weeks website which offered three courses for $20 at lunch, the restaurant only offered two for $20. Diners were informed that adding a third course would be an additional $10, for a total of $30. Nothing in the HRW rules permits a restaurant to offer a $30 lunch.  

Strangely, L'Olivier presents a third Houston Restaurant Weeks menu on its website, which lists two courses for $20 but does not mention adding a third for $10.

A diner alerted HRW organizer Cleverley Stone to the discrepancy Friday afternoon. Faced with a restaurant that she determined was breaking Houston Restaurant Weeks' rules, Stone acted swiftly by removing L'Olivier from HRW, taking its menu off the website and instructing chef/owner Olivier Ciesielski to refrain from accepting any additional Restaurant Weeks reservations.

On her weekly radio show on 650 AM, Stone recounted the episode and explained her decision. She removed L'Olivier from HRW both because the discrepancy could deceive diners and also to prevent the restaurant from gaining an unfair financial advantage over the other participating restaurants. Additionally, L'Olivier's menu is silent as to whether the $10 supplement results in an increased donation to the Houston Food Bank.

Although Stone declined to name the restaurant during Saturday's broadcast, she confirmed L'Olivier is the offending restaurant in an email to CultureMap. As for why she removed L'Olivier, Stone explains: 

I spoke with Olivier Ciesielski on the telephone about this. He said that he equated his $10 price increase on the lunch menu that was being given out at his restaurant to other restaurants that offer supplement dishes for an additional charge.

The problem is that the $20 three-course lunch menu that he submitted and was posted on the HRW website was exactly the same menu that was being presented to diners at his restaurant for $30. There were no supplements offered for an additional charge.

Giving HRW a $20 three-course lunch menu to post and promote on our website, and then charging customers $30 for the exact same menu when they get to the restaurant was the problem."

CultureMap contacted L'Olivier about the situation on Saturday. A manager promised that Ciesielski would respond to a request for comment, but he has yet to do so.

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Update: With the news of their Restaurant Weeks ban out, L'Olivier is now finally responding — and crying charity foul. For more, read the full CultureMap story on this new development. 

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