Chef Fabio Viviani cuts ties with restaurateur who suggested violence against protesters

The "Top Chef" contestant denounced a Florida restaurant owner after he wrote "just shoot them all" on an activist's social media page.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Chef Fabio Viviani, best known for his role on Bravo's "Top Chef," has severed ties with restaurant owner Lanfranco Pescante after he made a violent remark on an activist's Instagram post last week.

On June 1, Stormy Russell, who provides resources and information for anti-racism protests in Tampa, Florida, on her Instagram account @officialthebody, shared a screenshot of a comment Pescante posted on one of her photos. The comment — made during the worldwide protests following George Floyd's death in police custody on May 25 — read, "Just shoot them all."

Although Pescante has since deactivated his Instagram account so the original comment is no longer available, Russell shared images of the dialogue in her post, along with a call to action.

"We need to hold our local business leaders accountable for the things they are bold enough to say in a public forum," Russell said in her post. "Our greatest power is our ECONOMIC POWER, OUR MONEY. I will never again be visiting Franklin Manor, or any other #nocturnalhospitalitygroup business. Please share. Tag your friends."

Before his comments surfaced, Pescante co-owned Nocturnal Restaurant Group, which operates a nightclub called Franklin Manor, in addition to three restaurants with Viviani: Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela and the newly opened Shibui. As of this week, all the restaurants have closed indefinitely.

After Viviani learned of Pescante's comments last week, he cut all business relations. "In light of the evolving news coming out of Tampa, FVH will step away from Nocturnal Hospitality Group and all associated venues including Osteria Bar + Kitchen, Mole y Abuela and Shibui. The FVH team stands solid on our principles and values and will separate completely. Effectively immediately, Fabio Viviani and his team will have no involvement or ownership in these venues whatsoever," a spokesperson for Fabio Viviani told TODAY Food.

On June 2, Pescante announced he would be stepping down from all his restaurants, including a new Italian restaurant slated to open later this year in St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

"I sincerely apologize for my comments earlier this week. This is an emotional and heated time in our country and, as someone that has tried to bring people together as a career, the last thing I wish to do is to create more divisiveness. With that said there is no excuse for my actions. Effective immediately, I will step down from my role with Nocturnal Hospitality and I will step away from all venues that I am associated with," Pescante said in a statement provided by Karin Bearnarth, the group's director of private events and sales.

TODAY Food reached to Pescante and his team at Nocturnal Hospitality Group on Tuesday, but a request for comment was not immediately received. All four websites of Nocturnal's restaurants are no longer online and their corresponding social media accounts have been shut down. Pescante and his partner, David Anderson, also deactivated their personal accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

This is not the first time a celebrity or company has severed a partnership in response to racist remarks on social media. Earlier this week, Reebok and gyms across the country cut ties with CrossFit after its CEO Greg Glassman came under fire for his controversial replies to a tweet that called racism a public health issue.

Similarly, the meal kit company HelloFresh ended its brand partnership with former "Glee" star Lea Michele after her black co-star Samantha Marie Ware called her out in a viral tweet accusing the star of making racist and "traumatic microaggressions" that made her life "a living hell."