The CBS Crimesider blog features a surprising face from the world of gastronomy: the slightly puffy mug of the fun-loving, Croc-wearing, eminently bankable celebrity chef Mario Batali, who’s being sued by a pair of former employees at Babbo Ristorante Enoteca.

At the heart of the suit are accusations that management at Babbo illegally redistributed tips, plus some related nastiness that should sound familiar to anyone familiar with the restaurant industry:

“According to the suit, workers at the Italian eatery are also paid below minimum wage, forced to work overtime and work shifts that exceed 10 hours,” says the post, citing a Daily News story.

Without getting into the specifics of this particular suit (which will, no doubt, be tossed back and forth across the blogosphere many times before the end of the year, assuming that there’s any merit to the case), it’s a hand thrust squarely into the viper’s nest that is the compensation model for those toiling away in restaurants.

Should servers be compensated better than dishwashers? Sure, but three times as well? Should servers earn more than chefs? There are arguments to be had on all sides of the issue, which is sufficiently sparky that it popped up in Minnesota’s gubernatorial race. There the GOP/Tea Party candidate, Tom Emmer, made the bold declaration that it’s time to knock the wages of servers down below the state minimum wage, what with all the servers earning $100K+. (He’s since back-pedaled, but the issue is a potent one, with a lot of fiery rhetoric coming from all directions.)

Image source: Flickr member iwona_kellie under Creative Commons

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