Michelin-starred chef's Morgan Hill restaurant fined $120,000 for mislabeling fish

A Morgan Hill restaurant has been netted for allegedly perpetrated a bait-and-switch scheme on its menu.

Odeum, owned and helmed by Michelin-star chef Salvatore Calisi, was implicated in a case of fish fraud on Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office claims that the upscale eatery was serving tilapia in place of the petrale sole on the menu for more than a year.

The $120,000 civil judgement levied against the restaurant includes $30,000 in restitution and $90,000 in civil penalties. Customers who ordered the sole at Odeum between October 2014 and March 2016 will get a $30 gift card if they file a claim before May 31. The gift cards will count toward the $30,000 in restitution, while the rest restitution money will go to the Consumer Protection Division of the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health.

So why does fish fraud matter? Misleading consumers about the fish in their dish impacts not only buyers, but fishermen, honest seafood companies and the oceans, advocacy groups say.

“Seafood fraud and species substitutions occur regularly, cheating consumers out of what they ordered and putting public health and the oceans at risk,” according to conservation group Oceana. “In addition, seafood fraud allows illegally caught fish to be laundered into the legal seafood trade.” According to the group, nearly 1 in 5 seafood samples worldwide is mislabeled.

Santa Clara County hopes that by making an example out of Odeum, other restaurants will think twice before swapping out seafood.

“I definitely hope it will deter other restaurants and wholesalers from trying to swap out products and serve things that are not what they say they are,” Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Deng told the Chronicle.

Original story appearing at Silicon Valley Business Journal