Your guide to the ‘Top Chef’ trial

From left: Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Enrique Olivera.
David Moir/Bravo
From left: Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Enrique Olivera on “Top Chef.”

The federal trial kicked off Tuesday for four Teamsters accused of using rough tactics to intimidate the production crew of “Top Chef.”

The men allegedly got aggressive with staff members while taping an episode of the television show at the Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton in June 2014. They were angry that they had not been hired to drive production vehicles for the show, prosecutors said Tuesday.

They have been charged with conspiracy to extort and aiding and abetting.


A fifth Teamster, Mark Harrington, pleaded guilty last September to an attempted extortion charge for the same incident. He was sentenced in December to two years probation, including six months of home confinement, and he was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and restitution of $24,023.

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Here’s what you need to know about the trial:

Who’s on trial?

John Fidler, 53; Daniel Redmond, 49; Robert Cafarelli, 47; and Michael Ross, 63. All four are members of Local 25 in Charlestown.

What did they supposedly do?

The men are accused of threatening to disrupt the filming of the television show if the production crew did not agree to hire union labor.

Derek Cunningham, then a location scout for “Top Chef,” testified in court on Tuesday that Redmond had screamed at him outside the Revere Hotel, blaming him for not hiring the Teamsters. Later that night, Cunningham testified, Cafarelli called him.


When Cunningham told Cafarelli he planned to quit, Cafarelli responded that it was Cunningham’s “smart decision of the year,” Cunningham recalled.

Padma Lakshmi, the show’s host, was also allegedly intimidated by the men, federal prosecutors alleged.

Court documents filed in mid-July alleged that Fidler attempted to block the driveway of the Steel & Rye restuarant, when Lakshmi arrived in a minivan for the shoot. He allegedly reached his arm inside the van, referred to the driver of the van with a slur, and said, “I’ll smash your pretty little face.”

Prosecutors have also alleged the men “chest-bumped” the staff during the June 2014 taping.

Defense lawyers for the men have said they were exercising their rights to picket for better wages and jobs.

What is “Top Chef”?


“Top Chef” is a reality television show in which 16 chef contestants compete against one another to make the best dishes — evaluated by a panel of judges — to advance to the end and ultimately win a monetary prize and other professional opportunities.

Where does Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration come into this?

The trial is rather uncomfortable for Walsh, a former union leader who is running for reelection this fall.

Additionally, two of Walsh’s top administrators — Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan — were indicted for allegedly trying to withhold permits from Boston Calling organizers until they agreed to hire union members for the music festival.

But the world gets even smaller.

Though neither official has been charged in this case, Brissette has seemingly linked the Walsh administration to this trial through allegations that the city tourism official warned two Boston restaurants that union members would picket if they agreed to host “Top Chef” at their venue.

The restuarants canceled their hosting agreements, and the taping was ultimately moved to Steel & Rye.

How will the trial unfold?

US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock expects the trial to last about two weeks. The jury is made up of 14 women and four men. Six are alternates.

The evidence presented by prosecutors during the trial is expected to emphasize a close relationship between the Teamsters and Walsh.

If convicted, the four men could each be sentenced to as long as 20 years in prison.

Read the trial brief below:

Felicia Gans can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.