The owners of one of the West Loop's hippest restaurants fled the country, leaving behind $1.5m in debts and judgments and nearly bankrupting the chef:
One day last summer, sometime after Attila Gyulai and his wife and business partner abruptly shut what was once one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago, they abandoned their Ford Flex SUV in front of their River West home. Police ticketed the car two weeks later and impounded it in mid-August. By then, bank records later would show, their accounts had been used for a series of payments outside the United States. The co-owners of Embeya, a progressive Asian restaurant in the West Loop that won national accolades for its inventive cooking and sleek design, have not been seen in Chicago since.
In all, Cook County court documents show, they absconded with more than $1.5 million from the restaurant, which was owned in part by their former chef, Thai Dang, and Dang's older brother, Kenny. The couple also racked up personal and business debts to purveyors, banks, suppliers, landlords, attorneys and credit card companies, according to court records, bank statements and interviews with more than a dozen former colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors. They've been ordered by judges to pay the Dang brothers nearly $1.5 million to cover their losses.
Dang, 32, and his wife, Danielle Dang, 36, who are about to open their next restaurant, have tracked Gyulai and Patel's movements through bank records obtained with a subpoena. They say it's clear the two schemed to take money from the business far in advance of their departures. "He threw his life away here—burned it with a match, all in the name of money," Thai Dang says. "He went through painstaking efforts and a great extent to hide money and move it out so nobody could find it." Adds Danielle Dang: "What they did to us is unspeakable. It takes so much hate and effort to do something like that to another person."
It was a great restaurant, and I ate there many times. And I hope Gyulai and Patel are apprehended and remanded to Chicago soon.