When Kimbal Musk, founder of the Kitchen, the Kitchen Next Door, and the Kitchen Community, found a crumpled dollar on Saturday, he posted a picture on Instagram with the tag “Found a dollar on the road. Lucky day.” This seemingly benign post elicited one response that was especially poignant: “Leave a tip at Wolfgang Puck’s.” Musk and famed chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck are battling over the Kitchen name. The dispute went public in the Wall Street Journal last week.
About five years ago, Musk, who had started the Kitchen but was also a higher up in the tech industry, broke his neck in a tubing accident. This near-tragedy caused Musk to reevaluate his course, and he dedicated his life to bringing real food to the masses. He reached out to leaders in the industry, including Puck, seeking advice on how to grow and make an impact.
About two years after their meeting—which, according to Musk, is the same amount of time it takes to concept a restaurant—Musk got word that Puck was opening the Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and there were plans to open more across the country.
“When I found out about it, I felt gut punched,” Musk says. “I called [Wolfgang] right up, and said there must be some mistake.” Musk who is very familiar with competition, says this is different; this is nothing short of backstabbing. “This is someone I came to for advice and he’s completely betrayed me.” As for the Puck party, lawyers have indidated to Musk and the Kitchen’s growing empire (between the Kitchen and the Kitchen Next Door, there are eight on the Front Range and one in Chicago) is too small to worry about.
Last Wednesday, Musk registered a formal protest with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has asked Puck to change the restaurant’s name to Wolfgang Puck’s Kitchen, and he’s not backing down, even if it means going to court. “[Puck’s] intention is to work off of my brand building—off the goodwill the Kitchen has created. He is out to create confusion.”
Puck did not respond to a request for comment.