Former employee says Victoria catering company accused of fraudulent activity, owes him too

Former employee says Victoria catering company accused of fraudulent activity, owes him too

A former long-time employee of the catering company that quietly and abruptly closed its doors, leaving clients out thousands of dollars, says the once-award-winning company has been spiralling downward for years and owes him and other employees thousands of dollars in wages.

“We were really good. Were. Then it all went up in smoke,” said a former employee CHEK News has verified but is protecting and will refer to as Chris.

“COVID decimated us,” said Chris. “That’s when all the trouble started, was COVID. It hit, and one owner just went downhill.”

Toque Catering was top of the game for wedding food on the South Island. It’s why Josey Reynolds booked them for her dream 2023 summer wedding. But when suddenly their phone line was disconnected and her emails went unanswered, she started to investigate. It was in a Google search where she learned Toque Catering was closed.

An image showing some of the food created by Toque Catering in Victoria is shown on the company's website

An image showing some of the food created by Toque Catering in Victoria is shown on the company’s website.

“I essentially was robbed,” said Reynolds to CHEK News on Tuesday.

Another client told CHEK News, because her $5,000 deposit was up in the air in Toque Catering’s hands, she was cancelling her wedding.

Chris, who worked with the company for four years, says the company’s struggles started much earlier. Chris says in the fall of 2019 the owner Nicholas, or Nick Waters, relapsed.

“He went all in,” said Chris.

When standards started to drop at Toque Catering, Chris says long-time loyal staff started leaving.

“Our entire upstairs office went from a very professional space where we would hold tasting, we had a trophy room, to holes in the walls, the bathroom was disgusting and there was paraphernalia all over the place. And he was vocal about it. He didn’t care about who knew. People would come into work and there would be crack pipes and used condoms,” said Chris.

The Caribbean connection

After receiving several tip that Waters had skipped town to the Caribbean, to work with a chef who’d previously trained him, CHEK News made a few phone calls.

Speaking with the St. Kitt’s Marriot Resort’s Executive Chef Christophe Letard by phone, Letard confirmed Waters was there on the Island working at the resort.

Waters later reached back to CHEK News saying COVID caused staffing shortages caused his company to be unable to respond to clients emails.

When asked if his alleged personal drug usage played a part in Toque Catering’s decline, Waters asked which employee was speaking. CHEK News declined revealing its source, and Waters said “Then this conversation is done now,” and hung up.

Knew they were leaving their kitchen in November 2022

Island Culinary Service took over the space Toque Catering was renting in Vic West. They have no affiliation to Toque Catering. Company owner Graham Little says they signed a deal in November to move in January.

Some Toque Catering clients, like Reynolds, paid the deposit for her wedding in December.

“Our hearts went out to them, it’s a really sad story,” said Little.

Little says Island Culinary Service is helping out three to four former Toque Catering clients, fitting them into their busy schedule, waving the deposit requirement, and even offering them a discount.

“This is not good for the catering business in general. People being out this kind of money is hard to hear,” said Little.

Little says clients should be suspicious of anyone asking for sizeable deposits like Toque Catering was, saying he only asks for a $500 deposit.

Inconsistent pay

Chris says when Waters left Canada in May of 2022, his pay became inconsistent. He says three cheques bounced, and that when we was paid he put it back into the company to stay afloat.

“I’m out of my apartment and my EI is having issues,” said Chris. “I’m selling my belongings to try and feed myself and my cat.”

This week, in an email to some clients and media, Waters declared his intention to file for bankruptcy.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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