Last week, Jean-Bart posted to his business’ Instagram stories he was leaving The Exchange effective immediately because of a disagreement with the management. He would not tolerate disrespect, he wrote.
So, what happened to cause this relationship between a popular dessert bar owner and this new and highly anticipated food hall to end abruptly? According to Jean-Bart, it was the integrity of his brand and a lack of honesty.
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association convention was in Dallas last week and had booked the food hall space for Tuesday night for one of their mixers. It's a big deal because this hotel convention is the largest of its kind since the start of the pandemic and doing a good job matters.
Jean-Bart was asked by the management of the food hall to prepare 500 cheesecakes for convention attendees. Jean-Bart says he did more than what was required of him and prepared close to 600 cheesecakes.
“We went above and beyond. We decorated them. I thought, 'Let’s do more than what’s required.' We had a beautiful display and everything,” says Jean-Bart.
But soon, he and management at The Exchange found out what he was asked to prepare wasn’t enough: The event ended at 9:30 p.m., but at 9:08 and there was no more cheesecake.
“The food hall special event director comes to me with the AT&T [representative] and they take me outside and tell me, ‘Val you cannot go. If people come up to your counter tell them that you are getting more [cheesecake] from the back.’ So, there’s an issue right there.”
That was too much for Jean-Bart, asking him to lie because they miscounted the number of convention attendees. According to Jean-Bart, there were about 2,000 people in attendance.
After his shock, Jean-Bart kicked into gear to find a solution, but while he was working on one, the food hall senior vice president had other ideas.
"I went and looked at my inventory because I have normal cheesecake, cheesecake in jars, so in my head, I'm thinking, 'Let me go tell them that I do have cheesecake products.' When I come back to my stall, the senior vice president of the food hall, Adrian Verdin, is putting waffles and brownies and cheesecake brownies on my counter and this ice cream in my display case. He doesn't want the people from the conference to know that Val's Cheesecake has run out. He's putting all these items on my counter and he basically wants me to serve them out."
It was the act of trying to keep up appearances that caused Val to lose it.
"That's when I lose it. I literally lose it. I say, 'I cannot do that. This is not my product.'" Things got so heated that Jean-Bart admits that some 'f-bombs' might have gone flying. "I say that this is messed up and all these conferences goers will see my branding with this product that I don't even know about," Jean-Bart says.
Verdin's response to Jean-Bart's protest, "He says, 'You can leave tomorrow' and I say, 'I say OK. We're leaving tomorrow,'" says Jean-Bart. "It's a wrap! That's it! I just left."
We reached out to Verdin to get a comment. He declined to go into details “out of respect for everyone involved.” He did agree that it was a large event. “We had vendors spread out throughout the event to accommodate thousands of guests,” Verdin says.
The cancellation of the partnership between Val’s and the food hall was already in the works; Jean-Bart wanted a better quality of life and the food hall hours of operation were too long. He had given his two months' notice and only had about a month to go. This is something that Jean-Bart and Verdin agree on. “Val had put in his 60 days notice. He had asked to get out of the lease earlier because of personal reasons,” says Verdin.
But once Jean-Bart had the blowout with management, his date to exit was effective immediately.
You can visit Val's Cheesecakes at his shop at 2820 Greenville Ave., noon - 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.