The plant-based culinary school PlantLab is under investigation by the California Department of Consumer Affairs as its CEO Adam Zucker faces charges that include money laundering, falsifying tax returns and embezzlement while at a previous job, according to a report in Entrepreneur on Wednesday.
Zucker is a former business associate of chef Matthew Kenney, who launched PlantLab last year as part of an umbrella company he hoped would tap into growing interest in plant-based dining. The goal at the time was to open culinary schools around the world.
Later that year, however, Kenney faced his own legal challenges. Kenney sold PlantLab to Zucker, who was the group’s former chief operating officer. In a recent social media post, Kenney stated that he has “no responsibility or involvement in Mr. Zucker's business.”
According to Entrepreneur, Zucker was arrested in August and faces 35 felony charges, all related to work while he was at Artissimo Designs, a ready-to-hang wall art company.
However, the California Department of Consumer Affairs in July opened an investigation into PlantLab, following complaints that it was operating as an unapproved education institution, the report said.
Matt Woodcheke, a public information officer for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, confirmed an investigation of PlantLab's campus in Los Angeles was initiated in July following consumer complaints that the school did not have the required approval to operate as a for-profit educational institution.
Woodcheke recommended that impacted students reach out to the state's Office of Student Assistance and Relief to see what options they may have by calling (888) 370-7589 or visiting www.osar.bppe.ca.gov.
PlantLab did not respond to a request for comment.
In late August, all courses offered by PlantLab were cancelled until further notice, according to the report, leaving potentially hundreds of students hanging after pre-paying tuition. According to its website, PlantLab operated culinary programs in Los Angeles, New York, Barcelona and it was soon to offer classes in Ubud, Bali. Online courses were also available.
In a statement posted on Instagram in late August, Kenney reiterated that he sold the culinary school business more than a year ago to Zucker.
“Mr. Zucker’s new entity is in default of the agreement,” said the post from Matthew Kenney Cuisine. “Matthew Kenney and Matthew Kenney Cuisine are not involved, nor have they been involved in any part of the operation run by Mr. Zucker. We sympathize with everyone hurt by Mr. Zucker’s actions, and indeed we ourselves have been damaged. We have no responsibility or involvement in Mr. Zucker’s business.”
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