Meltdown at Miel leaves bitter taste

Co-owners' divorce proceedings raise claims of drug use and domestic violence; founding chef barred from premises

Amid accusations of drug use in the kitchen and a table-toppling tantrum in the dining room, the co-owner of one of Nashville's trendiest fine-dining establishments has obtained a restraining order banning its chef — her husband — from coming within a mile of the restaurant Miel, on 53rd Ave. in Sylvan Park.

Seema Prasad filed for divorce from Jimmy C. Phillips Jr. and obtained the restraining order last month. According to the divorce complaint, available at this link, several months of erratic behavior by Phillips culminated in an incident at the restaurant in early February.

Prasad claims that Phillips began "drinking very heavily and smoking marijuana daily" around March of last year. After a family intervention in August, she says, he attended an outpatient rehab program at Cumberland Heights but left before completing it.

Things then got worse, the complaint says: "At a huge, catered event for more than 170 people, Mr. Phillips was visibly high and unable to function at top form."

On Feb. 5, the couple quarreled at the restaurant and Prasad, fearing for her safety, spent the night at a female friend's home. The next day, Phillips confronted her at Miel, the filing says. After yelling at her, "he then went into the restaurant's dining room and began throwing candles, flipping tables with glass tops and breaking plates and other items on the set tables in a rage," she claims.

Phillips then "physically threw her to the concrete floor of the restaurant while screaming in her face," the complaint alleges.

The document does not state whether any customers were present at the time.

An employee called the police during the melee. According to records at the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk's office, Phillips was arrested and charged with domestic assault. Those records also show that he was found guilty of drug possession in 2000 and that a 1998 drug paraphernalia charge against him was dismissed.

On Feb. 16, Circuit Court Judge Carol Soloman imposed the temporary restraining order, available here, which bans Phillips from coming within a mile of the restaurant or their nearby home. Solomon also ordered him to attend a year of treatment sessions focused on domestic violence.

Phillips has not filed an answer to the divorce complaint, and his attorney, Irwin Kuhn of Dobbins & Venick in Nashville, has not responded to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, Phillips did file a motion seeking temporary payments from his wife to cover his living needs and legal expenses. That motion says that because of the "economic disadvantage" imposed by the restraining order, he is unable to defend against the divorce complaint "or prosecute a possible counter-complaint."

Pam Taylor of Stites & Harbison, Prasad's divorce attorney, could not be reached for comment yesterday or today.

Miel, which opened in September 2008 and takes its name from the French and Spanish word for honey, has received a number of very positive reviews and attracted a clientele that includes many executives and other members of the Nashville elite. The divorce filing says Prasad and Phillips each own one third of the equity in the business, with unidentified outside investors holding the other third.

NashvillePost.com has learned that Prasad has retained veteran Nashville culinary talent Freddy Brooker to replace Phillips as chef. Brooker is a marquee name among local foodies from his time in the kitchen at The Trace and several other restaurants.