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MOUTHING OFF

It's Chiffon: Dozens of victims have come forward with more tales to tell about Westword cover girl Ruth Chiffon von Seeburg-Schausten Prager, better known in these parts as Chiffon ("Would You Buy a Used Restaurant From This Woman?," February 15). There seem to be quite a few people who loaned Chiffon money--some as long ago as fifteen years--and have yet to see a dime. Most of them say they fell for a variation on tried-and-true Chiffon themes: She needed money because of (a) troubles running a restaurant; (b) an impending divorce (that's a good one, since she's been legally divorced for at least fourteen years); or (c) a delay in getting funds from France.

But Chiffon's long feeding at the gullible public's trough may have ended: On February 24 in Fort Collins, Chiffon was sentenced to thirty years in prison under Colorado's habitual-offender law. A few days before, a jury had found her guilty of Class 3 felony theft from an at-risk adult, 73-year-old Mary Davis, who will still be owed $110,000 (the amount she paid Chiffon for her alleged interest in the old Lautrec's) if and when Chiffon gets parole. She'll be eligible in fifteen years, and making monthly payments to Davis will be one of the conditions of her release. In 2010 Chiffon will be 75 years old, Davis 88.

The duo who lost $50,000 running the International after loaning Chiffon an additional $18,500 had been subpoenaed to testify at the habitual-offender trial scheduled to follow the jury trial in the Davis case. But before they could tell their story, Chiffon cut her losses by pleading guilty--otherwise, she could have been sentenced to up to fifty years. "Even though I know we'll never see any of our money, I'm glad that bitch got what she deserved," says Rick Gottdenker. He and partner Marilyn Richter have at least gotten out of the lease at 2637 West 26th Avenue; the building now houses another Chubby's. That's a much better bet for the neighborhood--as evidenced by the constantly full parking lot.

More hot topics: It was disheartening to eat mediocre food in a dining room as beautiful as that of the Wellshire Inn--but it's heartening to know I wasn't the only one to see the discrepancy. Since I dined there in December, Leo Goto has eliminated a huge chunk of staff, including chef Steve Ford. "At the first of the year, I challenged the crew to make this a five-star restaurant, and anyone who couldn't meet that challenge is gone," Goto says. "I want this to be a five-star restaurant to everyone--the diners, the critics, everyone."

Toward that end, Goto is in the process of hiring a new operations manager and a beverage manager. He's already lured head chef Lance Katcher away from Marvin Gardens--where Katcher's wife, Dawna, is still manager and part owner (now there's food for thought). Although you can expect major menu changes at the Wellshire, word is that Marvin Gardens will keep its current lineup under Marvin Bronstein, its appropriately named new chef.

Chefs apparently are stirring all over town--Sean Fowler, who worked at Ranelle's and briefly at Today's Gourmet Highland's Garden Cafe, is now in the kitchen at Cucina Colore. And Sean Kelly, former Barolo Grill chef, has opened the Aubergine Cafe at 225 East Seventh Avenue. Yes, Aubergine does serve eggplant: An "aubergine plate" of grilled, roasted and pureed eggplant is on the menu, and Kelly offers specials such as eggplant risotto.

 
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