WEST BEND, Wis. - A restaurant cook is out of a job and facing a felony charge after being accused of hiding hairs in a ribeye because a customer complained the first steak served to him was overcooked. Kevin Hansen, who dined at the steakhouse with friends and family Saturday, said he ordered a 16-ounce ribeye cooked medium rare, with a warm, red center, according to the criminal complaint filed against cook Ryan Kropp.
When restaurant service manager Michael Liberatore stopped by the table, Hansen told him the steak was cooked medium, not medium rare.
Hansen declined an offer of a new steak, but Liberatore persisted and offered a new steak he could take home, the complaint said.
Liberatore then took what was left of the first steak and showed it to Kropp and the other cook on duty "so that they could both learn what a medium rare steak was supposed to look like," the complaint said.
Hansen went to police Sunday to complain of hair in the second steak. A police officer observed "several strands of what appeared to be hair coming out of the middle of the steak," the complaint said.
Kropp, 24, of West Bend, was charged Wednesday with a felony of placing foreign objects in edibles, carrying up to 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was released on a signature bond.
Kropp admitted to police he put a few of his facial hairs on the steak, saying he was angry the customer sent the other steak back and thought he was "just trying to get free stuff," according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, a second kitchen worker told police Kropp put a slit in the steak and pushed something inside, then stated, "These are my pubes," referring to pubic hair.
Travis Doster, a spokesman for the Texas Roadhouse chain of 288 restaurants in 44 states, said Thursday night that Kropp and the other worker were both terminated.
"Food safety is our number one priority and we will not allow anyone to compromise that," Doster said. "As a company, we're not only shocked, we're angry that someone would pull such a reckless stunt as putting facial hair in a steak."
He said the West Bend restaurant has an excellent inspection record. "I just feel for the staff because they really work hard, and one silly stupid stunt impacts everybody," he said.
Kropp has a hearing scheduled March 26 in Washington County Circuit Court.
There was no answer when The Associated Press called a phone listing for Kropp Thursday night seeking comment. A message for his lawyer, public defender Erin Joy Larsen, was not immediately returned.