A federal judge in Honolulu has given her final approval to a $9 million settlement to litigation brought against The Abramo Butchery Academy, a butchery and food preparation program owned by Bob Abramo. Members of the class action suit say that contrary to Mr. Abramo’s promises in the wildly popular ads that “it doesn’t matter if it runs, walks, or crawls, you’ll learn to butcher it all,” the Academy provided “virtually no useful instruction.”
The lawsuit argued that Abramo defrauded students, some of whom paid more than $10,000 to participate in the seminars, with false advertisements promising that they would: learn from Abramo’s vast personal knowledge of meat preparation techniques, that he would hand-pick seminar instructors, and that he would personally oversee video lessons. In depositions regarding the suit, Abramo acknowledged he didn’t choose instructors or even know how many video lessons were included in the curriculum. In addition, some students claim that the program taught controversial theories about meat handling practices and provided students with “no usable skills.” According to a few enrollees, some of the lessons were downright “bizarre.”
Abramo Holdings spokesperson Brandi Essen disagrees with that characterization. A graduate of the program herself, she holds a “Masters Carving License” from the academy and says she’s proud of her education and the program. She concedes that some of the meat handling techniques taught in the program are “unusual,” but says the industry has failed to keep up with the instruction provided by the school.
“We focus on whole carcass butchery, something that most people, even chefs, know very little about these days. We still believe that our students were provided with a quality education, learning proper blade maintenance, marbling theory, and advanced deboning techniques. I’m especially proud of our instructional videos, “Fat Cap Philosophy” and “The Problem With Silver Skin,” in particular. We stand behind the thousands of professional chefs, butchers, and backyard barbecue enthusiasts, who are happy with the education we provided.”
The settlement had been endangered after one former student, Kevin Morrow, argued that he should be allowed to opt out of the agreement to continue litigation against Abramo himself. He was upset that the settlement did not require Abramo to apologize and admit fault in the case. In addition, Morrow wanted Abramo to promise that the he would change the grilling methods taught in the class, calling them “irresponsible” and “reckless”. However, other former students who had started the class action suit wanted the settlement to move forward. U.S. District Judge Josephine Ulu ruled Monday that the settlement was “fair” and would move forward. In her written opinion, Ulu said that many former students will recover 80% of their tuition, an amount that she called “extremely fair.” The settlement will be available to more than 1,000 former students and would be payable in check or in credit at any Abramo store or restaurant.
Despite the judge’s decision in the case, Mr. Morrow says he still plans on investigating other legal options. He says,
“I thought that learning to butcher and cook an animal properly would help endear me to my neighbors. I have some trouble meeting new people and thought the smell of grilled ribs would entice them to come over for a visit. Everything seemed to be going fine at first, but as the meat continued to cook I could feel the mood change. Following what I learned in the curriculum, I wrapped the ribs in tinfoil and reduced the heat before talking to the kids about how human and pig anatomy was so similar. With my tongs and carving knife, I pointed out where the choicest cuts were in the children, and guessed at how many pounds of dressed meat they’d produce. I thought that I could get at least 12 good-sized filet steaks from Tom, the oldest boy. However, I had no idea how strongly some people must feel about wrapping ribs in foil. Before I knew it, they gathered up the family and left without saying a word.”
Morrow claims that instead of giving him the skills and confidence necessary to become a great griller, the program left him ostracized and shunned in his neighborhood. “The fallout from the rib incident has been dramatic. As a practicing amateur sociologist, I notice things that many people miss. Most communication is non-verbal and the actions of my neighbors speak loudly. I’ve noticed parents grabbing their children’s hands extra tightly when going past my house and walking extremely fast as they pass by. I see people whispering when I’m around, and my neighbors avoid me at all costs. My dream of hosting lavish backyard barbecues have literally been foiled by the irresponsibility of Mr. Abramo.”