Lawsuit: Dude ranch owner asked chef for ‘black people food’
RENO, Nev. — Madeleine Pickens wanted the African-American chef she recruited from the country club she owns in Southern California to cook “black people food” — not “white people food” — at her rural Nevada dude ranch and wild horse sanctuary, according to a federal lawsuit accusing her of racial discrimination.
Armand Appling says the wealthy philanthropist and ex-wife of Oklahoma energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens told him fried chicken, BBQ ribs and corn bread would be perfect for the tourists who pay nearly $2,000 a night to stay in plush cottages, ride horses and take Wild West “safaris” on ATVs at her Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort.
Among other things, he says Pickens, who is white, instructed him to terminate two other black kitchen staffers — one she referred to as her “bull” or “ox” and another who had “too much personality.” He says she told him they didn’t “look like people we have working at the country club” and didn’t “fit the image” of the staff she wanted at the ranch.
Pickens’ lawyers argue that even if all the allegations are true, none of her comments were racially motivated. At worst, Pickens’ remarks “reflect a non-racial personality conflict and amount to discourtesy, rudeness or lack of sensitivity,” they wrote in recent court filings.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said during a hearing in Reno last week that Appling’s lawyers have failed so far to prove the sort of racial hostility needed to win such a civil rights claim. She dismissed the original lawsuit that was filed in February but gave them until Jan. 13 to refile an amended complaint seeking unspecified damages from Pickens’ nonprofit, Save America’s Mustangs.
“It takes a lot to prove these allegations,” Du told California attorney Willie Williams on Thursday.