Three fires set near New York City restaurants since January have been attributed to someone with much interest in the restaurant business: a star sommelier. A former Food & Wine magazine sommelier of the year, who spent part of his career at the Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, Caleb Ganzer is now co-owner and wine director of New York City wine bar Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels—and accused of setting fire to outdoor dining spaces at other restaurants nearby. According to fire officials and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Ganzer first set fire to an outdoor dining structure at the restaurant Forsythia shortly before midnight on Jan. 8, per the New York Times. Months later on June 26, he allegedly set fire to garbage on a street corner not far from his wine bar. Then, just before 3am on July 13, he allegedly set fire to a wood dining shed at Prince Street Pizza, per WABC.
Surveillance video shows a man using a lighter to ignite napkin dispensers on either side of the structure. Footage also showed a man setting fire to Forsythia's structure, owner Jacob Siwak tells the Times. He says there were four attempts over at least nine days, two of which were "pretty damaging." He describes flames reaching at least two stories high and threatening the rest of the building. No one was hurt in the three cases, though Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said "every act of arson has the potential to spread rapidly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers." Ganzer, 35, is charged with two counts of arson, two counts of criminal mischief, and three counts of reckless endangerment, per Wine Spectator. Officials didn't supply a motive. Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels says the sommelier is now on a leave of absence. (Read more arson stories.)