Local celebrity chef Delilah Winder got an early lump of coal in her Christmas stocking yesterday - news that her name has been added to a public list of city business-tax delinquents.
Winder - a soul-food chef whose signature mac-and-cheese earned raves from Oprah Winfrey on national TV - owes the city a cool $1.6 million, according to data released by Mayor Nutter's press office.
According to court records, Winder had entered into a payment plan with the city for a lesser amount earlier this year, but the terms of the agreement state that if she defaulted on any of the payments, the city could pursue the full amount.
Winder yesterday questioned the figures and said she had been keeping up with the payments.
"That number is not correct," said Winder, who also serves as chairwoman of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. "We have been working through this issue with the city. We've been working though it, making payments."
Nutter began publicizing business-tax delinquents in November 2008 as part of an effort to pursue more aggressively the taxes owed the city. Yesterday's list was the fourth update of who owed the city $50,000 or more. The 246 businesses on the list owe a combined $53 million.
Since starting the effort, the city has collected about $3 million.
Winder, who opened her first soul-food stand in Reading Terminal in 1983, achieved national fame in 2003, when Oprah Winfrey included her macaroni-and-cheese on a "best of" show. Winder's book Delilah's Everyday Soul: Southern Cooking With Style was published in 2006.
This isn't the first time that Winder has encountered financial difficulties. She closed her Old City restaurant, Bluezette, in 2006, after filing for bankruptcy. And as of earlier this year, there were outstanding state-tax liens against Delilah's at the Terminal.
Winder said she didn't know about any state taxes owed.
Besides her stand at the terminal, Winder also operates a take-out spot at 30th Street Station. A similar shop at Philadelphia International Airport closed almost two years ago.