Photo by Darrow Montgomery
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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A former top-tier manager in Mike Isabella‘s restaurant group is suing the celebrity chef and four of his business partners for sexual harassment, the Washington Post reported Monday. Chloe Caras says she was “routinely subjected to their sexist comments, insults, and ridicule.” 

The lawsuit describes a long list of offenses including unwelcome touching, sexual advances, vulgar and explicitly sexual remarks and gestures, sexist insults and texts, and the dissemination of malicious and false rumors about her sexual history and activities.

It says that hiring managers were directed to hire women who were “hot or good looking” and that Isabella and his partners frequently commented on women’s physical attributes. It continues to read that the partners also “expressed their contempt for women” by calling them “bitches” and “whores.” 

Read the complete lawsuit here.

The Post story also includes an account from a second person, Sara Hancock. She told the paper she worked for Isabella as a pastry sous chef for about eight months and that the chef had kissed her cheek and without her consent and promised to “make her a star” in December. She told the Post the environment at Isabella’s restaurants “is like a frat house.”

Isabella and his partners have denied the allegations in the lawsuit and Isabella penned a statement Monday night saying there’s much more to the story and that Mike Isabella Concepts is “vibrant and diverse place to work.”

The restaurant group includes KapnosKapnos TavernaKapnos KouzinaGraffiatoG by Mike IsabellaIsabella EateryRequin at The WharfRequin in Mosaic District, YonaPepita, and Arroz

Caras is seeking an unknown amount in damages, but what will the fallout be for Isabella’s company? The New York Times puts his “culinary empire” at $30 million. Isabella has his hands in many partnerships and projects throughout the region. To name a few:

  • Isabella is slated to be the culinary chair of the 2018 Best Buddies Prom on April 27
  • His restaurants are stops on José Andrés annual Dine-N-Dash fundraiser scheduled for June 6
  • Nationals Park sells G by Mike Isabella sandwiches
  • Tysons Galleria houses the 41,000-square-foot Isabella Eatery
  • Isabella has restaurants in highly visible developments in the city and the suburbs including The Wharf, Mosaic District, and the Liberty Center Complex in Ballston
  • He has restaurants Reagan National Airport
  • And inside the Marriott Marquis hotel next to the Convention Center
  • Arroz is up for a RAMMY in the “New Restaurant of the Year” category

Washingtonian reports that Isabella’s long-time publicist Jennifer Resick Williams has distanced her company, Know PR, from any mention of Isabella and his restaurants. City Paper will monitor how the allegations impact Isabella’s many business ventures.

Update: Chef Mike Rafidi, who ran the kitchens at Arroz and Requin at The Wharf, has left Mike Isabella Concepts to open his own local restaurant. Of his former employer, he says, “I wish the teams all the success in the world and am committed to setting them up for success in my last weeks with the group.” He did not mention the allegations against Mike Isabella in his announcement. 

Update: Eater is reportedly removing Mike Isabella’s restaurants from its maps and other guides, according to Washingtonian

Update: The Nationals have severed ties with Mike Isabella, the Post reports. A representative for the team provided a brief statement: “Due to the allegations that came to light this week, we have decided to end our partnership with Mike Isabella.” G by Mike Isabella sandwiches were sold at the ballpark and Isabella is also behind the Kapnos and Catchfly Kitchen. The Nationals are scheduled to host their media tour of the facilities and concessions on Monday. 

Update: Mike Isabella is out as the culinary chair of the Best Buddies Prom. A statement from the organization: 

Best Buddies prides itself on a culture of respect, inclusion, equality and empowerment. In light of recent reports, Chef Mike Isabella will no longer serve as the culinary chair of the Best Buddies Capital Region prom on April 27.