Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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 officials 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 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.”

His restaurants include Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna, Kapnos Kouzina, Graffiato, G by Mike Isabella, Isabella Eatery, Requin at The Wharf, Requin in Mosaic District, Yona, Pepita, and Arroz. He’s largely been in the role of restaurateur but the chef recently announced he would be returning to the kitchen to up quality at Graffiato. 

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 in area airports
  • 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

City Paper will monitor how the allegations impact Isabella’s many business ventures.

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  Mike Isabella Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (PDF)

  Mike Isabella Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (Text)