The Chefs & Restaurateurs Who Have Been Publicly Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Photo: Courtesy of Rex Features.
Over the course of the past six months, the topic of sexual harassment in Hollywood has been the focus of headlines. Many powerful men in the entertainment industry have faced consequences after years of alleged sexual misconduct. However, evidence of this global movement to hold industry giants responsible for their actions, which has been dubbed, "The Weinstein Effect," is not only happening in the entertainment industry. Employees in the restaurant industry are also sharing their experiences with workplace harassment and demanding consequences and change.
Celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Tom Colicchio have used their platforms to address this issue. Bourdain has blamed the restaurant industry's "meathead culture," and Colicchio agrees, writing in an open letter, "the high stakes of elite kitchens don’t justify the ugly machismo that runs through so many of them."
Sexual harassment happens across all industries, however, according to BuzzFeed News, more sex harassment claims have been made by employees at full-service restaurants since 1995 than in any other industry. Clearly, the food world, has been long overdue for a reckoning.
Alongside the brave people coming forward with stories about television executives, movie producers, actors, and politicians, are sexual harassment victims speaking out about chefs and restaurateurs. Though the field is different, the experiences employees face when men misuse their power is the same. In the restaurant industry, just as in Hollywood, women's careers and basic sense of safety have been negatively impacted by these experiences. These are the chefs that have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct and the consequences that they have faced so far based on their alleged actions. We'll continue to update this story if more public allegations are made.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
1 of 7
Photo: Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images.
Mike Isabella

According to The Washington Post, on Monday, March 19, Mike Isabella, head of a $30 million culinary empire in Washington D.C. and a former Top Chef contestant, was sued by a former top manager named Chloe Caras.

In the lawsuit, Caras alleged that Isabella and four of his business partners — Taha Ismail, Yohan Allender, George Pagonis, and Nicholas Pagonis — sexually harassed her repeatedly. Specifically, she claims the men called her "bitch" and "whore," made comments about her body, and touched her without consent.

The Washington Post reports that Isabella and the others named in the lawsuit have denied the accusations. Isabella's lawyers stated, "the allegations of an unwelcoming or hostile work atmosphere are false."
2 of 7
Jeremy Tooker

On Friday, January 6, eight former employees of San Francisco-based coffee roaster Four Barrel Coffee filed a lawsuit against founder Jeremy Tooker. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the lawsuit alleges that Tooker sexually harassed and assaulted several female employees.

After the lawsuit was filed, Four Barrel's CFO Jodi Geren and CEO Tal Mor published a letter on the roastery's website saying, "Four Barrel will not tolerate inappropriate behavior in the workplace. It’s essential that our employees and co-workers understand that they are valued and respected. We will continue to take prompt action to address any and all employee concerns, as we have done in the past." However, several employees told the Chronicle that the company's HR department had dismissed claims in the past and reprimanded employees for raising concerns.

The letter from the current CFO and CEO noted that Tooker stepped down as Four Barrel's CEO in November. Since the lawsuit was filed, he has also agreed to "divest his remaining ownership in the company."
3 of 7
Frank Langello

According to Eater, last Tuesday, January 2, Frank Langello officially stepped down as the executive chef at Babbo, one of the most popular restaurants owned and managed by Mario Batatli and Joe Bastianich’s hospitality group. Langello’s exit was announced just a few weeks after he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple former employees.

In the investigative report, Eater wrote, "Five men and women who worked at the restaurant over the last 12 years, many of whom have worked in multiple high-end restaurants, claim that the Babbo kitchen is the most inappropriate environment they had ever worked in; several of them also claimed it was the 'most abusive' environment they ever worked in." Langello, who has been the executive chef at the restaurant since 2002, allegedly humiliated and bullied both female and male employees. Many of the men and women who spoke to Eater claimed that the chef also sexually harassed the women who worked under him.

We have reached out to B&B Hospitality Group for comment on the news. A representative told us, "I can only confirm that Frank Langello’s employment ended on January 2nd" but did not provide further details.
4 of 7
Patrick Lewis/Starpix/REX/Shutterstock.
Ken Friedman

On December 12, 2017, a report from the New York Times was published in which various women accused Ken Friedman of sexual harassment. Friedman is a well-known restaurateur and co-owns six restaurants with celebrity chef April Bloomfield, including New York City hotspot: the Spotted Pig. The women who came forward detailed years of alleged sexual misconduct in person and via text message. Friedman said the following as part of a statement to the New York Times, "My personal and professional life was intertwined with our restaurants and our staff. I own my behavior which can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude and frankly wrong. The women who work at our restaurants are among the best in the business, and putting any of them in humiliating situations is unjustifiable." According to the New York Times piece Friedman will be stepping away from his restaurants for an indefinite period of time.
5 of 7
Photo: Courtesy of Rex Features.
Mario Batali

On the morning of December 11, 2017, Eater published an investigative piece in which four people, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, alleged that they had been touched inappropriately by Mario Batali. The accounts, which were detailed in the Eater piece, span over two decades.

As the allegations were set to be reported, Batali told Eater in a statement that he would be taking an indefinite leave from his business, the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group. In his statement, Batali admitted to behaving inappropriately, saying, "Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted." The restaurateurs and television star also admitted, "I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed."
6 of 7
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
Johnny Iuzzini

In November, Mic published a report in which four former employees accused Johnny Iuzzini of sexual harassment while he held the position of executive pastry chef at the Michelin-starred NYC restaurant Jean Georges. The allegations brought forth in Mic's report were for incidents that took place between 2009 and 2011. One of the pastry chefs who spoke to Mic about being the alleged harassment explained that on more than one occasion, he put his tongue in her ear while she was trying to work. One of the pastry chefs also said he often touched female employees' rear ends with objects around the kitchen; another pastry chef corroborated this, claiming that Iuzzini would say, "If I hit you with my hand, it’s harassment, but if I hit you with an object, it’s a mistake."

Prior to the allegations, the food world long held Iuzzini in high esteem. He has won a James Beard award, published two cookbooks, and served as a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts.

In response to the allegations recorded in Mic's November story, Iuzzini said in a statement, "I am shattered and heartbroken at the thought that any of my actions left members of my team feeling hurt or degraded. More importantly, I am deeply sorry to those who felt hurt." His statement to Mic went on to say, "Many of the other allegations are inaccurate, others I do not recall and none were meant to hurt people. Nonetheless, I must take responsibility if any of the members of my team felt uncomfortable by my words or actions, regardless of my intent or recollection."
7 of 7
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
John Besh

In October, 25 women came forward to accuse chef John Besh of fostering a "culture of sexual harassment" at his company, the Besh Restaurant Group, and at his restaurants. In a discrimination complaint filed against BRG with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one accuser said they experienced "rampant sexual misbehavior and harassment by the owners and managers." The complaint also alleged that female employees of BRG were "harassed, sexually harassed, and verbally assaulted almost every day."

A few days after The Times-Picayune and published the discrimination complaint and their own investigation into harassment at BRG, Shannon White, who took over as chief executive at the company, explained an email to employees that Besh had stepped down. According to the New York Times, she wrote, "John has decided to step down from all aspects of operations and to provide his full focus on his family."