In the past few months the restaurant world has reckoned with #MeToo as several high-profile chefs and restaurants have faced allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. The latest chef in the spotlight is Mike Isabella, a former contestant on season six of Bravo’s reality TV show Top Chef and owner of several restaurants in Washington, D.C.
The Washington Post reports that Isabella, along with four of his business partners, were sued on Monday by former top manager Chloe Caras. She alleges that Isabella and his partners called her a “bitch,” a “whore,” touched her without permission, and made comments about the size of her butt. There were also some inappropriate, lewd texts, like the one Isabella reportedly sent Caras asking if she was going to a “pork festival.” When she replied no, he wrote: “I thought u were going to be my date.”
The Post reports that one night on December 5, Caras says Isabella fired her:
Caras said she reached her breaking point on the night of Dec. 5 when she was sitting in a booth with Isabella just before the launch of the Isabella Eatery in McLean, Va., when a male sous chef asked to join them. “Mr. Isabella had consumed numerous drinks throughout the day and appeared visibly intoxicated,” the lawsuit claims.
Caras said Isabella replied: “If you sleep with Chloe, you can,” according to the lawsuit.
“I told him to stop, and he immediately got angry,” Caras said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I tried to walk away, and he followed me into the kitchen, calling me a ‘bitch.’ ”
“As Ms. Caras reached the door to exit the restaurant,” the complaint states, “Mr. Isabella chased after her and continued calling her a ‘bitch’ and tauntingly shouted, ‘Love you, Chloe. Nice working with you.’ ”
Isabella, according to Caras, then fired her, which the chef’s lawyers dispute. They tell the paper that Caras “stormed off the job and refused to return.” Isabella and his partners deny the lawsuit’s claims and maintain that the company does not tolerate sexual harassment and discrimination. While other women who worked for Isabella say that they have not witnessed any harassment on the job, one pastry chef Sara Hancock describes Isabella’s workplace as “degrading” to women.
You can read the full story, just one account of rampant sexism in the restaurant industry, here at the Post.