A lawsuit filed Wednesday by two former servers at one of his restaurants accuses celebrity chef Michael Chiarello of some fairly gross, highly specific sexual harassment. The women say they were “forced to endure a hostile, sexually charged work environment” at the hands of Chiarello, his executive chef, and other management at Coqueta, a restaurant in San Francisco.
Chiarello is sort of a mid-level celebu-chef with a show on the Food Network; he’s also had programs on PBS, the Cooking Channel, and has appeared on Top Chef Masters. Chiarello is the main defendant in the suit, filed by former servers Katherine Page and Asja Sever. Executive chef Dominick Maietta is also named as a defendant. The women have also filed a separate class-action lawsuit accusing the company of failing to pay full wages and overtime, as well as illegally forcing staff to pool tips.
But it’s the sexual harassment stuff that’s going to get the bulk of the attention. Eater has the full suit, and the specific allegations are pretty ew, like Chiarello’s alleged direction to Coqueta managers to only hire hot staff members: “If you don’t want to fuck them, don’t hire them.”
The suit also accuses the chef of frequently making sexual comments about female customers:
For example, CHEF CHIARELLO informed another server that two female customers had left “snail trails” in their seats after speaking to CHEF CHIARELLO, implying that the women became sexually aroused after talking to CHEF CHIARELLO and left wet stains from their genitals on their chairs. More recently, in November 2015, CHEF CHIARELLO, in SEVER’s presence and during one of his regular visits to COQUETA, held a baguette up to his crotch while making stroking motions over the bread with his hands in an overtly sexual manner. Both PAGE and SEVER have witnessed CHEF CHIARELLO inappropriately touch, caress and stare at women in a sexual manner in the twelve months preceding the filing of this Complaint.
A gay male server was supposedly asked by Chiarello if he was in the bathroom “taking care of someone,” before pinching the man’s nipples and rubbing his “genitals and torso” against the servers backside.
The suit claims that Maietta, the executive chef, meanwhile used terms like “cunt” and “lazy whore,” as well as a variety of ethnic, homophobic, and racial slurs:
In addition, CHEF MAIETTA regularly (and as recently as February 2016) used words like “gay”, “faggot”,“pussy”, “retard”, “asshole”, “Mexicans”, and “whores” while on shift at COQUETA. Both PAGE and SEVER observed him making these derogatory comments throughout theiremployment with GRUPPO CHIARELLO and/or SERRA and more recently within the twelve months preceding the filing of this Complaint.
Further, CHEF MAIETTA frequently asked PAGE and SEVER to help him hit on the female guests sitting at the Chef’s counter section ofthe restaurant. For example, in November 2015, he referred to one such customer as having a“very tight ass”. When PAGE reminded CHEF MAIETTA that the customer looked to be the same age as his 14 year old daughter, CHEF MAIETTA responded that it did not matter to himhow old she was — or words to that effect.
A senior executive at a crisis management firm put out a statement on Chiarello’s behalf, calling the allegations “not only upsetting to him” but also “against his core beliefs.”
Chiarello pictured in 2014. Image via Getty.