'Top Chef' Alum Mike Isabella Accused of Sexual Harassment in New Lawsuit
A new report in the Washington Post details accusations against the celebrity chef and his company.
In the lawsuit filed by three-year employee of Mike Isabella Concepts Chloe Caras, the Post reports, Caras alleges that Isabella (and his partners) called her names such as “bitch” and “whore,” made comments about her body and touched her inappropriately without her consent.
“Women generally do not make it into the higher management ranks of Mr. Isabella’s establishments and when Ms. Caras did, she became the target of extraordinary sex-based hostility and abuse,” the lawsuit said, according to the Post.
Mike Isabella, his partners and Mike Isabella Concepts (which operates several restaurants in Washington, D.C.) have denied the allegations as false in a statement prepared by the Bascietto & Bregman law firm: “Simply put, the allegations of an unwelcoming or hostile work atmosphere are false. Harassment, discrimination, bullying, abuse, or unequal treatment of any kind whatsoever are not tolerated at MIC.”
In her interview with the Post, Caras opened up about the sort of alleged behavior that led her to filing the lawsuit. She claimed that the chef, who had been drinking, told a male sous chef who approached them, "If you sleep with Chloe, you can."
“I told him to stop, and he immediately got angry,” Caras told the Washington Post. “I tried to walk away, and he followed me into the kitchen, calling me a ‘bitch.’” The complaint states that the chef shouted, "Love you, Chloe. Nice working with you,” and she was soon fired.
Isabella’s lawyers disputed this account. Their statement, according to the Post, read: “After years of working for MIC and never before raising these allegations, in December, she stormed off the job and refused to return, insisting she had been fired.”
The Post article, which you can read here, details more behavior towards more female employees, including allegations of unwanted kissing and derogatory name-calling, that suggest this was a larger cultural problem.
When reached out for comment from Food & Wine, the Bascietto & Bregman offered a statement that took issue with the Post story, again disputing Caras' allegations.
"In response to this story, we provided the Washington Post with the contact information of four of our top women-leaders at MIC who were willing to go on the record to refute her allegations. The Washington Post story only named two of our leaders, but more importantly, all of MIC’s staff, everyone from servers to managers, can attest to the fact that the allegations of a hostile working environment towards women are completely untrue."
UPDATE: Since publication of this article, a new Washington Post piece reported on further allegations, this time alleging that Mike Isabella’s company used non-disclosure agreements to keep employees from speaking out about sexual harassment. Read here.