Top Chef contestant sued for sexual harassment

20 March, 2018 by
Hospitality Magazine

Top Chef contestant and restaurateur Mike Isabella has been accused of repeated sexual harassment by former employee Chloe Caras.

Caras worked as a manager for Isabella’s $US30-million culinary empire over a period of three years before her employment was terminated on 5 December 2017.

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Caras has filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court seeking unspecified damages from Isabella, his company Mike Isabella Concepts (MIC) and his four business partners; Taha Ismail, Yohan Allender, George Pagonis and Nicholas Pagonis.

The lawsuit alleges Isabella pulled Caras’ hair and he, along with his partners, referred to her as a “dumb bitch”, “whore”, and generated “false rumours about her sexual history and activities”.

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Caras says the behaviour continued even after she raised concerns to Isabella regarding the incidences.

“Caras sought Isabella’s assistance in responding to harassment the other owners and managers directed at her, to no avail,” reads the lawsuit. “Instead, he confirmed the partner likely mistreated her because she is a woman and he is uncomfortable working with a woman in a management position.”

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The situation reached boiling point on 5 December 2017 when a “visibly intoxicated” Isabella “suggested to an MIC chef that he have sex with Caras”.

“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.’ ”

When Caras attempted to leave the venue, Isabella reportedly chased after her screaming and told her not to return to the restaurant.

The Washington Post reports two male chefs who previously worked for MIC, says they both witnessed Isabella yelling at Caras on the night she was dismissed.

Isabella and his four partners have denied the allegations in a statement to The Washington Post through Bascietto & Bregman law firm.

“The allegations of an unwelcoming or hostile work atmosphere are false,” reads the statement. “Harassment, discrimination, bullying, abuse, or unequal treatment of any kind whatsoever are not tolerated at MIC.”

It’s not the first time a Top Chef contestant has faced such allegations, with Josh Besh stepping down from his company after 25 employees took action against the celebrity chef over sexual harassment.

Image credit: Capitol File