Lawsuit accuses star chef Mike Isabella of ‘remarkable’ unwanted sexual advances

Chloe Caras, a former top manager for Mike Isabella, has submitted a suit implicating the celeb chef of unwanted sexual advances. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

Star chef Mike Isabella, the head of a $30 million culinary empire based in the country’s capital, was sued Monday by a previous top supervisor who claims that Isabella and his partners consistently sexually bothered her in the workplace.The lawsuit from Chloe Caras, filed in D.C. Superior Court, seeks $4 million in damages from the”Top Chef”alum, his company Mike Isabella Concepts and 4 of his company partners: Taha Ismail, Yohan Allender, George Pagonis and Nicholas Pagonis.In the suit, Caras declares that Isabella and his partners called her “bitch”and”whore,”discussed the size of her buttocks and touched her without approval. The treatment continued after she voiced issue to Isabella, she stated in an interview.”Females typically do not make it into the higher management ranks of Mr. Isabella’s facilities and when

Ms. Caras did, she became the target of amazing sex-based hostility and abuse,”the suit said.Isabella and the others named in the lawsuit denied the allegations, stating the company does not tolerate sexual harassment and discrimination.” Basically, the allegations of an unwelcoming or hostile work atmosphere are incorrect,”Isabella, his

partners and his company stated in a statement prepared by the Bascietto & Bregman law company.” Harassment, discrimination, bullying, abuse, or unequal treatment of any kind whatsoever are not & endured at MIC. “Caras said she reached her breaking point on the night of Dec. 5 when she was sitting in a booth with Isabella prior to the launch of

the Isabella Restaurant in McLean, Va., when a male sous chef asked to join them.”Mr. Isabella had actually taken in many beverages throughout the day and appeared noticeably inebriated,”the lawsuit claims.Caras said Isabella replied: “If you sleep with Chloe, you can,”according to the suit.”I told him to stop, and he instantly snapped

,”Caras said in an interview with The Washington Post.” I aimed to leave, 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 yelled,’ Love you, Chloe. Good dealing with you.’ “Then he fired her, she said in the lawsuit.Two male chefs who worked for Mike Isabella Concepts said in interviews they witnessed Isabella chewing out Caras and following her on the night she stated she was dismissed. Both have actually considering that left the business and requested for anonymity due to the fact that they fear retaliation. Isabella’s lawyers challenged Caras’s account that she was fired, saying in the declaration:” After years of working for MIC and never before raising these accusations, in December, she stormed off the job and declined to return, insisting she had been fired.”The legal representatives said 60 percent of the firm’s”management and leadership personnel”staffers are females and explained Caras as a co-owner of MIC. Caras told The Post she made a one-time financial investment of$ 15,000 in Isabella’s Yona dining establishment in 2015 and offered an invoice for documentation.Separately, Sara Hancock, who worked for Isabella as a pastry cook from July 2017 to February, told The Post the chef had actually kissed her cheek without permission in late December, exclaiming that he would make her a superstar.She described the office at the chef’s Isabella Restaurant as “degrading”for women.”It’s simply not for me– to be treated in a way that seems like the workplace is a frat home,”she said in an interview.” The word ‘whore’was utilized on a regular basis in the cooking area, and I disliked it.

“Isabella at Tysons Galleria in 2015. His Isabella Eatery, a 41,000-square-foot food court, lies at the shopping center. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post )Hancock stated she told her boyfriend about the undesirable kiss on Dec. 31 by text, which she revealed to The Post.” It made my skin crawl,”

she said. The lawyers did not resolve the allegations from Hancock. After The Post called Isabella, his lawyer sent out a reporter the names of women he stated desired to speak about working for the chef.Janelle Serianni, basic manager at Isabella Restaurant, said Isabella and his partners do drink in the dining establishments,”however I have never ever seen unfavorable name-calling or touching,”she

stated. Dhiandra Olson, assistant general manager at Requin at the

Wharf, stated she has actually worked for Isabella for 5 years and has never ever seen him or his partners bother women.”Personally, I believe it’s a great environment to

work in, “she stated.”They treat everyone like household.” Given that Isabella contended a decade back on the Bravo program “Leading Chef,” he has actually opened 11 restaurants in Washington and the Maryland and Virginia suburban areas, released a cookbook and received regular national press coverage.The restaurateur, whose patrons have actually included Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama, just recently acquired a$2.19 million condo on the city’s southwest waterside, 2 blocks from his French-style eatery Requin, which

opened last fall with his name splashed throughout the steel and glass exterior.Men have the tendency to dominate the culinary world: Just a fifth of chefs and head cooks in the United States are women, per Department of Labor data, and guys own two-thirds of the nation

‘s restaurant businesses.In the star-studded food scene, Isabella gained a track record for his brash commentary. Throughout one telecasted clam-shucking occasion in 2009, he remarked “a woman shouldn’t be at the same level that I am,”triggering Internet outrage.Isabella called the line”a joke” in a live chat that year with Post readers and said:”I was raised in a damaged household by my mother and my sister so I have a lot of respect for ladies. It was ironical.” Isabella’s legal group said in the declaration the chef had been attempting to change dining establishment market culture.”One last point we wish to make is that we concur that unprofessional words and language have been traditional and traditionally appropriate in the restaurant industry,” the lawyers stated in the statement, including that Isabella and his group had” recognized the requirement for modification, which is why they made policy and HR changes long prior to these allegations were made.” Isabella’s Requin dining establishment at the Wharf in Washington.(

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)Caras informed The Post she joined Isabella’s business as a local manager in 2015, helping to open his three Arlington homes.” The females slamming, the sexism– that was constantly there,”Caras stated in an interview.”I aimed to sometimes play along or neglect it. I believed if I kept doing a good task, I ‘d be fine.”In her problem, Caras said she was in”frequent contact”with Isabella and his partners and was “regularly subjected to their sexist remarks, insults

and ridicule.”On Feb. 19, 2016, Caras said Taha Ismail and Nicholas Pagonis, 2 of Isabella’s service partners, included her in a group chat texting images of a man licking a male’s butts and a male with his penis against exactly what seemed a plucked turkey,

inning accordance with texts connected to the suit.(Ismail and Pagonis did not respond to requests for remark, and their lawyers did not attend to any particular claims. )One month later, Caras said in the

complaint, Isabella asked her to call a mixed drink the”Itchy Kitty.” After she declined, Caras said, Isabella texted her about the beverage.”Itchy kitty,”

he wrote, inning accordance with a March 11, 2016 message examined by The Post.”Oh come onnnnn,”she responded.”Exactly what’s incorrect, u got one?” Isabella responded, inning accordance with the text exchange.On April 17, 2016, Caras stated, Isabella texted her to ask if she was going to a pork festival. She stated she replied no, and he wrote,”I believed u were going to be my date.”On different celebrations, she stated in the claim, Isabella and Ismail each approached her from behind, grabbed her hair and pantomimed sex.Isabella did not react to ask for discuss these accusations. Caras was promoted in July 2017, handling the role of director of operations. She was entrusted with introducing the Isabella Eatery, a 41,000-square-foot food court

in the Tysons Galleria mall.She worked with servers

, hosts and bartenders. She wrote training handbooks. She assisted design menus.

Through all of it, she said, her managers continued to send her specific text messages and talk about her appearance.By December 2017, nevertheless, Caras stated she had actually established stress and anxiety. She stated she had told herself for many years that the method her superiors acted at work was” normal”in the dining establishment industry.”I believe I was in rejection,”she said.On Dec. 6, the day

after Caras said she was fired, she stated the business’s human resources representative

, Ket Raxajak, called her and asked if she was preparing to come to work. Caras said she informed Raxajak she had been terminated. About 20 minutes after the call, Caras stated, the business deactivated her

work e-mail and eliminated her from the Restaurant website.Raxajak did not react to ask for remark. On Dec. 7, Allender, among Isabella’s partners (and Caras’s direct manager), wrote in an e-mail to Caras that Isabella had actually not fired her and the exchange had been a”miscommunication or misunderstanding,”according to the claim and e-mails seen by The Post.After Caras told him Isabella had dismissed her, Allender asked her to return to work and

then stated it was her comments about a colleague that made everybody”uneasy.”She then told Allender she was speaking with a legal representative, to which he replied, “You have deserted your post.”