Chloe Caras, a nearly three-year vet of Mike Isabella Concepts who most recently served as director of operations at newly opened food hall Isabella Eatery, is suing Top Chef alum Mike Isabella and several of his highest ranking personnel for sexual harassment.
[UPDATE: The Washington Post previously reported that Caras was seeking $4 million in damages, but has since updated its story to reflect that she seeks unspecified damages. Eater has removed the $4 million figure from this story.]
The Washington Post reports that Caras, a Matchbox alum whose Linkedin profile says she joined MIC in January 2015, is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from Isabella, and MIC business partners Johannes Allender, Taha Ismail, George Pagonis, and Nicholas Pagonis after being exposed to alleged sexual comments and inappropriate physical contact during the course of her career with the company. Isabella opened his first restaurant, Graffiato, in 2011; he has since grown his brand to include various establishments including Greek restaurant Kapnos, Japanese restaurant Yona, Mexican eatery Pepita, sandwich shop G, and others.
Caras’ complaints include: being subjected to sexist comments, having to deal with a visibly intoxicated Isabella in the workplace, and receiving graphic text images from Ismail and Pagonis. According to a release sent to Eater Caras’ attorney Debra Katz, the hostile work environment Caras faced involved vulgar remarks, sexual propositions, and malicious rumors. The final straw for Caras was an incident on December 5, 2017 during which Caras says a drunk Isabella urged another chef to have sex with her. She says she objected and attempted to leave the restaurant, at which point Isabella “chased after her, acting in a manner that she found frightening and physically menacing,” fired her, and told her to not to return to the property.
Isabella is denying the allegations made against him and his team. Attorney Brian R. Bregman told Eater his firm would “get back in touch to respond” to the legal challenge.
“Simply put, the allegations of an unwelcoming or hostile work atmosphere are false,” Isabella, his partners, and his company said in a statement provided to the Washington Post by the Bascietto & Bregman law firm. “Harassment, discrimination, bullying, abuse, or unequal treatment of any kind whatsoever are not tolerated at MIC.”
Update: (March 19, 9:10 p.m.): This post has been updated to include the official response from Mike Isabella Concepts via the law offices of Bascietto & Bregman, LLC:
“Not only are these allegations unsupported by any evidence, but countless MIC employees can confirm that these types of behaviors simply do not occur at the restaurants,” the law firm of Bascietto & Bregman said in a two-page statement issued on behalf of MIC.