Michael Rafidi, the multi-talented chef that restaurateur Mike Isabella tapped to run new Spanish-Moorish restaurant Arroz and modern French restaurant Requin at the Wharf, is leaving Isabella’s restaurant group next month.
“I have decided to step away from my role(s) with Mike Isabella Concepts (MIC),” Rafidi said in a statement emailed to Eater, citing Sunday, April 22 as his final day with the company.
“This past year has been an extremely rewarding journey back home to DC and I am grateful for the talented, hardworking teams at Arroz and Requin for all that we were able to accomplish together. I wish the teams all the success in the world and am committed to setting them up for success in my last weeks with the group.”
Rafidi tells Eater that the decision to strike out on his own has “absolutely nothing” to do with the sexual harassment suit filed against Isabella and other MIC partners by former Isabella Eatery manager Chloe Caras. The allegations against Isabella, which he has repeatedly denied, have already prompted several business associates — including the Washington Nationals — to distance themselves from the celebrity chef.
A Maryland native who last year told Eater that returning home was very much about building towards his future — “Definitely the next thing is going to be my own concept. I just don’t know when,” he said — Rafidi maintains that this latest move is all about following that dream.
“I recently returned from a trip to Beirut, and will be taking some much needed time off to travel the Levant Region of the Middle East for research and development of my new concept, right here in the District,” he said in his email.
This marks the second high-profile departure Isabella has suffered in the the past five months. Requin Brasserie co-founder Jennifer Carroll suddenly left the original Mosaic District restaurant last fall.
- Washington Nationals Strip Mike Isabella’s Eateries From Nats Park Amidst Sexual Harassment Suit [EDC]
- Alleged Sexual Harasser Mike Isabella Is Already Losing Supporters [EDC]
- Isabella Eatery Manager Sues Mike Isabella for Sexual Harassment [EDC]
- Chef of the Year Michael Rafidi Says D.C. Restaurants Need More Vegetable Plates [EDC]
- ‘Top Chef’ Alum Jennifer Carroll Quits Mike Isabella’s Restaurant Empire [EDC]