The anonymous panel of judges in charge of picking the winners of D.C.’s local dining awards, the Rammys, have removed two of restaurateur Mike Isabella’s restaurants from consideration due to allegations of sexual harassment surrounding him and members of his management team.
According to a statement issued by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the trade group behind the annual Rammy awards, the decision to remove the standalone Mike Isabella Concepts (MIC) restaurants — but not departing chef Michael Rafidi — from the pool of finalists was not taken lightly.
The RAMW statement reads:
“The panel, with support from the RAMW Board of Directors, has decided that the following reevaluations are necessary in order to maintain the high standards that are associated with the nominations:
The panel officially rescinds the finalist nominations for Arroz by Mike Isabella as New Restaurant of the Year and for G by Mike Isabella as a Favorite Fast Bites finalist. The judges will not add additional finalists to those two categories.
The panel will keep the Rising Star of the Year nomination in place for Michael Rafidi, former Executive Chef of Arroz and Requin. The judges decided that this category, based on individual talent and performance, is focused on the individual and can be evaluated separately from the restaurant(s) and or company of employment. Rafidi was not named in the lawsuit which brought these allegations to light.
The RAMMY Awards process includes set criteria for both eligibility and for judging. As this judge’s panel and The Awards move forward, criteria will be revisited to evaluate and redefine good standing as a leader and or member of the community. It is the main objective of The RAMMYS to celebrate excellence in the restaurant and foodservice industry based on both culinary talent, vision, and leadership in the Washington Metropolitan region.”
The winners of this year’s Rammy awards will be announced on Sunday, June 10.
The lawsuit filed by Chloe Caras, a former manager at Isabella Eatery in McLean, Virginia, has already had a major impact on Isabella’s hospitality empire. Rammy nominee and chef Michael Rafidi announced March 23 that he is leaving Arroz and Requin, the two restaurants he helmed at MIC, on Sunday, April 22. The Washington Nationals removed all of Isabella’s restaurants from its concessions lineup. And Isabella was forced to recruit new spokespeople after his former public relations team severed ties with his organization.
Isabella’s new PR operation sent out a letter March 29 signed by 10 women at MIC who expressed support for their embattled boss. The group includes corporate pastry chef Rochelle Cooper and Janelle Serianni, who now holds Caras’ old job as general manager at Isabella Eatery. Other signatories range from back of the house employees to the head of MIC’s human resources department.
“Women are the backbone of Mike Isabella Concepts, and we are proud to have earned our success through hard work, dedication and a genuine love of the hospitality industry,” reads the joint statement from the existing employees. See the letter in full below:
- Star Chef at Arroz and Requin Resigns From Mike Isabella’s Restaurant Group [EDC]
- 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]
- Here Are the 2018 Rammy Award Finalists [EDC]