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Kapnos Chef George Pagonis Believes in Life After Mike Isabella

Pagonis tells Washington City Paper he hopes to revive failed restaurants without his former mentor

George Pagonis says the end of Kapnos marks the end of his relationship with his former mentor.
George Pagonis/Official

George Pagonis declared himself “100 percent” finished with Mike Isabella today, telling Washington City Paper that his business partnership has dissolved with the former mentor who preceded him in Top Chef fame and placed him high up in the namesake restaurant group ultimately toppled by allegations of sexual harassment.

Pagonis, executive chef of the now-defunct Kapnos restaurants, tells WCP he is starting his own company while “actively seeking the old Kapnos locations and speaking with landlords to reopen them up under a new name.”

Kapnos on 14th Street NW closed for good on Dec. 26, which Pagonis says severs any remaining ties he had with Isabella. The latest closure followed shutterings of Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda and Kapnos Tavernas in Ballston and College Park.

Both George Pagonis and his brother Nick Pagonis — the director of Mike Isabella Concepts — were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Chloe Caras, a top manager of the company’s ambitious food hall in Tysons Galleria.

MIC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in September, then Chapter 7 bankruptcy in December. Kapnos Kouzina and Requin on the Southwest Waterfront were notably not included in those filings, but landlords for both made legal maneuvers to oust Isabella in part because he was allegedly months behind on rent.

Kapnos Kouzina shut down on Dec. 22. Eater received tips that Requin never re-opened after closing for Christmas. WCP reports that it shuttered Dec. 26.

A lawyer for the Pagonis brothers did not immediately respond to Eater’s request for comment on their future plans.

Cracks in their relationship with Isabella became apparent in a story Washingtonian published in early November. In a bizarre turn of events, the lawyer for the Pagonis brothers issued a statement saying Isabella would step aside and make room for George Pagonis to lead the company, but Isabella denied he’d made any such decision.

Whether the Pagonis brothers can extricate themselves from the lingering stain of the harassment scandal — let alone the specter of MIC’s debts — remains to be seen.


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