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Kinship’s Owner Eric Ziebold Responds to Racist Allegations From a Former Employee

“I apologize to those I’ve hurt and will strive to do better in the future,” says Ziebold, in a statement

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The facade at Michelin-rated Kinship in Shaw.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

An ex-server at Shaw’s Michelin-rated restaurant Kinship claims its chef/owner Eric Ziebold repeatedly used a racist slur in her presence.

Klyn Jones, who’s a Black woman, protested right outside of her former fine-dining workplace over the weekend. Captured a now-viral TikTok video, Jones holds up a poster spelling out alarming allegations that Ziebold “said the words ‘Stupid N—’ to me four times.”

“The owner is racist and they [customers] should not give their money to this establishment,” she tells a passerby, who recorded the video.

Jones tells Washingtonian the alleged incident occurred over three months ago, and she’s since asked for an apology she has yet to receive.

“I never wanted it to be a big thing,” Jones told Washingtonian, noting she’s filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “I just wanted an apology, as someone who was hurt by his words. I didn’t want it to impact my co-workers.”

After the video came out, Jones received immediate support on social media from others in the local restaurant industry like Hell’s Kitchen winner and Queen Mother’s chef Rock Harper:

Ziebold, who went radio silent after the footage surfaced last weekend, responded with the following emailed statement to Eater on Tuesday:

“While addressing the concerns of a team member feeling safe in our restaurant, I was asked a question. While stating I would find the proposed behavior unacceptable, I regretfully repeated their word in my response.

I should have been more sensitive while trying to assure our team member that I was committed to an environment where they would feel safe. Kinship has always operated under a core set of values advocating diversity, equity and a feeling of respect and belonging. I apologize to those I’ve hurt and will strive to do better in the future.”

Per Washingtonian, Jones categorizes Ziebold’s response to the series of events as inaccurate.

“There is no context that would make the use of a slur in the workplace appropriate or acceptable,” she tells Washingtonian. “It’s hurtful and conveys a deep lack of respect. I hope my protest and statement brings more awareness to these far too common instances of racial harm so they don’t occur in the future.”

It’s not the first time Ziebold has been blasted for alleged toxic workplace conduct in the past. Five years ago, an anonymous Kinship/Métier line cook described the environment to Washington City Paper as “emotionally draining” and claimed Ziebold openly berated staffers during operational hours. Before opening the fine-dining duo in Shaw, Ziebold was the longtime executive chef of acclaimed CityZen — the now-closed restaurant inside D.C.’s Mandarin Oriental hotel.

With Célia Laurent, Ziebold opened both French-American restaurant Kinship and Métier, its tasting-menu counterpart one level below, in 2016. Kinship earned a star from the Michelin Guide that same year, and Métier picked up its own soon after. Just this year, the James Beard Foundation recognized Ziebold with two semifinalist nominations in the outstanding pastry chef (Kinship) and restaurant (Métier) award categories.

Kinship posted this sign outside the door on Sunday, which was still up on Monday night (when it’s normally closed).
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

Kinship, which is normally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, opted to not open on Sunday on the day the video started to go viral. Kinship could reopen as soon as Wednesday, as it’s still accepting dinner reservations on Tock.

The escalating incident has caused Yelp to temporarily restrict any new user comments on Kinship’s page, which can happen when controversial accusations about a restaurant come to light. It also appears Kinship and Métier’s joint Instagram account was deactivated this week.