More than two dozen women are accusing a celebrity chef and his business partner of fostering a Mad Men-type atmosphere they say was overrun by "kitchen bros." An eight-month probe by the Times-Picayune found 25 current and past employees who document sexual harassment while working at John Besh's Besh Restaurant Group, either for one of the New Orleans chef's restaurants or for corporate. The women allege female workers were victims of unwanted touching and remarks by male colleagues, and that some co-workers tried to use their power to convince women to have sex—and that when complaints were made, they went nowhere. One woman says she was pressured into a "months-long" sexual relationship with Besh himself, and that when she tried to stop it, others retaliated. Two related EEOC complaints have been filed against the company since December.
In a statement, Besh, a 49-year-old married dad, acknowledges a "consensual relationship" with a team member. "I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings," he says, though he denies fostering sexual harassment. A BRG rep says the company never received any internal sexual harassment complaints; an HR director just started working there earlier this month. Eater reports on sexual harassment stats in the restaurant industry, with one 2014 study reporting such harassment is "widespread." In a separate statement, a BRG attorney says the company has "revamped our training, education, and procedures accordingly" after hearing the women's complaints. Other fallout: Harrah's New Orleans casino has since broken ties with Besh's company, and a top chef with Besh's group says he was fired after speaking out about the company culture (though some women say he didn't help matters).