February 1, 2023

Celebrity Chef sued for Sexual Harassment

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By David Ruiz, From The Recorder

SAN FRANCISCO — Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello is facing a sexual harassment suit brought by two former female employees at Coqueta, his waterfront restaurant in San Francisco.

According to the suit, Chiarello personally directed Coqueta managers only to hire women they found sexually attractive, and chefs and managers at the restaurant made lewd comments and unwanted advances towards employees and customers.

Chiarello, who has published multiple books and hosted shows on the Food Network and PBS, is named as a defendant, along with operating companies Gruppo Chiarello LLC and Serra Hospitality LLC and individual managers and chefs at Coqueta. The complaint filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court alleges that working conditions at Coqueta were “hostile, sexually charged and abusive.”

“I think it’s scary for people to come forward with courage against someone that is powerful and in a position of influence,” said plaintiffs attorney Kelly Armstrong of The Armstrong Law Firm, who represents Katherine Page and Asja Sever. “We hope that our clients have an opportunity to be made whole after being subjected to a hostile environment based on their sex.”

In a statement, Chiarello’s spokesman Terry Fahn said the chef is “very upset” by the allegations and has been a mentor to colleagues in the restaurant business.

“This claim flies in the face of who Mr. Chiarello is and how he has lived his life,” the statement continues. “We are also disappointed that neither Coqueta nor Mr. Chiarello were provided a copy of the lawsuit prior to the former employees’ attorneys sending it to the media. Mr. Chiarello intends to vigorously defend himself, his reputation and his team against these unfounded claims in a court of law.”

The sexual harassment complaint was filed the same day as an employment class action alleging that Coqueta employees were denied wages and rest and meal breaks and that time records were falsified.

Page and Sever worked at servers at Coqueta until earlier this month. According to the suit, they complained to Coqueta managers multiple times that they were experiencing sexual harassment but no action was taken.

The complaint alleges that Chiarello compared food items to women’s anatomy and encouraged managers to follow a specific hiring policy: “If you don’t want to fuck them, don’t hire them.” The suit also describes an incident in Sever’s presence when Chiarello held a baguette up to his crotch while making stroking motions over the bread in a sexual manner.

“Coqueta management either participated in the sex harassment directly or allowed it continue unabated by turning a blind eye toward the egregious, unlawful sexual misconduct of the restaurant’s more prominent employees,” the complaint states.

IMAGE: Michael Chiarello

For more on this story go to: http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202752417138/Celebrity-Chef-Sued-for-Sexual-Harassment#ixzz43AnpLjH7

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