Following a massive expose from the Times Picayune, celebrity chef John Besh has stepped down from his position at the Besh Restaurant Group. In the report, 25 women have come forward with claims about the sexual harassment they faced while working at the company.
Two of the 25 employees have specifically filed sexual discrimination and retaliation complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since December; the others say they faced harassment within both the company writ large and at individual restaurants operated by the company. The abuse ranged from non-consensual touching and inappropriate comments to threats made against female employees pertaining to their advancement within the company should they not comply with sexual demands. Those who complained about their treatment were insulted or ostracized.
"I saw this subtle violence that was in front of me," says one victm. "I just accepted it because I thought it was okay. I thought the goal was to put out really delicious food."
Besh is also specifically named in the report by a woman who claims he “attempt[ed] to coerce (her) to submit to his sexual overtures," and says that she faced retaliation when she called off the relationship. The complaint says that during one encounter she “was barely conscious, and easily overwhelmed by JBesh (sic), who engaged in oral sex and fell asleep."
Besh has since released a statement on the report: "Two years ago, I deeply hurt those I love by thoughtlessly engaging in a consensual relationship with one member of my team. Since then I have been seeking to rebuild my marriage and come to terms with my reckless actions given the profound love I have for my wife, my boys and my Catholic faith. I also regret any harm this may have caused to my second family at the restaurant group, and sincerely apologize to anyone past and present who has worked for me who found my behavior as unacceptable as I do."
The Advocate followed up the expose with a report on Besh's departure from the company in the wake of the scandal. Company executive Shannon White says that Besh “has decided to step down from all aspects of operations and to provide his full focus on this family.”
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