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Celebrity Chef John Besh Steps Down From Own Restaurant Group After Multiple Sexual Harassment Allegations

New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh and his business, Besh Restaurant Group, have come under fire following an eight-month-long investigation in which 25 current and former employees of the restaurant group claim to have been victims of sexual harassment.

The examination, which was conducted by the Times-Picayune, found several claims from female staffers at both the corporate and restaurant businesses often were groped or verbally assaulted by co-workers, managers, and supervisors alike. Some even reportedly attempted to leverage their authority for sex, and those who complained about it were usually ignored or spurned by the rest of the company, the Times-Picayune reports. Several quit as a result of the inappropriate behavior exhibited towards them in the workplace. While the investigation was underway, two separate complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the lewd acts and retaliatory behavior.

None of the accounts are as grotesque, however, as one complaint filed against Besh himself for engaging in an “unwelcome sexual relationship” with a co-worker. On at least one instance, Besh convinced the staffer to “drink heavily” at a work tasting, and later went to her hotel room and engaged in oral sex with the “barely conscious” woman. The same woman later tried to break herself off from the relationship, which resulted in further “retaliation” from fellow co-workers.

Apart from that occasion, Besh and his business partner, Octavio Mantilla, have also been accused repeatedly of unwelcome touching and advances on co-workers in what some described as an environment right out of Mad Men.

Both Mantilla and Besh denied several of the accusations brought against them. Besh did admit, however, to having a “consensual relationship” with the woman described above. He also expressed regret for several of his actions in his full statement regarding the matter.

“I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings. This is not the way the head of a company like ours should have acted, let alone a husband and father.”

A Besh Group statement says that none of its employees have ever filed an internal complaint regarding the sexual harassment accusations found by the Times-Picayune. They also just hired their first-ever director of human resources a couple of weeks ago.

Besh has since stepped down from the head of his restaurant group, with a statement from new CEO Shannon White saying that Besh wants to “provide his full focus on his family.”

By Constantine Spyrou

Constantine's life revolves around eating, studying, and talking about food. He's obsessed with eggs, gyros, and the future of food.