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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Report: John Besh Restaurant Group fostered climate of sexual harassment

Posted By on Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 4:16 PM

click to enlarge John Besh.
  • John Besh.

It's a story that's been whispered about locally in the last few weeks, ever since it was announced last month that restaurateur and "celebrity chef" John Besh was splitting from Alon Shaya, whose Shaya restaurant (part of the Besh Restaurant Group) turned homemade Israeli food into a dinner ticket as hard to get as Hamilton.  But what caused the falling out? There had to be more to it than chef's egos.
In a blockbuster piece of reporting today, The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com's Brett Anderson laid out a picture of the Besh Restaurant Group as a company where sexual harassment thrived, citing 25 current and former Besh employees who claim that the "bro culture" was so commonplace there that women were systemically harassed — and revealing that the restaurant group, which included more than 1,000 employees, amazingly had no human resources department where the women could take their concerns:
The majority of the 25 women who claimed to have experienced sexual harassment at the company work or have worked in the kitchens and dining rooms of BRG's high-profile restaurants, including Domenica, Lüke, Shaya and Restaurant August. They said some male managers leveraged or tried to leverage their power for sexual opportunity; that other male colleagues harshly admonished female employees for minor mistakes while men went unpunished for baldly inappropriate behavior; and that much of this resulted in the marginalization of female chefs, who they say are often passed over for advancement.
Besh himself issued a general Jimmy Swaggart-esque "I have sinned" apology to "anyone past and present who has worked for me who found my behavior as unacceptable as I do" — while not addressing the sexual harassment charges.

Shaya posted this on Facebook later in the day:

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Pete Wells, restaurant critic for The New York Times, rightly called the story an "open secret" in the New Orleans restaurant world:
For more on the topic of women in New Orleans restaurant kitchens in general, read Helen Freund's Gambit cover story this week. And if it's been a minute since you bought a physical copy of The Times-Picayune, tomorrow might be a great day to do so to encourage such fine reporting.

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