Restaurant group drops Mike Isabella for awards consideration

A local restaurant association has kicked celebrity chef Mike Isabella out of contention for two of its annual awards because of allegations the Washington, D.C. operator sexually harassed a women on his corporate staff.

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington said the “serious allegations” prompted judges for the group’s awards program to withdraw the nomination of Arroz by Mike Isabella as a finalist for New Restaurant of the Year. A downscale outlet run by the chef, G by Mike Isabella, was dropped as a finalist in the Favorite Fast Bites competition.

Former Arroz Executive Chef Michael Rafidi will remain a contender for the honor of Rising Star of the Year, RAMW said. Rafidi was also executive chef of Isabella’s Sequin restaurant. He resigned from both places after allegations of harassment were leveled at Isabella.

Isabella is being sued by his former director of operations, Chloe Caras, for allegedly maintaining what she termed a “bro culture” that was hostile to women. In addition to accusing Isabella and his male subordinates of referring to women as “whores,” Caras asserts that the men mimed sexual acts with her, and boasted openly about cavorting with women.

Isabella has denied the accusations. He recently released a letter signed by 10 female employees that supports his contention.

The chef-operator runs 11 foodservice operations in the Washington, D.C., area. He rose to national prominence through his appearance on the hit TV show “Top Chef.”

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