It’s been ten days since a lawsuit emerged alleging rampant sexual harassment and a degrading “bro culture” within Mike Isabella’s restaurant empire, and the fallout has been swift.
The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington is the most recent entity to cut ties with the celebrity chef and his businesses. The Washington Post reports that the organization, of which Isabella’s restaurants are paying members, has disqualified Arroz and G by Mike Isabella from the annual RAMMY Awards (often compared to the local Oscars of the restaurant/bar industry). The Spanish restaurant was a finalist for Best New Restaurant, while the Italian sandwich shop was in the running for Favorite Fast Bites.
Former Arroz and Requin DC executive chef Michael Rafidi, who split with the restaurants last week, is still eligible for the RAMMY Best New Chef award. No allegations have been made against the chef. (Rafidi never referenced the lawsuit or accusations in his parting statement.)
“As this judge’s panel and The Awards move forward, criteria will be revisited to evaluate and redefine good standing as a leader and or member of the community,” says RAMW President Kathy Hollinger in a written statement. “It is the main objective of The RAMMYS to celebrate excellence in the restaurant and foodservice industry based on both culinary talent, vision, and leadership in the Washington Metropolitan region.”
The news came on the heels of letter supporting Isabella, signed by ten women who work for him. In their statement, sent from Mike Isabella Concept’s PR, they describe “a culture based on open-communication, equality, and a productive, friendly work environment.” Two former employees and the company’s florist also sent their own statements saying they’ve never experienced or witnessed sexual harassment.
Here are the groups that have distanced themselves from the restaurateur:
“We just have a zero-tolerance policy as an organization, and with the allegations, we felt it was the best decision to make,” Jonathan Stahl, VP of Ballpark Operations and Guest Experience, told Washingtonian. Before the allegations became public, Nationals Park only planned to to keep one of Isabella’s three concession stands. They still have not announced a replacement for G sandwich shop but plan to have something ready by opening day.
José Andrés’ Dine-N-Dash
Two big DC fundraising events—José Andrés’ Dine-N-Dash and the Best Buddies Prom—have also removed Isabella and his restaurants (celebrity chef Carla Hall will replace Isabella at the latter). World Central Kitchen issued the following for Dine-N-Dash: “In light of the recently surfaced allegations, we are evaluating the restaurant’s participation to ensure that the focus is kept upon the intent of the fundraiser.”
Isabella’s longtime publicist and Know PR founder Jennifer Resick Williams has also seemingly separated from MIC, having scrubbed the company from her website. Resick Williams has not responded to requests for comment.
Plum Relish, a DC-based, female-driven catering platform, has deleted MIC from their website and social media as a “dedicated partner.” Previously the company worked with Catering By Mike Isabella for a line of bento boxes.
Media outlets are still grappling with how to deal with coverage and reviews of Mike Isabella’s restaurants moving forward (you can read Washingtonian food critic Ann Limpert‘s views here). Eater, a national food news outlet, has removed past and present mentions of Isabella’s restaurants from their guides, per recent policy. Editor Amanda Kludt explained in February: “Why, with so much talent out there, with so many compelling restaurants to cover, would you review the one veiled in controversy?”
Other organizations are still waiting to see how things play out. MIC currently has a licensing agreement with airport food service company HMSHost, which independently operates a Kapnos Taverna at Reagan National Airport.
“Needless to say we remain very concerned. We’re following the details very closely,” says HMSHost spokesperson Atousa Ghoreichi. “We’re a strong stand alone entity, and we have a strict policy against harassment of any kind. The food we’re preparing is to their standards, but the culture within the restaurant is our culture. It has nothing to do with them.”