Food

Mike Isabella’s Company Sends Out Letter Signed By 10 Women Supporting Him

The restaurateur disputes sexual harassment allegations
Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Mike Isabella and his restaurant group are fighting back against sexual harassment allegations outlined in a lawsuit from a former top employee by sending out a letter signed by 10 female supporters:

To our Friends, Families, Communities, and Guests –
In light of the recent allegations brought against Chef Mike Isabella and the partners at Mike Isabella Concepts (MIC), we want to send a simple message:

Women are the backbone of Mike Isabella Concepts, and we are proud to have earned our success through hard work, dedication and a genuine love of the hospitality industry.

Chef Mike and his team have built a culture based on open-communication, equality, and a productive, friendly work environment.

The executive team’s tenacity and enthusiasm encourage us to give our best every day because MIC is more than a restaurant group; we are family.

We hope for due process over the next few months, and in the meantime, we will continue to band together as a team, work hard, and take pride in serving our loyal guests.

Thank you,
The Women of Mike Isabella Concepts

Rochelle Cooper [Corporate Pastry Chef]

Dhiandra Olson [Assistant General Manager at Requin]

Katarina Famoso [Note: this name was later omitted in a revised statement as it’s listed twice]

Ket Raxajak [Director of HR]

Gina Dakouni [Director of Events, Marketing & Catering]

Janelle Serianni [General Manager at Isabella Eatery]

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Kat Famoso [Head chef at Kapnos Kouzina]

Darby Fallon [Assistant General Manager at Isabella Eatery]

Missy Pankow [Assistant General Manager at Isabella Eatery]

Natalie Matthews [Manager at Arroz]

Valeria Linares [Manager at Kapnos]

In addition, Isabella’s team sent three written statements of support from two former Graffiato managers—one who last worked at the restaurant in 2013, and the other who last worked there in 2014—as well as the owner of Urban Petals Floral Design, who provided flowers for Isabella’s 2009 wedding and his restaurants. Their statements all say they never experienced or saw any sexual harassment.

In contrast, Chloe Caras, the former Director of Operations for Isabella Eatery, describes a toxic “bro culture” in her lawsuit against Isabella and his partners. She claims the restaurateur and other top leaders in the company called female employees “whores” and “bitches,” bragged about exploits with prostitutes, pantomimed having sex with her, and regularly made vulgar, demeaning comments about women.

Caras says she was fired after she got in an argument with Isabella about one sexual comment. Isabella says Caras “stormed off the job” and refused to return to work.

Caras’s lawyer Debra Katz recently told Washingtonian that “dozens of individuals” have come forward since the lawsuit was filed corroborating her client’s allegations and telling their own stories of abuse. While she declined to share specifics at the time, she said the public should expect new allegations to surface.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.