Ex-Kinship Employee Alleges Racial Incident, Temporarily Closing Michelin-Starred Restaurant

The former server is protesting outside the Shaw dining room, with a sign alleging that chef/owner Eric Ziebold used racial slurs.

Kinship chef/owner Eric Ziebold. Photograph by Scott Suchman

A former employee of Michelin-starred restaurant Kinship is staging an ongoing protest outside the Shaw dining room, alleging a racial incident involving chef/owner Eric Ziebold.

Klyn Jones, a former server at the French/American spot, began protesting outside the establishment last week. She has held a sign alleging that Ziebold “said the words ‘Stupid N—’ to me four times.”  In a passerby’s TikTok video, which has now gone viral, Jones says “The owner is racist and they [patrons] should not give their money to this establishment.” 

Jones tells Washingtonian that she plans to continue protesting outside of Kinship—though she says these actions were a last resort: “I never wanted it to be a big thing. I just wanted an apology, as someone who was hurt by his words. I didn’t want it to impact my co-workers.” Jones says she has sought an apology since the incident, which allegedly happened over three months ago. 

According to a source from the restaurant, Ziebold engaged in a private discussion about how a variety of hypothetical work scenarios would be handled. It was during that meeting that Ziebold allegedly repeated the racial slur that was first introduced by the employee at the meeting. According to the source, it was made clear by the employer that hate and racism had no place in the restaurants, and there was a staff lineup following the conversation where employees reaffirmed their commitment to an environment where all people feel safe.

After footage of Jones’s protest went viral, Kinship closed for service on Sunday night (it’s typically dark Mondays and Tuesdays). Yelp issued a “public attention alert” on the restaurant’s page—a move that temporarily disables an influx of posts following accusations of racism or other controversy. Representatives for the restaurant say Kinship may reopen on Wednesday, but nothing has been decided. 

Ziebold—a fine dining fixture in Washington who operated high-end Mandarin Oriental restaurant CityZen for over a decade before opening Kinship and Metier in 2016—remained silent over the weekend. He issued the following statement to Washingtonian:

“While addressing the concerns of a team member feeling safe in our restaurant, I was asked a question. While stating I would find the proposed behavior unacceptable, I regretfully repeated their word in my response.

I should have been more sensitive while trying to assure our team member that I was committed to an environment where they would feel safe. Kinship has always operated under a core set of values advocating diversity, equity and a feeling of respect and belonging. I apologize to those I’ve hurt and will strive to do better in the future.”

Jones says the statement does not square with her experience during the conversation, or at the workplace overall. Originally, she declined to comment further for this article pending a complaint she filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She shared the following statement with Washingtonian: 

“I want to thank every single person who believed me, stopped to talk to me, and chose to patronize another establishment as a result of my protest. I get overwhelmed easily and never wanted to take drastic action—I was looking for an apology from my former employer for his repeated use of offensive, vulgar, and racist language. Too often these things get swept under the rug in the restaurant industry. My goal was to inform patrons (most specifically Black patrons) of what happened so they could make informed decisions on whether they still wanted to support this business.

There is no context that would make the use of a slur in the workplace appropriate or acceptable. It’s hurtful and conveys a deep lack of respect. I hope my protest and statement brings more awareness to these far too common instances of racial harm so they don’t occur in the future. This is my 106th day of waiting on an apology from Eric Zeibold.”

*This post has been updated with additional, clarifying information. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.