Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello Faces Lawsuits Over Sexual Harassment, Wage Issues
Mar 18, 2016 11:18 PM EDT
Two lawsuits were filed against American celebrity chef Michael Chiarello over sexual harassment allegations and refusal to pay employees' due salary. The lawsuits were filed by two former workers of the famous chef's Italian restaurant, Coqueta.
Waitresses Asja Sever and Katherine Page, both former employees of the high end restaurant three and two years ago, sued the celebrity chef respectively, SF Gate reported. The two described the work environment of the restaurant as "hostile, sexually charged and abusive." The suit also accuses various chefs and managers of inappropriate touching and making remarks that were sexually abusive, racist and homophobic.
Terry Fahn, a spokesman for Chiarello, denied the accusations, calling it "unfounded", ABC News reported. Kelly Armstrong, the representing lawyer for the two women who filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday, said they are hoping it sends a strong message that the kind of environment will not be tolerated.
The lawsuit also claimed that Chiarello was referring Martinis to the breasts of a woman and even told managers to hire applicants they found "sexually desirable". One incident, the Food Network cooking show host "took a baguette to his crotch in an overly suggestive manner."
The second lawsuit is about wage, which the women claim they and other employees of the restaurant were not paid correctly according to their working hours, such as overtime, Daily Mail reported. They also claimed they were not given time for meal breaks and time to take a rest.
Chiarello released a statement, saying "The allegations are not only upsetting to him, they are also against his core beliefs."
The celebrity chef, who specializes in Italian-influenced California cuisine, launched Conqueta restaurant in 2013. Its name was derived from the Spanish word meaning "flirt" in English. The 54-year old chef also hosts his own cooking shows, called "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello" on the Food Network as well as "NapaStyle" on the Fine Living Network.