Celebrity chef John Besh has stepped down from Besh Restaurant Group two days after The New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed allegations of sexual misconduct. In a letter obtained by The New Orleans Advocate, company executive Shannon White announced that Besh “has decided to step down from all aspects of operations to provide his full focus on this family.”
The move comes after an eight-month investigation into 25 current and former female BRG employees who say they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The women who came forward described a “corporate culture where sexual harassment flourished,” including unwelcome touching, suggestive comments, and sexual advances from male coworkers and supervisors on a regular basis.
Besh, who is married, was also accused of engaging in a “long-term unwelcome sexual relationship” with an employee. According to NOLA.com, an unnamed woman said she accompanied Besh on a work trip to Los Angeles in 2015 during which he encouraged her to drink excessively. Afterward, he allegedly came to her hotel room to engage in oral sex while she was “barely conscious.”
In a statement, Besh confirmed the encounter, but described it as consensual. He also said he regretted his actions and is trying to make amends with his wife.
In September, star chef Alon Shaya ended his partnership with Besh at BRG restaurants Domenica, Pizza Domenica, and namesake Shaya. Chef Shaya is now saying he was fired for helping a reporter with the harassment investigation, according to The New Orleans Advocate. At the time of the split, Shaya was in negotiations to purchase Shaya restaurant and trademark its name, but BRG has filed a lawsuit in hope of keeping the successful name for its own endeavors.
“Shaya is not just the name on the front door,” he told The New Orleans Advocate. “It is my culinary and family heritage and a culmination of my life’s work. The recipes and experiences that make Shaya restaurant so unique come from my mother and grandmother and a deep tradition of Israeli cooking and hospitality. The idea that they would claim that history as a matter of commerce and trademark is deeply disturbing, and I will fight to protect my family name and heritage.”
At this time, it is unclear what will become of Besh or who will replace him. The Daily Meal has reached out to him for a statement, and will update this story upon receiving further information. For more scoops on scandals in the food world, take a look at these 10 crazy chef feuds.