Four women have alleged that Top Chef‘s Johnny Iuzzini sexually harassed them. An exposé by Mic reveals that two pastry chefs and two externs (an unpaid position with the same hours as a full-time employee) who worked for Iuzzini at New York City‘s Jean-Georges restaurant between 2009 and 2011 described their work environment as “rampant with incidents of sexual harassment.” They also alleged that Iuzzini was verbally abusive and “prone to screaming,” as his mood could “turn dark very quickly.”
In one incident, one woman claims Iuzzini inappropriately stuck his tongue inside her ear while she was working — which allegedly happened “three or four times” on separate occasions.
“I cried every time,” the woman told Mic, adding that she did not report the misconduct to management until a later time. Ultimately, she resigned “because of the way he treated me.” That same year, after nearly a decade with the restaurant, Iuzzini left too.
The second pastry chef recalled that Iuzinni often suggestively touched female employees’ behinds with knives, vegetables, and spoons.
“He would stand behind you really closely and breathe on your neck,” she told Mic. “I think he did things to make people uncomfortable, and to see what he could get away with.”
Another chef verified the incident, adding, “He used to say, ‘If I hit you with my hand, it’s harassment, but if I hit you with an object, it’s a mistake.’”
Other accusations include mandatory back rubs and dirty jokes. An extern whisking ingredients thought she’d received a compliment when Iuzzini applauded her for her skills, until he emphasized, “No, no, nice technique,” and made a jerking-off motion.
According to Mic, Iuzinni denied many allegations and did “not recall” others. He also said he was “shattered and heartbroken at the thought that any of my actions left members of my team feeling hurt or degraded.”
In a statement to The Daily Meal, a spokesperson for Jean-Georges said: “It is not and has never been our policy to tolerate the type of behavior described in the article. Whether directed at women or men, yelling, berating, touching, or harassment of any kind is not how we operate our restaurants. Mr. Iuzzini has not been a part of our restaurant group for some time and does not represent our philosophy towards dining and more importantly, to our working environment.”
The statement continues, “Recent events and media attention has caused us to only look further inward as to how we can better serve our employees and even further integrate our human resources function and insure that our employees understand that workplace harassment has no place in our workplace culture.”
Other top chefs who’ve recently been accused of sexual misconduct include John Besh and Todd English among a slew of Hollywood and television elites such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer. For more on what’s happening in the culinary sphere, here are the 10 biggest food stories of 2017.