Celebrity Chef John Besh's Restaurant Group Accused of Fostering Sexual Harassment
Celebrity chef John Besh‘s Besh Restaurant Group — which includes 12 acclaimed eateries — has been accused of fostering sexual harassment, according to a new report.
During an eight-month investigation, 25 current and former Besh Group employees revealed to Nola.com | The Times-Picayune that they were victims of sexual harassment while working at BRG or the organization’s restaurants. According to the outlet, many women — nine of whom spoke on the record — described the company as an environment where “several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and — in a few cases — tried to leverage positions of authority for sex.”
The allegations follow two separate complaints filed against the Besh Group with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since December. In one, a former employee accused the chef — who co-owns BRG with Octavio Mantilla — of coercing her “to submit to his sexual overtures” during what is described as a “months-long sexual realtionship.”
Additionally, the woman, who was unnamed by Nola.com | Times-Picayune, said that she faced “retaliation” by some BRG employees when she attempted to end her relationship with Besh, who is married.
The American chef and TV personality addressed the accusations in a statement provided to PEOPLE, saying, “Two years ago, I deeply hurt those I love by thoughtlessly engaging in a consensual relationship with one member of my team. Since then I have been seeking to rebuild my marriage and come to terms with my reckless actions given the profound love I have for my wife, my boys and my Catholic faith.”
“I also regret any harm this may have caused to my second family at the restaurant group, and sincerely apologize to anyone past and present who has worked for me who found my behavior as unacceptable as I do,” said Besh.
Besh, 49, added, “I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings. This is not the way the head of a company like ours should have acted, let alone a husband and father. But it should not taint our incredible team of more than 1,000 employees, nor undermine our unyielding commitment to treating everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of gender, race, age and sexual preference.”
Raymond Landry, General Counsel of the Besh Restaurant Group, addressed the allegations against BRG in a separate statement given to PEOPLE, saying, “We have learned recently that a number of women in our company feel that we have not had a clear mechanism in place to allow them to voice concerns about receiving the respect they deserve on the job.”
“I want to assure all of our employees that if even a single person feels this way, it is one person too many and that ends now,” Landry continued. “While we’ve had a complaint procedure in place that complies with all existing laws, we now recognize that, as a practical matter, we needed to do more than what the law requires and we have revamped our training, education and procedures accordingly.”
“Now that we have learned of these concerns, we believe going forward that everyone at our company will be fully aware of the clear procedures that are now in place to safeguard against anyone feeling that his or her concerns will not be heard and addressed free from retaliation.”
Besh, who is known for incorporating his southern Louisiana heritage in his food, has several restaurants in and around New Orleans and has appeared in shows such as Top Chef and Iron Chef America.
RELATED VIDEO: Brad Pitt Threatened Harvey Weinstein After He Allegedly Sexually Harassed Gwyneth Paltrow
Weinstein, 65, was fired from his powerhouse film studio, The Weinstein Company,after eight women — including actress Ashley Judd — spoke out against him in a New York Times report published earlier this month, accusing him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. The paper also reported that Weinstein reached private settlements with eight additional women, including actress Rose McGowan, who later accused him of rape on Twitter. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and several other women also added their own accounts of alleged mistreatment, and more than two dozen women have now come forward.
Following the initial Times report about the allegations, Weinstein said in a statement that he was working with therapists and planned to “deal with this issue head-on.” He has also left Los Angeles and checked into a luxury resort in Arizona.
A spokesperson for Weinstein previously told PEOPLE in a statement that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”