Over a dozen women have accused acclaimed Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan of sexual misconduct or unwanted touching, according to a new investigation published by The Seattle Times.
The investigation, which was published Sunday, was based on comments from 28 people, including 15 women who said they were harassed by Jordan, and several supporting sources.
Four women said they were groped by Jordan while at work, and one said that Jordan, her boss at the time, kissed her outside of work. Ten more women said that Jordan made sexual comments or "touched them in unwanted ways."
Jordan, 41, told the Times that the allegations of groping were untrue and said he "did not recall" most of the stories of inappropriate touching, which allegedly occurred between 2012 and 2019. In an interview, Jordan told the Times he had "never been a perfect person" and shared a longer response on social media on Sunday.
"I acknowledge that the restaurant industry has a reputation for at times fostering sexual harassment, and I have worked hard to ensure that such conduct has no place at any of my restaurants," he wrote. "Workplace harassment of any nature or sexualizing women is not a culture I promote. It is not who I am or what I’m about, and I stand behind that."
Jordan entered the Seattle restaurant scene in 2012, when he worked at Sitka and Spruce, a now-closed restaurant operated by chef Matt Dillon. Soon, he became the Chef de cuisine at Bar Sajor, also owned by Dillon. In 2015, he opened his own restaurant, Salare, and opened a second establishment, JuneBaby, in 2017. Jordan received national attention and acclaim for his restaurants, winning two James Beard Awards in 2018. In late 2018, he also opened Lucinda Grain Bar.
Earlier in June, Jordan announced that Salare would close on July 3 due to the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic. He also said he plans to merge JuneBaby and Lucinda Grain Bar.
The Times notes that most of the women who accused Jordan of sexual misconduct are white, and because he was so outspoken about inequities in the restaurant industry for chefs of color, many were reluctant to come forward with their stories, as they didn't want to be seen as trying to undermine a Black chef's accomplishments.
"It put me in a very weird emotional position where I know this happened to me and I know it was very inappropriate … and I didn’t want to tear him down," one accuser told the Times.
Thirteen people who worked with Jordan said they didn't witness sexual misconduct by the chef, though 11 said they didn't want to "invalidate the women's allegations," according to the Times. The publication did not find any record of police reports or lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, and Jordan told the publication his businesses have never entered into confidential settlements with employees. Jordan said his restaurants had a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and has contracted with a third-party human resources organization since 2019.
Jordan did acknowledge one story, where a woman said he had tried to kiss her on a work trip to research restaurants in Vancouver, Canada, in 2014. The woman, who was anonymous in the Times report, said that when they arrived at the hotel, they were told the room only had one bed. The woman said Jordan seemed surprised, so she "gave him the benefit of the doubt," but when they got into bed, he tried to kiss her several times.
"I was like 'Absolutely not.' There were four more attempts," the woman told the Times, adding that she had been fully clothed during the encounter. "I was like 'No, I'm not interested in you. I don't know how to tell you this more clearly, but this is not why I'm here.' I fell asleep. From my understanding, nothing happened that night."
Jordan told the Times he made one advance, which he admitted was "a mistake," but stopped after she said she was not interested.
The woman, a line cook at Bar Sajor, said Jordan's inappropriate behavior continued after the trip, including a time where he groped her at work and sent her an inappropriate text message. Jordan said he did not recall either incident.
Ahmed Suliman, a Seattle restaurateur who helped Jordan open his first restaurant, Salare,said Jordan's behavior escalated when he had his own restaurant.
"At Salare it was the same, but times 100," Suliman told the Times. "He would pinch people on the butt, slap people on the butt, make comments about boobs, make comments like, ‘When is this going to happen?’ — ‘this’ meaning sex."
Multiple other employees said Jordan's behavior became worse after he had his own restaurant.
"He's the worst person I've ever worked with by a distance," said Suliman, who has worked at eight restaurants in the past 13 years. "Everything you can think of about (expletive) restaurant culture, he embodies it."
CJ Daugherty, an employee of Jordan's in 2019, said that, at Salare, "the culture is very much that the chef gets to do what he wants."
Many high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, including Mario Batali, who was accused of forcibly groping and kissing a woman at a restaurant in 2017, have been called out for inappropriate behavior during the #MeToo movement.
Melissa Miranda, a New York City chef who worked at Bar Sajor, wrote on Instagram that she spoke to the Times for their story on Jordan and hoped the investigation would lead to changes in the restaurant industry. Miranda said that she did not work at Bar Sajor at the same time as Jordan, but saw the "hurt, trauma and pain" among those who did.
"These behaviors won't change in this industry, unless not just the workers, but those that (idolize) these chefs blindly, don't hold them accountable," Miranda wrote. "Everyone keeps talking about this change. Where you all at?"
Following the publication of the Times investigation, backlash against Jordan was swift. Several criticized his response to the allegations, in which he said he did not remember many of them. The majority of Jordan's employees at Salare and JuneBaby quit on Sunday afternoon, according to the Times.
"It was not really a question at that point," one former employee told the publication. "Everyone had the exact same viewpoint. We dropped our keys and left."