The acclaimed chef denied many of the claims.
Award-winning Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan is “taking a step back” from his restaurants following a Seattle Times investigation into 15 sexual misconduct or unwanted touching allegations. According to The New York Times, “most” of Jordan’s staff at his two renowned venues, JuneBaby and Salare, quit Sunday following the report. The locations were closed following staff departures, The Seattle Times said.
Jordan is a two-time James Beard Award winner whose JuneBaby concept took home Best New Restaurant in 2018, making him the first African-American chef in the Awards’ then-28-year history to receive the honor.
Four of Jordan’s now-former employees told The Seattle Times all but a few of his 18 workers indicated they would not return. “We dropped our keys and left,” one former staffer said to the publication.
Jordan confirmed the news and said he planned to postpone JuneBaby’s reopening, which was originally slated for Wednesday. He previously announced Salare would close in July due to COVID’s impact. Jordan also planned to merge his other restaurants JuneBaby and Lucinda Grain Bar.
“While I deny many of the reported allegations, my heart is heavy with the pain I have caused those I did impact,” Jordan said in an email to the Seattle Times. “I must be part of the change my industry demands. I’m in a deep state of reflection and remorse and I will be for some time.”
In a social media post Sunday, Jordan echoed those thoughts. Here’s the message in full:
“This is a space where I have shared triumphs and pain, made rallying calls to this community to do and be better and to change the norms—to shift practices and systems that have no place in our world and ensure everyone is treated fairly.
“That all starts with me.
An article recently came out in the Seattle Times that suggests I have fallen short at times. I’m deeply sorry if my conduct ever offended anyone or made anyone feel uncomfortable. I have had moments where I have made decisions that have negatively impacted people I’ve worked with—and it was never my intention to be a part of or condone a workplace culture that made coworkers or employees feel “less than.” While I know what it feels like to be considered “less than,” I recognize that women experience a different level of hardships in the workplace and that nobody’s voice should be silenced.
While I deny many of the reported allegations, each woman who shared her experience working with me has a voice that deserves to be heard. I hold myself accountable if my actions ever made anyone feel disrespected, devalued, or uncomfortable. It has never been and never will be in my character to make someone feel threatened, unsafe or personally violated—whether that’s me walking down the street or working with me in the kitchen. Women in the restaurant industry have powerful voices, tremendous talent, and must be respected and provided with a harassment-free work environment. They should be recognized for their contributions and talent—and nothing else. I have always believed that.
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.”
The Seattle Times investigation included five women who said Jordan groped or gave them unwanted kisses from 2012 to 2017. Ten women described “sexual comments” or “unwanted touching” as recently as 2019. Four said Jordan groped them at work.
The accounts were supported by two other local chefs and by a woman’s roommate as well. All said they spoke to the women about the behavior at the time or witnessed similar acts, The Seattle Times investigation said.
One “recounted that Jordan put his fingers between her buttocks through her clothes during her shift and tried to kiss her on a business trip,” according to the report.
As Jordan alluded to in his social media statement, the industry has faced its share of sexual misconduct allegations over the years, including Mario Batali in 2019.
Jordan did admit to The Seattle Times that he tried to kiss a co-worker on a work-related trip, and called the “not acceptable” decision a “learning moment.” He added no employees he’s worked with approached him with similar concerns.
The Seattle Times did not find any record of police reports or lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by Jordan. And Jordan said his restaurants have never entered into confidential settlements with current or former employees. Thirteen people who worked with Jordan also noted they didn’t witness sexual misconduct from Jordan, although 11 of them said they didn’t want to invalidate the women’s allegations, according to the investigation.
Those who did speak out said they feared repercussions of coming forth against one of the city’s most prominent chefs, who also boasts ties to brands like Lexus and Blue Apron. All but four in the story requested anonymity “for fear of retaliation.”
Jordan held stints at French Laundry, Per Se, and the Herbfarm before branching out on his own. At the same James Beard ceremony he won Best New Restaurant, Jordan took home Best Chef: Northwest for Salare.