On Sunday, June 13, the Seattle Times published a report that detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against acclaimed chef Edouardo Jordan of Salare and JuneBaby. Not long after the story was published, the majority of the staff members at Jordan’s restaurants quit, and both locations have closed for service until further notice.
According to four women who worked with Jordan from 2012 to 2017, the chef groped them at work; one other woman accused Jordan of trying to make unwanted advances on her while on a work trip in 2014; and 10 additional women said the chef made lewd comments and touched them inappropriately over the years. The women’s accounts were corroborated by 13 additional sources, including former employees.
The investigative report goes back to Jordan’s early career in Seattle, right after he first arrived in the city and started working for chef Matt Dillon, first at Sitka & Spruce, then at Bar Sajor. One line cook, who worked with Jordan at Bar Sajor, said that she had several uncomfortable interactions with the chef, including a work trip to Vancouver, B.C., in 2014. The cook recounted that the trip was supposed to be professional, but discovered that Jordan had booked a room with only one bed and eventually attempted to kiss her several times, despite her objections. In two separate incidents, the line cook said Jordan sent her a lascivious late-night text asking her to dance naked for him and, several months later, groped her butt.
Jordan told the Seattle Times he does not remember the text or the groping incident. He claimed that the single-room booking was unintentional, but does admit to trying to kiss a coworker on a business trip, which he called a “learning experience.”
Suzi An, who first worked with Jordan as a server at Bar Sajor, and then as the creative director at JuneBaby and Salare, claimed that the chef made comments that fetishized her Asian American heritage, and tried to seduce her one night when they were alone at her apartment. An said Jordan got on her bed, but she told him that nothing was going to happen and laid as far away as she could until he left. Jordan admitted he flirted with An, but told the Seattle Times “sexualizing any woman or any race is not acceptable, in or out of the workplace.” An left JuneBaby and Salare in 2017.
The pattern of inappropriate conduct and harassment allegedly continued at Salare, Jordan’s first restaurant in Ravenna, an effort that put the chef on the national map. “At Salare it was the same, but times 100,” Seattle restaurant veteran Ahmed Suliman, who helped open Salare, told the Seattle 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.” One server and expediter claimed that Jordan asked to see her breasts; a former Salare bartender alleged that the chef touched her crotch through her clothes before a shift one time.
Despite a couple of smaller admissions (such as flirting), Jordan denied most of the allegations against him in the report, including those from the Salare employees. In a subsequent statement on Instagram posted Sunday, the chef said, “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 a kitchen.” Jordan also claimed that he instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy for harassment,
The allegations paint a disturbing pattern of repeated boundary-crossing, though, from someone who many had admired. Throughout his career, Jordan has been one of the most celebrated chefs in Seattle, winning two James Beard Awards in 2018 (one for Salare, one for JuneBaby). As his star rose on the national stage, Jordan used his platform to highlight inequities in the restaurant industry for chefs of color and educate people on the culinary history of the African diaspora. One accuser in the Seattle Times story cited Jordan’s influence in this regard as a reason why she was reluctant to come forward with her story: “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.”
Unfortunately, the account of a much-lauded male chef answering allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment has become distressingly familiar. From Mario Batali to Ken Friedman to Mike Isabella, some of the biggest figures in the industry have been implicated in #MeToo scandals in recent years. Most recently (and locally), chef Blaine Wetzel and manager Reid Johnson of Lummi Island dining destination the Willows Inn were accused of overseeing a pattern of sexism, sexual harassment, and racist bullying. Those claims were denied, but locals are pressuring Wetzel to step down.
Despite Jordan’s qualified denials, he’s facing similar pressure to answer for his alleged misdeeds. One employee told the Seattle Times that the chef was “remorseless” in his mea culpa social media post Sunday, and former sous chef Kayla von Michalofski said Jordan warned staff at both restaurants — totaling 18 people — that the report was coming on Thursday, but did not detail the “severity” of it, taking many of the employees off-guard. Jordan said he would delay the reopening of JuneBaby; recently, he announced Salare will close permanently July 3, citing the challenges of the pandemic as the reason.
Besides former employees, at least one of Jordan’s peers is taking him to task. Musang’s star chef-owner Melissa Miranda composed an impassioned post on Instagram Sunday, revealing that she was among those who sat down with the reporters from the Seattle Times to help them with the investigation. A Bar Sajor alum, she did not cross paths with Jordan in her time at the restaurant, but knew those who did.
“I stand as an ally,” Miranda wrote. “For these voices to be heard. As an advocate and voice for those who can’t. 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. Everyone keeps talking about this change. Where you all at?”