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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Employees Slam TV Chef With Lurid Complaints

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Two former servers say in a state court lawsuit that Michael Chiarello, an Emmy-winning TV chef, is vulgar and aggressive behind the scenes of his acclaimed San Francisco tapas restaurant.

Katherine Page and Asja Sever say in their 21-page complaint filed Tuesday that Chiarello, star of the Cooking Channel's "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello" and a frequent guest on TV network morning shows, set the tone when he told his restaurant managers, "If you don't want to fuck them, don't hire them."

Soon after Page and Sever began waiting tables at Chiarello's tapas spot Coqueta, they say they realized that the "combined sexual misconduct of the Coqueta chefs and managers created a hostile, sexually charged and abusive working environment."

According to one of two complaints they filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court, Chiarello told other employees about his "big dick" and told one new hire on his first day, "Happy to have you here. Now get down on your knees."

They say that Chiarello told another server that two women had become aroused while talking with him, "leaving wet stains from their genitals on their chairs" that he called "snail trails," according to the complaint.

In November 2015, Chiarello "held a baguette up to his crotch while making stroking motions over the bread with his hands in an overtly sexual manner,"

they say in their complaint.

Chiarello was "unnecessarily aggressive," too, they say.

He once shoved Page and told her to "stay the fuck out of his way," the complaint says.

And Chiarello was inappropriate with his staff, making comments such as, "Martinis are like tits. One is too few, three is too many," the complaint says.

The other defendants named on the complaint include Dominick Maietta, a chef Sever says called her a "cunt" and a "lazy whore," and who abused employees with homophobic and racist slurs.

Defendant Mirko Galliani is a manager they say referred to female customers as "pussies," and defendant Marc Peyer is an assistant manager who made sexual noises around customers, the complaint says.

During their time at Coqueta, Page and Sever say they were highly regarded enough to be assigned to serve celebrity guests at the restaurant, such as Russell Crowe and Kim Kardashian.

Page and Sever, who are represented by Kelly Armstrong in Sausalito, California, seek general and punitive damages for sexual harassment, negligent hiring, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices.

Gruppo Chiarello and Serra Hospitality, which the complaint says own and operate Coqueta, are also named defendants.

Page, who worked for nearly three years at Coqueta, and Sever, who worked there for almost two years, were not content to file just one lawsuit: they also filed a class action for labor law violations.

The second suit states that Chiarello, Gruppo Chiarello and Serra Hospitality refused to pay servers overtime wages or provide rest and meal breaks during 10-hour shifts, which they say were routine. They say that managers altered timesheets and made unlawful deductions from servers' tips.

Page and Sever say the defendants also failed to make reimbursements for expenses such as dry cleaning and incidentals used at work.

Gruppo Chiarello's representatives did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.

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