Salare and JuneBaby employees knew something was wrong when Chef Edouardo Jordan called them for an all-man meeting on Thursday, June 10th. According to two staff members present, Jordan stated that an article in the Seattle Times that didn’t put him in a good light. But he didn’t go into detail. Rather, Jordan described the pending report as “brother culture stuff,” says Kayla von Michalofski, a former Salare sous-chef. Another employee, who wanted to remain anonymous on professional retaliation, tells Eater Seattle that Jordan “hinted at flirting” but cited legal complications as to why he could no longer divulge. “That was the first red flag for me, because why is that Seattle Times even to accept that when it’s just about flirting? ”says the worker.
The next day, there were more red flags: Jordan called his managers and told them he was leaving the restaurants without specifying how long it would take – nor the exact reason for the decision. The mood among the staff was gloomy all weekend; Salare staff prepared food for a 300-person event on Sunday under a cloud of uncertainty. Still, the staff created a worst-case scenario, with managers sending out an email on Friday advising that the staff would meet if the item dropped. “I didn’t sleep much and updated my browser at 5 a.m. on Sunday,” says the anonymous worker.
The Seattle Times Investigation report Detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against Jordan by 15 women, including unwanted touching, were published early in the morning of Sunday June 13th (Jordan denied most allegations and later published a statement on Instagram). Not long after the report was released, Salare and JuneBaby employees of 18 held a Zoom meeting to discuss what to do next. Employees conducted an anonymous survey on the call to gauge options and the vast majority chose to quit immediately. “[The news] the staff really damaged and blinded, ”says von Michalofski. “But we just handed in our keys, handed everything in and just left.” Salares staff were still preparing meals for this big event, albeit “reluctantly,” says the anonymous source.
More than two weeks later, the fallout continues. With currently only one barebone operation, JuneBaby is still closed. salt had already planned to close permanently in July, but that schedule was sped up, according to a message on the official website notes that the restaurant is now permanently closed. Jordan had said Salare’s decision was related to the effects of a pandemic; von Michalofski notes that the restaurant was actually “super slow” towards the end. But Jordan said days before that Seattle Times It was revealed that his intention was to reopen JuneBaby for indoor dining in mid-June, merging the space with the Lucinda Grain Bar next door. Now all of these plans seem to be on hold indefinitely. When asked for comment, Jordan said to Eater, “We are in the process of preparing an update on our plans for the future restaurants and some announcements about my professional and personal next steps over the next few days.” This article will be updated as more Information received.
Jordan’s corporate sponsors seem to be distancing themselves from the chef, but haven’t officially dropped him yet. He has an ongoing contract with automaker Lexus for an undisclosed amount of money that he posts about the brand on his social media platforms. “We are closely monitoring the situation and will evaluate the next steps to further clarify and investigate the allegations,” said a Lexus representative. “These are very serious allegations (and, if they are true, they are certainly not representative of the Lexus brand).” Meal prep company Blue Ron says it was “disappointed to learn about the allegations” against Jordan, but notes that its “limited seven-week partnership with him ended in December 2020”. It also looks like Blue Ron deleted the mention of Jordan from his website. Whole Foods national supermarket – which runs Jordans retail line Food with Roots of Allspice and Cheese Dip – didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, but at the time of publication the dip is still on sale online from local outposts.
For those employees who are leaving en masse, there is still solidarity – and lingering anger. “When [Jordan] drew us into this meeting that there might have been victims of harassment or assault, and he didn’t even point out what [the article] would work, ”says the anonymous employee. The group of former employees is still in regular contact and has formed an informal coalition with the intention of taking broader action on kitchen work issues.
Currently, Washington State already has general employer requirements and laws pertaining to it sexual harassment in the workplace, but nothing specially tailored to the catering industry. In 2020, state law was passed requiring hotels to issue “panic buttons” to their employees. like housekeeperswho spend a large part of their working hours without another worker being present – but again, the law does not apply to restaurants. And the Washington State Anti-Discrimination Act states that employees have the right to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commissionas long as the company has at least eight employees, which would have excluded many small restaurants.
“As a team, we want to try to get an answer from Olympia [where the state government is] in terms of trying to get some laws out as a mandate, ”says Jordan’s former associate. This legislation could be as fundamental as providing resources to workers posted publicly in restaurants describing their rights and how to report complaints. “Our hope among my former colleagues is to be change agents of workplace harassment or any wrongdoing that requires actionable action to be taken to correct it.”
The former employees are also considering creating a pop-up of rotating staff that would help raise funds for organizations that work in the field and that are guided by the issues that the employees are pushing for. “It has the potential to become something much bigger by building a cooperative model,” says the anonymous former employee. “So we’re pretty excited.” This plan is still in its early stages, but should get more focus this summer.
The workers hope for a quick move. “We want to try to make a difference while the topic is still hot,” says Kayla von Michalofski, Salare’s former sous-chef.