Accused chef Edouardo Jordan ‘wants to be accountable,’ reopens restaurant
Sep 19, 2023, 1:23 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2023, 11:37 am
(Photo from KIRO Newsradio)
In 2018, Edouardo Jordan’s restaurant, JuneBaby, was called “the hottest new Southern restaurant in the country” by The New York Times. Three years later, the restaurant closed its doors when The Seattle Times published an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct by chef and owner Jordan.
Jordan, an up-and-coming celebrity chef, owned three restaurants in the Seattle area, winning two James Beard Awards for Best Chef: Northwest and Best New Restaurant.
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On June 13, 2021, an article from The Seattle Times was published and it detailed five women alleging Jordan had groped them at work. Ten more women alleged Jordan had made inappropriate sexual comments or had engaged in unwanted touching.
Jordan shut down JuneBaby when a majority of his staff walked out upon hearing about The Seattle Times article. Seven months later, he announced that he would be reopening the restaurant.
Jordan spoke to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin, co-hosts of The Gee and Ursula Show on KIRO 97.3 FM, Tuesday hoping to explain how he has grown since the allegations surfaced and why he reopened the doors.
During the time his restaurant was closed, Jordan told Gee and Ursula he spent a lot of time reflecting on the allegations, what led up to them and how to move forward. A big part of that, Jordan said, was meeting privately with individuals to apologize.
“I think the most important thing that I had to do over this time period was stop and reflect on the impact that I had on so many people … Personally, I think everyone had an idea or a thought of what I should be doing,” Jordan said. “The public opinion was that I needed to be extremely vocal publicly. But I felt the most important thing was connecting personally and privately.
“I connected with everyone that I knew I impacted and also people that I didn’t know I impacted because I think it was important to hear, listen, grow, and make amends,” Jordan added.
Jordan admitted he had done things incorrectly while running his restaurants, explaining he got caught up in the expectations people had for him.
“I tried to fit in with a whole slew of people who became my family. I never had that experience in New York, where people were so connected together. I mean, we went on trips together, we went camping together, we went fishing together, we cracked jokes,” Jordan said. “I think people had different expectations of me and who I should be to them. They wanted me to be the adult in the room, and I was still one of the kids in the room. We worked hard, we partied hard, we played hard. And that was the gray area that caused a lot of issues.”
Looking at the restaurant industry
Problems of sexual harassment are pervasive in the restaurant industry, with the Harvard Business Review reporting that 90% of women and 70% of men reportedly experience some form of sexual harassment. There is also often a power imbalance in restaurants with the majority of restaurant owners and chefs being men and the majority of lower-wage employees being women, especially women of color.
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Before the article was released, Jordan reportedly gathered his staff and told them about the upcoming article, calling the report “bro culture stuff” and “flirting.” Now, Jordan said the industry as a whole is “chaotic” and serious work needs to be done to address the pervasive problems of harassment.
“We’ve celebrated the celebrity chef. We celebrated the party and we celebrated the food and wine. What that means is that everyone gets wild and enjoys food and has drinks and celebrates and party. And so you’re setting up an industry to be kind of in that movement,” Jordan said. “I think the the years of chaoticness just continue to flow down, and no one has made the correction. I think we have to hold a lot of people accountable.”
Why Jordan is speaking out now
As to why he is speaking about the issue now, Jordan said he had a lot of work to do sorting through the allegations.
“I think, over the last two years, I have been silenced. And I silenced, honestly, myself because there was a whirlwind of trash that basically got dumped in my yard. And I’m trying now trying to decipher through it,” Jordan said. “So I needed to stop and say, ‘Hey, I need to be better. If I offended one person, I find that one person too many. And that’s the reality of it.'”
Changes are being made at JuneBaby now that it has reopened. Jordan told Gee and Ursula he was implementing more sexual harassment training and an anonymous reporting system for human resources.
“I’ve been through a lot of training myself. As a person of color, I never knew the importance of having a therapist. I’ve put many hours into therapy. I’ve also hired a life coach to help me count help get that counseling and advice to get through,” Jordan said. “And from a business aspect, I did a whole auditing of my entire restaurant and my business and started implementing all the necessary HR processes so that my team can feel comfortable, so that they are empowered, and they have a voice and something that we can also build on.”
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Ursula asked Jordan if he was ready to say “the two words that are so hard for some people,” a public apology to those who were impacted during the course of the allegations.
“I think when people see me on TV, you start to lose the human side of who I am. Obviously, I am not perfect. With that said, anytime I impact someone negatively, I want to be accountable for that. ” Jordan said. “I apologized personally, I apologized privately. And that was the most important aspect during those moments,” Jordan said. “And now I sit here, and I apologize publicly because that’s very important for people to hear. And know that I have done that. And I will continue to do that.”
Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.