Ursula: Does everyone deserve a second chance? It’s complicated

Sep 20, 2023, 5:00 AM

On the Gee and Ursula show Tuesday, we interviewed Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan. If his name sounds familiar, in 2018, he was a national media darling after winning two prestigious James Beard awards.

Jordan opened three restaurants in the Ravenna neighborhood and The New York Times dubbed JuneBaby the best Southern restaurant in the country. But in the summer of 2021, everything came crashing down.  The Seattle Times dropped a bombshell investigation after 15 women accused Jordan of sexual misconduct and unwanted groping.

A few days after the story broke, staff members quit en masse, and Jordan closed his restaurants. Seven months later, after posting an apology on Instagram, he reopened JuneBaby.

But the lines that I used to see snake out the door were no longer there. Even though I drive by the restaurant on Northeast 65th Street each day, I made a conscious decision not to support his business because of the allegations. Going into this interview, I was skeptical anything he could say would change my mind.

More from the interview: Accused chef Edouardo Jordan ‘wants to be accountable,’ reopens restaurant

But after our in-studio interview and hearing what he’s done over the past two years to make amends, I’ve had a change of heart.

Why I’ve had a change of heart

Why? Unlike many others who’ve faced similar accusations, Jordan takes full responsibility for his egregious behavior. He doesn’t use the “toxic restaurant culture” as an excuse. He has privately apologized to the women who made the allegations and understands the pain that he has caused. He has undergone mental health counseling, taken classes, and admits he had a lot of growing up to do.

Although he is a small business owner, he is putting systems in place that would be more typical of bigger corporations. He’s created what he describes as a robust HR program and has empowered staff to speak up when there’s conflict through a “Brave Conversations” program.

Although he’s never been criminally charged or sued in civil court, the court of public opinion has spoken and his business has suffered. Instead of three restaurants, JuneBaby is his remaining business. But Jordan told us that he’s not giving up on being successful in Seattle and will continue to work on repairing the damage he’s done by his past actions.

To me, Jordan sounded sincere in his apology and I believe it when he says he will continue to do the hard work to ensure that his employees are working in a safe and welcoming environment. As I mentioned to him on the air, I will try out his restaurant for the first time. But I also understand that for some people, he doesn’t deserve a second chance and that opinion is valid too.

For foodies: Seattle chef featured as one of 11 ‘best new chefs’ in nation

As you can see from some of the messages on our text line, it’s complicated.

Rachel: Kudos to him for exposing his weakness publicly. We rarely see this. Good for him no matter the response.

425: Fifteen people came forward. And you guys gave it a pass by arguing it was industry standard, and basically because he’s a Black man locally. If this was anybody else, a CEO slapping a secretary on the butt or some other misconduct at the office, he’d be a misogynist that doesn’t deserve to be in the position.

706: As a woman who spent 20 years in the industry, I will tell you firsthand that the girls are just as bad as the boys. I think Edouardo was made a scapegoat, and the people above him played a huge role in promoting a toxic work environment and did nothing to share the blame that everyone was guilty of. I’m not excusing inappropriate behavior, and I’m not denying these women’s truth, but I also know that he is not the villain that the media made him out to be, and he didn’t deserve to lose everything he worked so hard work.

Nikki: I’m conflicted with this interview. I’m totally supportive of those who take accountability for their actions and try to amend their wrongs, but at the same time, usually the victims of such toxic environment, don’t get the same platforms to be on as well. Society is quick to blame both the perpetrator and the victim even with out the facts.

Ernie in Kent: I could feel how difficult and painful that interview was. As painful as that was, I do feel like he’s grown tremendously from that experience. It’s a tough lesson, but sometimes those are the best teachers. I’ve been to JuneBaby, and I would definitely go back. We enjoyed our time there. We all deserve a second chance as long as we appreciate having one.

Robin in the 206: I am a female and worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years, I can confirm whether male or female, everyone was on a wild ride of partying and mingling, not an easy life, you learn hard lessons and grow along the way. Good for Edouardo!

Julie B: I worked at a Hilton hotel in Ohio, in the kitchen/restaurant. The men who worked there thought it was okay to smack me on the a** and touch me. I complained. Nothing changed. I left.

J in Sultan: He justified the culture and working long hours for his sick behavior. Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me.

Janice: I can hear the authenticity in his voice. Sometimes you’re in an environment that is toxic and don’t know it’s wrong or not normal until you’re called out. I hope he is able to comeback and glad he is taking accountability and not cowering behind a PR firm.

Listen to The Gee & Ursula Show with Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon on KIRO Newsradio 97.3.

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Ursula: Does everyone deserve a second chance? It’s complicated