Chefs Charity John Besh photo by Andrew Cohoon.jpg (copy)

Contributed photo by Andrew Cohoon - Celebrity chef John Besh has presided over a culture of sexual harassment that has flourished at his roughly dozen restaurants, according to a report at

There’s something about restaurants that goes beyond how the food tastes or what the dining room looks like. It comes from our impressions and experiences and the interplay of people within the restaurant, from customers to staff to the name over the door or the chef at the helm.

That's one reason we can develop personal connections with our favorite restaurants. It's a mix of reputation and expectations, the image a restaurant projects and the relationships it builds.

After the weekend’s explosive exposé from | The Times-Picayune writer Brett Anderson, documenting allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from the top down at Besh Restaurant Group, we will see how that relationship goes when the narrative is not so celebratory.

We actually have already been watching one chapter play out in the split between chef Alon Shaya and his former partners at Besh Restaurant Group.

That story came to light last month, with the Besh group saying at the time that the company and the chef had “parted ways.” Now Shaya himself has asserted that the brewing scandal over sexual harassment in the company led to his departure. In a message he shared Saturday night, Shaya said he was fired for speaking to the | The Times-Picayune reporter about those issues.

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The developments come as Shaya is in a legal fight with the Besh group over the name of Shaya restaurant. Shaya, the chef, has filed a federal trademark request for the name; the Besh group, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit seeking to protect its own use of that name.

Now that the harassment complaints are in the open, the bigger question is what will become of the Besh name.

The Shaya situation concerns just one out of the dozen restaurants in the Besh Restaurant Group, which in recent years has been expanding through partnerships with other chefs, with hotel developers and with a lot of good will as a top New Orleans culinary brand.

One repercussion hit quickly. Harrah's New Orleans Casino, once home to the restaurant Besh Steak, cut ties with Besh this weekend, and said it will re-name its steakhouse soon.

In the realm of chef-led restaurants, brands go back to reputations and the experiences that shape them. Some of these happen around the dining room, some out in the community and, of course, some can be in headlines. With new revelations on the table, what John Besh and his company do next will be defining.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.