John Besh, the New Orleans-based celebrity chef and restaurateur whose media manager told the Miami Herald earlier this week that he would not pull out of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival despite allegations of sexual harassment, has apparently changed his mind.
Besh called the $250-a-person event’s co-host Scott Conant and told him he would not be attending, festival director Lee Brian Schrager told the Miami Herald.
The dinner was originally scheduled for Scarpetta restaurant on Feb. 24 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
Amanda Freitag, a New York chef and cookbook author, will step in for Besh.
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“We’re happy to have her,” Schrager told SouthFlorida.com. “John has been a big supporter of the festival for a long time, and we feel badly for everyone affected.”
Besh, 49, resigned from his namesake Besh Restaurant Group earlier this month after 25 current and former employees told the New Orleans Times-Picayune they were victims of sexual harassment while working for his multi-state, 1,200-employee empire.
Two women filed complaints against the married father of four with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One was the company’s social media manager, whose complaint stated “vulgar and offensive comments, aggressive un-welcomed touching and sexual advances were condoned and sometimes even encouraged by managers and supervisors” throughout the restaurant group.
Reports of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct have been rife in the entertainment industry since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke a month ago. Along with Weinstein, actors or Hollywood moguls like Miami Beach-born director/producer Brett Ratner, actors Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Ben and Casey Affleck and director James Toback have all been accused of improper behavior.
Miami Herald Food Editor Carlos Frias contributed to this report.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.