Besh's former exec assistant alleges she refused chef's advances, lost job

Interview with former Besh employee Maggie Moore

(WVUE) - "I didn't do anything wrong. This wasn't something that I could have avoided," former Besh Restaurant Group employee Maggie Moore said.

Moore said she's been silent for too long about what unfolded when she worked as Chef John Besh's executive assistant.

"I applied for the position and didn't hear back for a while. Once I got it, I couldn't be happier to be working for the Besh Restaurant Group. In my opinion, it's the best job that I could have gotten at the time. I just had opportunities that I wouldn't have had elsewhere," Moore said.

Moore was hired in 2013. She says she loved her job, but soon noticed an atmosphere in the office that made her uncomfortable.

"There were comments about what we were wearing, how we looked in the office, but also when we were in social situations it was the touching and being too close, and I always kind of looked past it and ignored it until there was one incident where John took it way too far," Moore said.

About six months into her new job, Moore said she and Besh traveled to Los Angeles for a business trip. The first night, she said the two went to dinner and there was an inappropriate conversion about her ex-boyfriend.

"He just wanted to know too much about the relationship and how my work life had to do with that. He also told me some intimate things about him and his past relationships, and again, it's things that an employer and an employee just don't discuss," Moore said.

Moore said the following night, she and Besh attended a function with other people.

"I remember it vividly in my mind, him taking my hair and putting it behind my ear and commenting on how pretty my hair was every time I put it behind my ear. He is really close to me, and I keep trying to involve other people in the conversation so it's not just a one-on-one between the two of us. There is just no personal space or boundaries. We were out with people we worked the event with, and then he asked me if I would go back to his hotel room with him. I told him no. He kept insisting and I tried to say, 'Let's just hang out here. Let's just have a drink with everyone.' He kept wanting me to come back with him and I said no. He just stormed out of the bar," Moore said.

Moore said once back at the office, she told others about what happened and was eventually moved to another position within the company. From that point on, she said Besh did not treat her well.

"I mean, looking back on it, it's like he was trying to bully me to just leave. It would also be ups and downs. He would talk to me and say, 'I want to repair our relationship together. I want us to be able to communicate better,' and then the next second he would get upset with me," Moore said.

In 2016, Moore was fired from the company.

"There was no written warning. There were no negative reviews. There was nothing that would constitute firing someone, and his business partner, Octavio, is the one who fired me. He simply said we don't need your position anymore, and I told him you and I both know the reason we're here goes back to when I wouldn't have sex with John, and that is why I'm being fired. And the response was, 'I'm sorry,' and that was that," Moore said.

Moore said BRG continued to pay her a salary for several weeks, and she eventually got a new job, but emotionally she was broken.

"I didn't even tell my parents what happened for a whole week, and I mean I just totally shut down. I was so embarrassed. I was distraught that I stayed with a company like this, and I was in this position," Moore said.

Moore is not one of the 25 other women who were part of the | Times-Picayune investigation that led to Besh stepping down from the everyday operations of his company. She said she can only talk about her own experiences in the corporate office.

"I hope that women see that this isn't something to be ashamed of. This isn't something to hide, and up until now, I'm still scared talking about it, but it needs to be talked about. It needs to be discussed. It is a conversation that has been held off in my personal situation for way too long," Moore said.

John Besh refused our requests for an on-camera interview. The company released the following statement:

"Ms. Moore was laid off when her position was eliminated, with severance provided to her while she looked for another job. Later, when BRG expanded she was offered an opportunity to rejoin the company, which she declined. Any suggestion that her departure had anything to do with sexual harassment or retaliation is unequivocally false."

Moore said she was never formally offered a new job.


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