Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Renowned Restaurant Acadia Faces Uncertainty as Owner/Head Chef Ryan McCaskey Continues to Face Serious Allegations of Fostering a Toxic Work Environment

The Chicago Tribune has an update regarding the serious allegations directed at Ryan McCaskey - the owner and head chef at the renowned Michelin two-starred South Loop restaurant Acadia (1639 S. Wabash):

After the last guests had left on a Sunday evening in March 2018, employees at Acadia pushed the tables and chairs aside in the restaurant’s private dining room and began unrolling sheets of plastic across the floor. A going-away party was planned for that Monday.

According to text messages shared with the Tribune, Ryan McCaskey, Acadia’s chef and owner, promised employees that the party would be an “extra naughty” affair. He said he would supply dollar bills to tip the strippers.

“He pretty much made it mandatory,” said Brendan Smith, a former Acadia cook who said he felt pressured to commute in from the suburbs on his day off to attend the party and a dinner beforehand.

That drizzly Monday night, about 15 people — Acadia staff, their friends and significant others — filed into the private dining room at one of just four Chicago restaurants to have earned at least two Michelin stars. From chairs usually occupied by customers spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars for an evening of food, wine and cocktails, McCaskey’s guests watched a raucous evening unfold.

The two performers quickly became naked and encouraged onlookers to use sex toys on them, people in attendance said. McCaskey was an eager participant, some in attendance said, licking whipped cream from the genital region of one of the performers. According to attendees, McCaskey encouraged others to become involved and chided those who did not participate, including calling Smith a homophobic term for declining to take a turn.

In an interview in September with the Tribune, McCaskey acknowledged hosting the going-away party in Acadia’s private dining room — he called it “a bad judgment decision” — and hiring the strippers to perform. He also confirmed licking whipped cream from the performer’s body.

The article continues to paint a damning picture of the work environment at Acadia.  McCaskey has attempted to brush away the stories and accusations, but it's hard to know what the path forward is for him and his restaurant.

Covid-19 has provided rationale and time for him to close up shop while he sorts these things out.  It seems like it is unlikely that he will reopen the restaurant - but hasn't confirmed one way or the other.  

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