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Publican Fires Head Chef After Staff Shares 'Inappropriate' Image Of Worker

By  Ariel Cheung and Alisa Hauser | October 23, 2017 5:12pm | Updated on October 23, 2017 5:28pm

 Cosmo Goss, executive chef at The Publican, was fired this week.
Cosmo Goss, executive chef at The Publican, was fired this week.
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CHICAGO — Publican restaurants executive chef Cosmo Goss has been fired, Publican's parent company announced Monday, months after he was shown an "inappropriate" photo of an employee but failed to discipline staff involved in sharing the image without the worker's consent.

One Off Hospitality Group, the company that owns some of Chicago's top restaurants like avec, Big Star and five Publican-branded eateries, said it also fired Antonio Molina, the general manager of Publican Anker in Wicker Park.

The news was first reported by Eater Chicago.

Goss saw the photo in late 2016 at Publican Anker and failed to report the photo or fire the person who showed it to him, according to statements from both Goss and the seven partners of One Off Hospitality Group.

When the person in the photo later brought the incident to the attention of higher officials this fall, the restaurant group launched an investigation involving outside e attorneys in order to understand the "full scope" of the allegations, they said.

"It's our responsibility to address instances of inappropriate workplace conduct thoroughly and with zero tolerance," the statement said. "In our opinion, respect and safety in the workplace are not up for debate, regardless of the position you hold or where you work."

During the investigation, Goss was not permitted to enter Publican Anker or other One Off restaurants in Wicker Park.

A spokeswoman for the restaurant did not say when Goss was fired, other than immediately after the investigation was completed.

Goss, who recently co-authored "Cheers To The Publican" with One Off partner and celebrity chef Paul Kahan, will not participate in the book tour or "any activities regarding our restaurants or the book, moving forward," the partners said.

Goss said he was shown the photo "without warning or invitation," but acknowledged that the "seemingly fleeting moment was wholly unprofessional and unacceptable" in his statement.

"I regret not doing enough to address the issue," he said. "When this incident happened, I was in a position to make a difference, and did not rise to the occasion."

Goss said he will continue to work with One Off through a collaboration in Underscore Hospitality, which he formed in March with fellow One Off chef Erling Wu-Bower and Joshua Tilden, the group's director of strategic operations.

Along with One Off partners Donnie Madia, Terry Alexander and Paul Kahan, the three plan to open Pacific Standard Time this fall in the former Tavernita at 151 W. Erie St.

Goss already had planned to leave One Off Hospitality to focus on the new venture and was in the process of leaving when the allegations came to light in the last couple months.

"My partners and I will bring an overdue perspective with a strict set of standards to our next venture," Goss said. "There is tremendous opportunity within the hospitality industry at large for deeper training and awareness — and not only at the managerial level."

Goss said he plans to include continual training on preventing sexual harassment and hostile work environments and "all-encompassing sensitivity for all employees."

One Off Hospitality said Goss' involvement with both Pacific Standard Time and Underscore Hospitality is under evaluation, and a formal decision on his role there has not been made.

When reached Monday, Molina said he was "blindsided" by the firing. The veteran of One Off Hospitality Group worked at Publican in the West Loop for seven years and recently transferred to the new Publican Anker at 1576 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park.

“They did not say I was fired for the allegations," he said. "They didn’t tell me it was for a specific reason or reprimand me. They just asked me if I was aware of this photo going around."

Molina said the employee who shared the photo was dating the woman in it, but he declined to say whether he saw the photo himself.

Molina said his firing Oct. 9 made him realize “never to take anything lightly, even an allegation where I don’t know all the facts, to bring them to the right person immediately."

One Off partners, which also includes Kimberly Galban, Eduard Seitan, Rick Diarmit and Peter Garfield, said they have "zero tolerance" for inappropriate workplace conduct. The group requires managers to participate in anti-harassment training, as well.

The scandal comes in the wake of recent sexual harassment and assault claims against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein that span decades.

As Weinstein has been roundly condemned by those in the entertainment industry, allegations have come out against actor Ben Affleck, director James Toback and Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney's team doctor.

On Saturday, New Orleans-based celebrity chef John Besh was accused of sexual harassment and assault in a Times-Picayune article in which 25 women say his restaurant group allowed such behavior to "flourish."

The allegations also invigorated a decade-old social media movement, spurring thousands of women to share that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted using the #metoo hashtag.