Orange County chef Daniel Godinez is in some hot water regarding his new restaurant Cevicheria Nais — though the controversy has nothing to do with the food itself. Instead, OC Weekly has taken the modern Mexican chef to task for his partnership with a former Southern California labor leader who was reportedly removed from his prior position over a series of sexual harassment allegations.
According to OC Weekly the person in question, Julio Perez, was ousted from his role as the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation back in January, after multiple women made a number of allegations regarding his inappropriate behavior. An ensuing internal investigation looked into allegations that Perez had inappropriately touched two women at AFL-CIO events, that he had repeatedly shown employees pornographic videos at work, and that he had threatened retaliation against a female employee if a once-consensual sexual relationship did not continue. Ultimately, the investigator recommended Perez’s termination, a move that the OCLF Executive Board unanimously voted to do back in January of this year.
Then just last month the OC Weekly found that Perez was back up and running as a partner in Godinez’s new Cevicheria Nais in Santa Ana. The restaurant only opened its doors a few weeks back, but the Weekly shows screenshots of several social media posts protesting Perez’s involvement with running Santo Broders Group, which owns Cevicheria Nais. Godinez is the CEO of said group, and Perez was listed in March as the secretary of the company.
Reached for comment directly, Godinez tells Eater:
I cook, I don’t know or do politics. Julio had a minority share [in the restaurant] and he voluntarily divested. I can’t speak for him, but I know he didn’t have any legal issues related or pending. From my view, it was and is all politics. Not something that has anything to do with what we’re trying to do.
Though Perez was involved with Cevicheria Nais’s opening, he has now divested and is no longer involved with the restaurant or the group overall.
Cevicheria Nais is far from the first restaurant to be associated with an accused sexual harasser. Just this week the New York Times reported that multiple James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Gabrielle Hamilton of NYC’s Prune would be stepping in to run embattled restaurant The Spotted Pig alongside her partner and co-chef Ashley Merriman. Last year, longtime Los Angeles barman Marcos Tello was publicly accused of sexual assault by a number of colleagues from bars across the city.
Prior to opening Cevicheria Nais, Godinez made a name for himself cooking modern Mexican food at Anepalco in Orange County. He also briefly helmed the Mexican restaurant Maestro in Pasadena, but is no longer involved. Cevicheria Nais remains open, keeping daily hours from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.