Published: 13:52, 22 May 2021
| Updated: 14:42, 23 May 2021
Kent celebrity chef Mark Sargeant has said he is "deeply ashamed" and has apologised after an American Airlines flight attendant accused him of sexually assaulting her during a work trip.
The former owner of Folkestone restaurant Rocksalt told KentOnline in a statement he has apologised to Kimberly Goesling, 52, from Texas after "misreading the situation" but denied allegations of sexual assault during a visit to Germany in 2018.
He said he had never admitted to sexual assault and is "horrified" the allegations have surfaced during legal proceedings between her and the airline.
Mr Sargeant said he went to Ms Goesling's room under the wrong impression she was interested in him while he was intoxicated.
He says he marked the end of a successful week with some celebratory drinks with his team.
"I had also taken a sleeping pill in anticipation of going to bed. I am deeply ashamed of how I then behaved," he continued.
"While intoxicated, I went to Ms Goesling's hotel room under the wrong impression she was interested in me.
"I made clear that I was interested in her, including by attempting to kiss her. Ms Goesling said she was flattered but that she wasn't interested.
"Having completely misread the situation and after a short conversation in which I apologised, I left her room.
"I later apologised again for my behaviour and she said that there was no reason for me to be embarrassed or ashamed."
Mr Sargent, who is no longer affiliated with the Rocksalt Group, says he reached an amicable settlement in 2020 to resolve the matter.
"While I do not recognise Ms Goesling's version of events, I whole-heartedly apologise for the indignity of my behaviour that night, the dishonour to my wife and the lack of respect shown towards Ms Goesling. Contrary to reports, I have never admitted to sexual assault and I am horrified by these allegations," he added.
"I was embarrassed and ashamed and I also didn't want my wife and family to find out.
"The fact that alcohol mixed with prescription drugs influenced my behaviour is no excuse.
"My family are my world and I will strive each and every day to re-earn their faith and trust in me."
Ms Goesling, who has worked for American Airlines for 30 years, went public with her allegations earlier this week, widely reported in media around the world. She is suing her employer for allegedly covering up her claims.
According to the Daily Mail, the airline said they severed ties with the chef following the allegations but the suit claims they 'discouraged (Goesling) from further reporting the incident'.
Ms Goesling also spoke to NBC about the incident.
She said: "They've deposed my best friends. They reached out and deposed my ex-boyfriend.
"I want an apology. I'd like to sit down and talk to our leaders to find out what happened. What went wrong?"
Mr Sargeant, who has worked alongside Gordon Ramsay, is said to have knocked on Goesling's hotel room door in the early hours after allegedly sending inappropriate text messages.
Ms Goesling claims he then sexually assaulted her. Mr Sargeant denies this.
Ms Goesling, who had been in Germany helping the airline pick a new menu for international flights, told NBC: "It wasn't like a light knocking.
"It was (like) something was wrong, somebody needed something. I remember going to the door and thinking, 'Wow, it's him!'"
"That's when he forced his way into my room."
Mr Sargeant was not criminally charged, Dallas News reports.
"I'm not Jane Doe. I'm Kimberly Goesling...
After filing her complaint anonymously Ms Goesling has since decided to go public with her allegations.
She told former Fox host Gretchen Carlson: "At the end of the day, I'm not Jane Doe. I'm Kimberly Goesling.
"I am done. I am no longer going to hide from what happened because I'm not the bad guy and I have nothing to hide from. If anyone should be hiding, it's American and not me."
American Airlines said:"We have an unwavering commitment to our team members and we're committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for everyone who works at our airline.
"Immediately after the incident was reported, we conducted an investigation and severed our business relationship with the accused individual.
"Because this matter involves ongoing litigation, we aren't able to comment further at this time, other than to say that Ms. Goesling remains a valued member of our team."
A trial between the airline and Ms Goesling is scheduled for July; American have reportedly asked for a delay.