Should you eat in a restaurant the chef is accused of sexual harrassment?
Sexual abuse, assault, harassment and mistreatment by notable chefs is rampant lately. Everyone from Mario Batali to John Besh have been accused and proved their guilt with apologies, confirmation of claims or simply stepping down from their empire. In one hand, it sucks because they were our heroes and inspired other chefs around the world. In the other, they were fueling and perpetuating discomfort, fear and abuse in the restaurant industry by being sexual predators. This is some serious shit, and I'm glad stars aligned in the universe to call them out. Sexual harassment is fucked up, and it will come back to haunt you.
At this point, with so many chefs under fire, I wasn't surprised with the newest allegations against restauranteur Ken Friedman, who runs The Spotted Pig (among many other award-winning restaurants) but I was shocked executive chef/partner April Bloomfield (note: NOT an old white man) knew all about it. In a story covered by New York Times, staff reported they were constantly harassed and went to April to complain but she basically responded: "Get used to it or find another job." Then, after that went viral, she went on record with a formal apology that was shockingly dismissive. Wow. What a bitch. It reminds me of the time Paula Deen gave her first "apology" for being racist.
Anyway, April and Ken had just opened their new restaurant, The Hearth & Hound, in Los Angeles last week. It actually looks awesome. But should you dine there considering April and Ken promoted sexual assault for years, including knowing about an alleged "Rape Room" at their restaurant The Spotted Pig?
Here's the thing. Would you eat at a restaurant the owner discriminated gay people? Would you eat at a restaurant that refused service to black people? Would you eat at a restaurant run by the Taliban? The only reason these restaurants were successful in the first place is because of the people dining there. When you're helping support these sexual predators, you're part of the problem and helping enable it. If we dismiss this altogether, how does it prevent it from happening again in the future? The guilty chefs shouldn't get off so easy. Issuing an apology is something the publicist manages, and it takes guts (and character) to truly accept the bad behavior they enabled (like John Besh, who stepped down from the restaurant group he created). April Bloomfield is trying to push this under the rug (the same way Mario Batali issued an "apology" in his email newsletter which shamelessly promoted a recipe to his cinnamon rolls). These chefs need to understand terrible actions have consequences, and if we continue to eat at their restaurants, they will feel like the whole thing just blew over, no lesson learned.
A racist like Paula Deen doesn't deserve success, and neither do chefs that allowed sexual harassment in their restaurants. There are a LOT of great chefs out there who are good human beings and should get the deserved spotlight.