All over the world, in light of the recent protests for justice and racial equality, people are calling out corporations, celebrities and businesses that have history of being racist, like Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit (who stepped down after his offensive tweets) and Conde Nast publications, particularly Bon Appetit, where white males in top positions failed to address racist behavior, including Bon Appetit editor in chief Adam Rapoport and Matt Duckor.
Rapoport has since stepped down as EIC, while Duckor has issued an apology to keep his job (though anti-gay tweets of his have recently surfaced, in addition to his silence on racism). There is currently a petition for his resignation.
I have noticed that many people have found it difficult to join in solidarity for racist executives to step down, so I’m making a comparison to a story I wrote two years ago, when chefs were being confronted about sexual harassment and mistreatment of staff.
When you read this story, read “sexual harassment” and “mistreatment” as “racism” to get the full picture of whether you should eat in a restaurant helmed by a racist chef.
Sexual harassment and mistreatment by notable chefs inside their restaurants has been rampant lately.
NEW: CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman has resigned.
He had come in under fire in recent days for inflammatory comments he made about the Black Lives Matter movement.https://t.co/HhHFxDFeZq
— NPR (@NPR) June 10, 2020
Everyone from Mario Batali to John Besh have been accused, later offering apologies, confirmation of claims or simply stepped down from their empires (*as a commenter declared in the comments below, Besh is still with the company. You can read her full message in the comments). Many chefs were considered idols and inspired other chefs around the world, so it was a shock to hear they were fueling and perpetuating discomfort, fear and abuse in the restaurant industry as predators.
With so many chefs under fire, it wasn’t surprising to hear the newest allegations against restauranteur Ken Friedman, who runs The Spotted Pig (among many other award-winning restaurants)— but executive chef/partner April Bloomfield 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 considered dismissive, which was reminiscent of the time Paula Deen gave her first “apology” for being racist.
April and Ken opened their new restaurant, The Hearth & Hound, in Los Angeles in 2017. Should you dine there considering April and Ken knew about sexual harassment for years, including the knowledge of an alleged “Rape Room” at their restaurant The Spotted Pig?
It’s not an easy question, and it’s often uncomfortable to think about but, we wonder: Would you eat at a restaurant where the owner discriminates gay people? Would you eat at a restaurant that refused service to muslims? Would you eat at a restaurant run by Louis C.K?
When you’re helping support sexual predators, it may appear to others that you only become part of the problem. If you do avoid the restaurant, it could have a negative impact on their business, wherein the message would be loud and clear: own up to mistakes, especially a restaurant with a racist chef.
When a celebrity chef issues an apology, it is often something the publicist manages, and it takes guts (and character) to truly accept any bad behavior they enabled (like John Besh, who stepped down from the restaurant group he created), which is more admirable than when Mario Batali issued an “apology” in his email newsletter that promoted a recipe to his cinnamon rolls.
Someone like Paula Deen doesn’t deserve success after we learned how she treated staff, 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.
What are your thoughts? Should you eat in a restaurant helmed by a racist chef? Let us know in the comments below.
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