Food & Wine

To our readers:

In the January 2018 issue of Food & Wine, we published “The Great Good Place,” an essay about the opening of Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield’s restaurant Hearth & Hound in Los Angeles and the responsibilities of restaurateurs to honor the past while drafting off history to create new spaces. Unfortunately, the issue went to press weeks before Friedman was accused of sexual harassment in the New York Times. Had we been aware of these allegations we would not have published the story.

When the Times story broke last week, I emailed the writer Joshua David Stein, the Food & Wine contributor who we sent to Los Angeles to interview Friedman late last summer, if he wanted to make a statement. You’ll find his thoughts, and statements that Friedman and Bloomfield made to the public, below. —Hunter Lewis, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine

Statement from Joshua David Stein:

"When, through intrepid reporting and the bravery of women, the New York Times broke the story that Ken Friedman, co-owner of the Hearth & Hound, had for years used his position as a powerful restaurateur to allegedly grope, harass and bully women in his employ, I thought back to a few months ago, while I was reporting this story. It was a sunny afternoon in Hollywood and we were in the unfinished courtyard of the restaurant. Ken said something like he wanted to create a fun spot, where people go to have a good time and relax. That’s what he’s good at, that’s what he’s great at, that’s part of what I call in the piece I wrote called “The Great Good Place.”

What occurs to me now and didn’t occur to me then— and which shames me before my own eyes—is that what I needed to ask of the Great Good Place is who is it good for, who finds safety there, what are they safe to do, and to whom? I hope The Hearth & Hound—flooded with sunlight, awash in marble, open to the public and the light—will be a safe space for everyone. But clearly, horrifically, Friedman and chef April Bloomfield’s restaurant, The Spotted Pig, was not. And the very heart of Ken’s cachet, the semi-private, celebrity-studded third floor, was profoundly unsafe. As the Times reported, the third floor had a nickname: the “Rape Room.”

"The Great Good Place" is about grappling with history and a restaurateur’s responsibility when they draft off history to build a new restaurant. So it’s fitting that this latest dark chapter has forced me to confront these demons of the distant and near past and the now. And my hope is that we’ll be able to build, in the future, great good places that are great and good for all."

Statement from Ken Friedman to the New York Times:

“My personal and professional life was intertwined with our restaurants and our staff. I own my behavior which can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude and frankly wrong. The women who work at our restaurants are among the best in the business, and putting any of them in humiliating situations is unjustifiable. Some incidents were not as described, but context and content are not today’s discussion. I apologize now publicly for my actions.”

“I have dedicated my career to creating memorable experiences for staff and guests alike. I have also dedicated my career to building businesses where women, and all my employees, have felt respected. But I fell short, and I’m filled with anger and regret that, in the past, some of my staff were subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment.

I would never suggest anyone accept unprofessional treatment, and those who know me, know any such reference is insulting. I can say with confidence that I have never and will never condoned sexual harassment in the workplace.

In meetings with my partner, I lectured, and I demanded, but now I know that it wasn’t enough. Now I’m learning the extent of the events, often kept from me, and I know I should have been more unrelenting. For this—way too late—I am truly sorry.

It is over. I pledge that any workplace I am a part of the employees will be judged by performance only. I pledge to show respect, always, and that under my watch no employee will endure this kind of pain again.

Our industry has work to do, and that work has already begun. In time, I hope, our work here will earn and regain everyone’s trust.”