Are Accused Chefs and Restaurateurs Still Making Money from Their Restaurants?
Over the past year, horrifying stories of sexual misconduct in restaurant kitchens have surfaced with a force that's unprecedented. To be sure, women have endured workplace harassment, in restaurants and elsewhere, long before this behavior made headlines, but now that the conversation captivates mass audiences, the industry has begun to shift, however slowly, as alleged perpetrators of harassment face consequences they never had before: loss of endorsement deals, television shows, business opportunities, and public support.
But do chefs and restaurateurs who've faced public #MeToo reckonings still profit from the very restaurants where their alleged misconduct took place? As Eater pointed out in an important January piece, "Dear Bad Men: Divest From Your Restaurants Already," "stepping away" from a restaurant—as many of these chefs have claimed to—is not the same as divesting, and many accused figures have been slow to cut financial ties from their businesses.
As diners look to make more nuanced decisions about where they eat, we've rounded up the current business status of chefs and restaurateurs who've been accused of sexual misconduct, some of whom are currently under criminal investigation.
The celebrity chef and former cohost of The Chew is currently under his second sexual assault investigation by the NYPD, according to the New York Times. This new report from CBS 60 Minutes emerges months after the first accounts of alleged rampant sexual harassment were reported in December. (Batali has said he “vehemently denies” allegations of nonconsensual sex.)
B&B Hospitality group, which encompasses over 20 restaurants that belong to Batali and partners Joe and Lidia Bastianich, released this statement to CBS: “The accounts tonight were chilling and deeply disturbing ... Our partnership with Mr. Batali is ending.”
According to that statement, Batali will be bought out of his restaurants by July 1. (Nancy Silverton will also be part of the aquisition.) As GrubStreet points out, "The chef will presumably walk away with a sizable sum of money."
In December, Batali was removed from daily operation of his restaurants.
As of May, the celebrity chef and Top Chef alum still remains in control of his restaurants, Eater reports. Earlier this month, he settled his sexual harassment lawsuit. He has not cut any financial ties with his restaurants, nor has he purported to "step away."
Months following extensive sexual misconduct allegations against NYC restaurateur Ken Friedman, longtime collaborator April Bloomfield issued a statement to CBS on May 20 saying she was "in the final stages" of cutting professional ties with her longtime partner with whom she opened the Breslin, the Spotted Pig, and more acclaimed NYC restaurants.
While Friedman said, in December, he would "step away" from operations of his restaurants after the extensive Times report on alleged sexual harassment at the Spotted Pig came out, this phrasing seems to have been left intentionally vague.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Dana Katzakian and Josh Even of SF's Tosca Cafe, a restaurant in Friedman's vast empire, attempted to buy the business when allegations against Friedman first came out in December, but they found little success. This week, they announced that they had quit the restaurant.
“It was an institution. It had a legacy,” Katzakian told the Chronicle. “We felt strongly that taking ownership ourselves, we could clear Tosca’s name. It just didn’t happen.”
According to the Advocate, a spokesperson for the group "could not comment on what Besh intends to do with his ownership stake in the company."
The newly-named BRG Hospitality will open its first new restaurant post-scandal (and with new leadership) in Houston this summer. Since October, Shannon White, the former chef at Domenica, has led BRG Hospitality and has acted as CEO.
In January, the New York Times reported that John Besh is still an owner of BRG Hospitality, which oversees eight restaurants.
"We are trying to figure out what, if any, role he may have in the future,” White told the Times.