Weslodge — a restaurant that serves American fare in Toronto, Canada — is facing backlash after its former pastry chef went public with sexual harassment allegations this week. Kate Burnham filed an application with Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal that claims she was "routinely sexually harassed and abused" by three male chefs. Burnham says that they would grab her breasts, make lewd comments, and call her names among other forms for harassment.
While two of the chefs have no comment and the third denied the allegations, the restaurant is now facing repercussions, writes the Toronto Star. Weslodge is hosting an event Sunday called Swig, however, a gin company is now pulling out of the event. Joshua Groom — a brand ambassador for Ungava Gin — says that while he does not know if the allegations are true or not, the company doesn't "want to be associated with a situation like that." Local chefs are also speaking out against the situation: Chef Eric Wood (Maple Leaf Tavern) notes in a Facebook post that it is "not OK to be silent about this stuff [any longer]." A number of people have taken to restaurant's Yelp and Facebook pages to voice their outrage at the situation, writing that they will never return to the restaurant.
Perhaps the loudest response to the situation is by Jen Agg — the Toronto restaurateur behind The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner who has long been outspoken about the issue of harassment in kitchens. Agg told Eater yesterday that she is organizing a conference called "Kitchen Bitches: Smashing the Patriarchy One Plate at a Time." She tells the Toronto Star she has already locked down a date, a venue, and prominent panelists including chefs from across North America to discuss "ingrained, systemic, emotional abuses (and sometimes physical) [in the kitchen]."
One of the panelists at Agg's conference — which will take place at Toronto's Revival Bar in September — is Atlanta-based chef Hugh Acheson. He tells the paper, "It's high time we get them out into the open... It's ludicrous that we turn a blind eye to these things in favor of getting a meal out in time." As for the owners of the restaurants, INK Entertainment and Icon Legacy Hospitality, they are remaining pretty silent except for noting that they "do not tolerate any form of workplace harassment." Eater has reached out to Weslodge for comment.
Update 6/16/15 4:45 p.m.: INK Entertainment and Icon Legacy Hospitality have provided Eater with an official statement.
Both ICON Legacy Hospitality and INK Entertainment do not tolerate any form of workplace harassment. Both companies have always had a detailed workplace harassment prevention policy in place, and are committed to providing a safe work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.
Our workplace harassment prevention policy is visibly posted in our restaurants, kitchens and staff rooms at all times and is compliant with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
We have semi annual feedback sessions that are facilitated by myself along with the General Manager of each venue. We are currently reviewing the frequency in which we conduct these feedback sessions to provide better access and more forums for dialogue and discussion.