A former cook who worked at the now shuttered Toronto restaurant Mildred Pierce is alleging that the owner turned a "blind eye" to physical abuse happening in the kitchen. Ivy Knight tells the Toronto Star that Donna Dooher, restaurateur and CEO of Restaurants Canada — the country's largest restaurant association — told Knight to "suck it up" when she came forward to say that she had been assaulted by a superior.
Knight says the sous chef, Ephraim Paras, slammed her into a counter and choked her after a dinner service in 2002. Knight claims that when she refused to take apart the stove and "clean it until it shines" and told Paras to "go f*** himself," he pressed the edge of his clipboard against her throat: "A vein bulged on his forehead and his eyes were wide with rage."
Knight says that Dooher told her she was wrong and that Knight "had no right to talk back to my sous chef or disobey his orders." Knight, who is now a cookbook author, wrote about the alleged attack (without identifying the persons involved) for Vice earlier this year. Dooher tells the paper that "we all have different sides of the story," and that the allegations are "really powerful." Dooher didn't comment on the situation directly but noted: "I've always been a big supporter of women in the kitchen and of Ivy too." Dooher added that "she doesn't believe workplace sexual harassment is any more prevalent in the restaurant industry than in other work environments."
Regardless of Dooher's beliefs, sexual harassment is a major and rampant issue in professional kitchens, especially for women. Another Toronto restaurant recently came under fire when its former pastry chef came forward with harassment allegations. Kate Burnham says that she was "routinely sexually harassed and abused" by three male chefs who used to work at Weslodge. The male chefs would grab her breasts, make lewd comments, and call her names. Weslodge's parent company admitted that the harassment may have actually taken place and are attempting to settle with Burnham though mediation.