clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How the Gabrielle Hamilton News Could Have Played Differently

From the Editor: Are the new Spotted Pig partners having the conversation they think they are?

Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By Coca-Cola - Dinner with Gabrielle Hamilton, Nancy Silverton and Dominique Crenn part of the Bank of America Dinner Series presented by The Wall Street Journal Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images for NYCWFF

This post originally appeared on June 16, 2018, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

When news broke last week that restaurant world icon Gabrielle Hamilton and her Prune partner and wife Ashley Merriman aim to team up with accused sexual harasser Ken Friedman on his beleaguered (but still thriving!) restaurant the Spotted Pig, I figured there must be a reasonable explanation or a wrinkle I wasn’t seeing.

I thought maybe they would come out and say, “Listen, he’s not going to sell or close the restaurant, and it continues to be busy, so this is a way for us to build a great culture for the staff and GET PAID. We need money, and we’re going to GET PAID.” Depending on the deal, it could mean more money for deserving women, and less for an alleged predator. I still wouldn’t go there, but I would understand it.

Or I thought they could say, “We are longtime friends with Ken, and we’re working toward a path of forgiveness based on his serious remorse and communication with his alleged victims.” I thought maybe Ken would join in the conversation, to apologize, to explain, to assert publicly that what happened at his restaurant wasn’t okay.

Instead, his new prospective partners said they like to party just like Ken, but without the harassment. They said he’ll be like a reformed spouse on his second marriage (better behaved this time around). They said he shouldn’t be deprived of money, comparing the calls for him to divest from his restaurant to capital punishment, and accusing his detractors of sharing a bloodlust. They said they should be lauded a la humanitarian chef José Andrés for cleaning up a “disaster.” They talked about a man’s redemption, they talked about “truth and reconciliation” without mentioning his remorse (or his victims). They spoke of the Pig as if it’s an entity bigger than us all that needs to be saved.

I know it shouldn’t necessarily matter how you sell it or spin it or explain it to the public when the decision and the outcome are the same. But it’s hard to have the nuanced conversation they claim to desire, the paradigm shift they claim to embody, without centering the victims over the bad actor, without grappling with what contrition and forgiveness and reconciliation should look like here.

Opening of the week: Tacocina

Alex Staniloff

Who’s behind it: New York empire builder Danny Meyer.

What is it: A taco stand in a new public park, overseen by chef Barbara Garcia.

Where is it: Domino Park, a new development on the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

When did it open: Last weekend.

Why should I care: I personally care because I have lived in this part of New York (although not at the waterfront) for 12 years and used to go to bars and house parties and shows near this new park back when I was fun and this looked more like an industrial wasteland. That was a different Williamsburg. In 2005, our former mayor and his administration re-zoned 175 blocks of the waterfront area, leading to the current Miami-esque skyline and an ensuing influx of bankers and yuppies, hotels and sleek nightclubs, and mainstream brands like J.Crew, Chipotle, Whole Foods, and SoulCycle.

The completion of this park, at the site of the landmark Domino Sugar Factory, and the arrival of a mass market taco stand from a Midwestern-born restaurant magnate, is, to me, the coup de grace for the ‘90s and early aughts iteration of this neighborhood.

I’ve lived in and studied New York long enough to accept that change is part of the game here, and this isn’t the first once-artsy enclave to become unaffordable and sanitized. I can’t get too sad about it.

I appreciate the new trend (often, as here, mandated by zoning) of private developers building public parks instead of locked-off private courtyards as part of their mega projects, as well as the slow and gradual process of opening up the waterfront to New Yorkers. It’s an amenity that urban planners (Robert Moses, most notably) have historically underutilized, and that the Bloomberg administration, for all its faults, appreciated as an asset.

As for the food, a Los Tacos No. 1 might have been a cooler choice, but Meyer, with restaurants in parks and stadiums and train stations up and down the East Coast, was the obvious choice. I’m happy he installed Garcia, a Mexico native, to plan the whole thing.

On Eater

On the Upsell

Last week, Dan and I talked to Rodney Scott, the James Beard award-winning pitmaster, about his life mastering whole hog, how one festival in 2010 opened his eyes up to a whole world of barbecue and new opportunities, and how he’d like to expand to New York and beyond. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Off Eater

Subscribe now to get Amanda Kludt’s newsletter directly in your inbox each week.

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day