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From the Editor: Once again, we need to talk about sexism and sleazes

Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By Coca-Cola - Dinner with Jean-Georges Vongerichten part of the Bank of America Dinner Series presented by The Wall Street Journal Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for NYCWFF

This post originally appeared on October 28, 2017, 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.

I was going to write about Hawai‘i. How we launched our giant travel package, our most ambitious yet. How I’m so proud of the team that created it. That it’s the best combination of pure service and smart journalism; that it’s fun but intellectual, helpful but respectful — and thorough as hell. How it’s an ideal primer on one of the most interesting and rewarding places to eat in the US.

But instead we need to talk about sexism and sleazes (again, and again).

Last Saturday, writer and restaurant critic Brett Anderson published a whopper of an exposé on New Orleans chef John Besh’s restaurant group, which included the stories of 25 women, nine of whom went on the record, to allege sexual harassment and an unsafe work environment in the restaurants. Various male chefs and managers verbally abused women, hit on them, touched them inappropriately, and made them feel unsafe. One woman alleged she was coerced into sleeping with Besh.

The sad news is no one was really all that surprised. We’ve seen it before with lawsuits against Michael Chiarello, Julian Medina, Julian Niccolini, Todd English. According to a report by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 70 percent of female restaurant workers and some 50 percent of male employees say they “experienced some form of sexual harassment” from managers. Restaurateur Jen Agg, in a powerful op-ed for the New Yorker this week, recalled a string of allegations against Toronto restaurants that resulted in little change. Chef Preeti Mistry wrote for Grub Street that the aggressive culture of kitchens is “rampant to the point where many women reinforce this attitude.”

The positive this week is the piece did something that I didn’t see with the above lawsuits: Besh stepped down from his restaurant group. One of his restaurants closed. He lost a TV deal, a casino partnership, and maybe a Top Chef episode.

I spoke with Anderson for our podcast the Eater Upsell (live this coming Tuesday), and he echoed a lot of what the Harvey Weinstein reporters said: The published story wouldn’t be possible without the support of a strong publication. It took eight months of reporting and building trust and gathering stories that could have resulted in no story.

So I’m really happy to see reporters at the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post soliciting accounts of sexual harassment in restaurants, because I trust they’ll do it right.

We will do it right, too. We’re committed to it. So if you want to share a story or want us to look into someone, please email me. And this is not just a conversation for women to have. I’d love to hear opinions, stories, statements from male and female leaders and workers across the industry. We’ll set up further anonymous points of contact next week and support the effort into the future. But know it’s something we take seriously and will investigate responsibly. This week’s revelation of sexual misconduct within our own company drives home how pervasive this behavior is, and how important it is to bring these stories to light.

seafood d’tom yum
Smoking Goat’s Seafood D’Tom Yum
Ben McMahon

Opening of the Week: Smoking Goat 2.0

Who is behind it?: Ben Chapman, the chef and restaurateur behind the super popular restaurants Smoking Goat and Kiln.

What is it?: Like the others, it’s a Thai restaurant, this one focused on the drinking snacks and comfort food served in the late-night canteens of Bangkok.

Where is it?: Shoreditch, London.

When did it open?: Yesterday.

Why should I care?: The food looks absolutely gorgeous, and I predict queues from the moment it opens. I’m curious about whether or not British diners care whether or not the chef is Thai (he’s not), or if he’s like the Andy Ricker/David Thompson of the UK.

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