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What Happens After Batali?

From the Editor: Sexual harassment bombshells in the industry, and two big questions

Illustration by Brittany Holloway-Brown

This post originally appeared on December 16, 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.

On Monday, Mario Batali stepped away from his businesses following an Eater report that he groped and generally harassed at least four women over a span of two decades. On Tuesday, the Times dropped its investigation into The Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman, who also stepped aside from his restaurant empire following similar allegations. These follow the pieces on Johnny Iuzzini, on John Besh. The four men have lost TV and product deals, have been edited out of shows and dropped from charity boards. Partners are denouncing them, customers boycotting them. I can’t pity the men, but I feel for those in their orbits.

It’s depressing on a personal level, but on a professional level right now I have two major concerns to grapple with, both relating to what’s next. First, how do we cover these men's restaurants? Covering the news of the restaurant of an alleged assaulter (be it Batali or Paul Qui or Michael Chiarello) is somewhat straightforward. We cover it, but we give the context: “This restaurant is opening, but P.S. the person who owns it is accused of hitting his spouse.”

Less straightforward is our coverage in service-y maps and guides, where the author has less of an opportunity to provide context, especially as our recommendations also live in other places, e.g., in an OpenTable filter or in Google search results. I’m not going to tell someone whether to boycott a restaurant group or not, but I want them to have all the information.

Second question is just: Where do we go next? I have spreadsheets full of alleged bad men and an inbox stuffed with unsettling stories (remember: you can always email me). I can’t turn Eater into the Sexual Harassment Investigations Task Force and report out all of them right now, given our resources. But I can’t ignore them. And it doesn’t feel good to greenlight a story just because of the notoriety of the accused — e.g., you were assaulted by a lesser known chef and therefore you don’t get justice — but we have to start somewhere.

Part of me would like to just pack up and move on to whatever the exciting new opening is, to stick my fingers in my ears and forget that this is all happening. But I realize that’s a luxury and a privilege many in the industry don’t have — and so, onward.

Opening of the Week: The Corner/Detroit Axe

Inside New Board Game Bar and Axe Throwing Venue in Ferndale, Michigan
Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard

Recreational ax throwing seems to be a growth business. I wonder why.

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This Week on the Upsell

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This week we’ll be talking with Eater NY’s Serena Dai about the behind-the-scenes work that went into covering Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct allegations, so please subscribe and check it out.

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