The silence is deafening because we are all guilty. It’s not OK, but it is all too embedded in the culture. I can’t say with 100% certainty that I’ve never made anyone uncomfortable. I’ve made dick-shaped pastries and gotten too close going down the line - wasn’t it all fun and games?
It’s work hard, play hard. It’s a place where alcohol is part of your compensation - shift drinks, the chef losing his shit and yelling after three coffee-cups of red wine, the supposedly progressive tactic of adding a six pack for the kitchen to menus. You can get away without social skills if you make excellent food, and years of alcohol and/or drug use don’t generally encourage emotional maturity. So it’s perfect conditions for inappropriate behavior to fester, and excuses are made for talent.
I mean, take John Besh. One woman had a specific complaint against him, 20 others had complaints against other people in the group but he appropriately took the heat as leader. Yes, complaints should be taken seriously and there should have been an HR dept dishing out consequences. Yet how many Top Chef contestants swoon over him as a guest judge? I bet that out of his 1000 employees, there are 20 who totally would screw him after the holiday party. He’s pretty, charming, talented; I’d be tempted.
Change is slow, but the screaming, pan throwing, alcoholic asshole chef is becoming less acceptable so hopefully too the womanizer. I do blame alcohol to a large extent, maybe less alcohol and more respect will help. Since Mario Batali is known for his capacity for wine, it comes as zero surprise that he did and said things he shouldn’t have. We do need to listen, speak out, and act like professionals, but also let’s stop expecting cooks to work in inhumane conditions for peanuts and beer and maybe they won’t act like animals.