A Memo on the Current Climate of Sexual Scandals in Relation to the Restaurant Industry

#86this: Main Menu

By Kate McLean
photo by jennifer livingston

1OAK_ 110.jpg

Mario Batali writes an apology email to his fans and checks it twi-. Wait, I don’t think he ran this by anyone. It’s hard to narrow down what's more disturbing about Mario Batali: his ponytail, his dart-y little eyes, his meager mea culpa, or the fact that he tagged on an I’m-sorry-for-sexually-harassing-you Cinnamon Roll recipe.

Presently, society finds itself in the midst of a much needed cleanse. It’s no surprise to the restaurant industry that we are seeing big time chefs on the roasting spit. By nature, chefs are creative, passionate, humorous, cocky, and often times inappropriate. Thus, creating a magical kitchen culture where most H.R. departments dare not tread.  

Combine that culture with a hard night’s service and a few shots of bourbon, and you have the ideal environment for sexual advances, wanted and unwanted.

I used to blush at the dirty jokes the older male cooks would tell me. I used to ignore the way certain people would touch my hips as they passed behind me. I used to feel like I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t want to make it awkward for them.  

Until one day, I turned around, looked the culprit dead in the eye, and said, “Don’t touch me.” All it took was one confident moment and from that day on I had no problem calling out unwanted behavior.

I recently worked a service with a friend who is an executive chef and owner of a restaurant. It was a busy Saturday night and in the rush, a new server walked behind her and touched her in the same way. She quickly called after him, “Hey, you don’t need to touch me when you walk by.” He became embarrassed and quickly apologized. She shut down the behavior neatly and I knew it hadn’t been the first time she had needed to.

One confident moment is all it takes to get the ball rolling. It’s a shame the job falls to us to call out behavior like this, but it does and we must.


Kate McLean has cooked in kitchens all over the world, most notably as executive chef for the acclaimed Tony’s restaurant in Houston.  She loves to explore any and all spontaneous activities. Netflix on the couch with a bottle of Barolo is good, too.

Jennifer Livingston is a photographer based in New York. She has shot the cover stories for all 10 issues of Cherry Bombe. www.jenniferlivingston.com


back to #86this