Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard of the many 2017 allegations against famous men abusing their power in the presence of women, and those are just the famous men. Mario Batali has stepped down from his empire after four harassment allegations from female employees. Ken Friedman, another major restaurateur has recently been accused of sexual harassment. John Besh is the third addition to the high profile trio -- they all are slowly coming out of the wash.
None of this is new news. The food related hospitality industry, especially when it comes to kitchens, has always had a stigma for being the “tough-male” industry. Pioneer female chefs have been dealing with unfair treatment from male colleagues for decades and are disappointed that the media only cares about it now after the major Weinstein Hollywood scandal started a new wave of “caring for women as victims”. Regardless of the population’s intent, the attention this topic is getting is a step forward in fixing these deep societal, gender-fueled issues.
The majority of the Western population is awakening to the fact that professional industries across the board are broken. Unless it is within a female dominated field, which we can mostly count on one hand, there are necessary structures that must be implemented to force the “Broculture” (as Anthony Bourdain likes to call it) to change and make room for a less-hostile kitchen culture that will make female workers feel more comfortable. There are several important steps society must take in order to make not only the food industry, but all industries where women are subject to harassment, less intimidating for women to get involved because of the potential for feeling unsafe.
1. Encourage and emphasize your staff to never be silent about witnessing harassment taking place at your restaurant.
Since the restaurant industry is heavily male dominant, bromances can definitely be formed among co-workers. Regardless of friendships between bros, staying silent has a major cost and people should feel obligated to do the right thing and report any violations he/she/they witness.
2. Make male and female not matter anymore.
Kitchens have been notorious for being crazy places where physical labor and high energy is demanded. Getting work done and handling oneself professionally should be the priorities each staff member has when it comes to their work life. The days of the hot-headed, passionate, tough-talking, pot-throwing male cook are gone. Those energies should be harnessed creatively or physically into the individual’s livelihood, not emotionally towards other staff members.
3. Provide opportunities to uplift female talent.
Female workers have been regarded as second-class citizens in the industry, obviously due to the present “bro culture” and recognition of predominantly male chefs. Even the New York Times is guilty of favoring restaurant review articles for restaurants that are run by men. There is no sole outlet to blame for the marginalization of women in the food industry, we are all responsible and we must also take the responsibility and make the necessary efforts to changing it. It is up to restaurant management to ensure its environment is free of misogyny so sexual harassment cases do not disrupt the potential for success of your business.