An Open Letter To Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman

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June 14, 2018 by Diniquette

Yesterday, when you announced your plans to partner up with Ken Friedman, I found myself filled with rage;  rage, because it feels like a betrayal: betrayal to women by women, which is a tough nut to swallow.

Let me tell you a little about my background: I have been working in restaurants since  I was a teenager.  I have worked in both FOH and BOH, with some of your most respected colleagues like: Anita Lo and Missy Robbins.  I’ve also worked with Top Chef’s, Iron Chef’s and Top Chef Masters.   I have opened 3 high-profile restaurants in Manhattan and I have  had a  TV series, on the Travel Channel,  where I traveled the country transforming failing bars into successful ones……basically, I know of what I speak.  I have been around the block, as they say, and I have witnessed and even been on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior, by men, against women, in this industry.   You have both also been around the block. You both know EXACTLY what happens in these kitchens/restaurants. You should know better.

Your interview in the New York Times yesterday was troubling on several accounts and reads as if  you are both in denial of what has happened.  So let me remind you:

*Natalie Saibel,  a former longtime server,  was on the receiving end of Mr. Friedman running his hands over her ass and her groin while jokingly saying he was searching her pockets for a cellphone.   Ms. Saibel reported this incident, to April Bloomfield and the managers,  and was fired soon after.

* Trish Nelson, another former longtime server, endured Mr. Friedman grabbing her head and pulling it towards his crotch. She was also scared, during a later incident,  when he lunged towards her and shoved his tongue into her mouth when she simply sat next to him in his car.  She gave notice within days of this incident. She was forced to leave a lucrative job due to being sexually assaulted by the man you’ve now partnered up with.

*According to a New York Times article: “all of the employees interviewed said that for many women, Mr. Friedman’s unwelcome sexual overtures, verbal and physical, were part of the daily routine at his New York restaurants, especially the Spotted Pig.”

This is the man who you have now aligned yourself with.

 

Also troubling from your interview is when you compared partnering up with an alleged sexual harasser to what Chef Jose Andres does and has been doing, for example, in Puerto Rico.  You stated: “Everyone gets so excited when Jose Andres goes into these natural disasters and helps people; they ought to be happy that these two women are going into a man-made disaster to help make things right.”     In Puerto Rico alone, Chef Andres has fed over 2 million people, after one of the  most devastating hurricanes in U.S history.  What he does, to help people, is magnificent;  how could you possibly think what you’re doing is on that level?    You also mention “making things right”….how?  Will you offer compensation to all of those women who were fired or had to quit?  Will you make sure that the alleged blackballing, by your new partner, never rears its ugly head again? How will you make it right?  Seriously; how?

You also refer to what happened at The Spotted Pig as a “man-made disaster”; once again, you are showing how deep in denial you are.   This was not JUST a man-made disaster;  April Bloomfield was, in fact, Ken Friedman’s partner.  Employees did go to April and complain about Ken’s behavior, and what did she do?  She turned a blind eye.  Even if only 1 employee went to her with concerns of sexual misconduct,  she should have done something.  She should have protected her employees, and she didn’t.  She may not have done the deed, but by doing nothing,  she was complicit.

And even further troubling is that you said you are “not becoming partners with Mr. Friedman to offer redemption, but to honor and respect April’s magnificent work.”  You referred to this new partnership as a “second marriage.”    So tell me something:  Why  not just buy the PIG outright?  Why keep Ken involved at all?  April is a wonderful Chef, no doubt about it; but by partnering up with Ken, and trying to turn around the business and its reputation, you are, in fact, offering him redemption.  Even if Ken never walks through those doors again, if he is profiting from your partnership, you are sending a message that he got away with it.    These women, who have allegedly been harassed and assaulted by him, have to live with that trauma forever.  They had to leave their VERY lucrative jobs, (or were fired), had to regroup and start from scratch while battling the emotional trauma, that could have been stopped by April Bloomfield.  So, by you partnering with him, it sends the message to these women that he has won; and that’s disgraceful.   Is partnering with him worth risking your reputation? Worth risking everything you have spent all of these years building?

I’m curious: is Mario Batali still an investor?  You do remember that Batali is under criminal investigation for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in the “rape room”, right?   Will he also continue to profit from your “second marriage”?  Speaking of second marriages: statistics say that 67% of second marriages end in divorce, (only 50% for first marriages); they say that’s because the parties involved didn’t quite workout what happened in the first marriage before entering the second…….I hope you have a good prenup!

Krista Lepore

 

 

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