The New York Post:
The newest threat faced by New York City restaurants isn’t high rents or the pandemic. It’s employees who use credulous media to air beefs that chefs and owners aren’t being nice enough to them.
A handful of restaurants truly were cesspools of misconduct deserving to be shut down. On-the-record sexual-harassment claims wrecked the Spotted Pig, owner Ken Friedman and his pal Mario Batali. A chef at Danny Bowien’s shuttered Mission Chinese, once praised for what Bowien called a “healthy” environment for cooks, hurled racial slurs at a black employee and deliberately scalded him with a spoon dipped in hot oil.
But the struggle has since shifted to the far murkier ground of “abusive language” and “toxic atmosphere.” Progressive-minded news organs and social media posts air grievances that seem petty, vague or disputable, sometimes shielding complainants with anonymity while affording no such courtesy to the accused. “Defend yourself, slime!” is the rule of the day.
Accusations against manager Thomas Carter, who worked at Manhattan’s popular Estela a few years ago, presaged today’s kangaroo-court cancellations. He supposedly practiced “psychological abuse,” used bad language and played “mind games” with hapless employees. Ahem — who hasn’t worked for an unfair, tyrannical boss? But there were also more serious claims of gruesome sexual harassment.
Still, of the 30 Estela employees interviewed, Eater.com identified exactly one woman by name who spoke, just barely, to that issue. Her statement that Carter “would court you like he was dating you, then all of a sudden he would start ridiculing you” fell light years short of the hideous charges leveled by the nameless horde. It didn’t matter: The media heat drove Carter to resign from the business.
Flash forward to 2021. The latest target of concealed snipers is Buddakan, the jumbo pan-Asian Chelsea restaurant owned by Stephen Starr. Ever-vigilant Eater.com last week named a Starr Restaurants executive who, the site’s sources said, tolerated an environment where several black servers were assigned to “unfavorable shifts” to create a “culture of fear.”
Now, true racial discrimination is unforgivable — if proven. But the owners and manager persuasively denied the claim.
The Buddakan “news” followed the blowup one week earlier of Outerspace, a Bushwick rooftop eatery whose three top chefs and general manager shockingly walked out the day after a glowing New York Times review.
They supposedly quit over garden-variety gripes: They said they were overworked and underpaid by inexperienced owners who didn’t even know what to do when it rained.
But the quitters appeared to have an alternate agenda. One of the chefs, Chinchakriya Un, gave the game away in a widely reported Instagram post. She derisively trashed the owners as “white people” and “culture vultures” guilty of “white saviorism,” “colonial narration,” “exploitation” and “internalized misogyny.”