The food community was shaken on Monday morning when one of the world’s biggest celebrity chefs joined the growing list of powerful men accused of sexual harassment and assault. Mario Batali — major tv personality and restaurateur — was accused by four women of sexual misconduct. As with any of these high profile media revelations, Batali’s colleagues are expected to respond publicly and swiftly to his conduct. And in light of these allegations, his peers have been reacting on Twitter.
The lead up started Sunday night with Anthony Bourdain hinting that news about a well known chef was about to rock the community. After Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme apologized for kicking a reporter in the head during a concert, Bourdain shared his disgust and warned fans that, “.. and Monday, I’m afraid, isn’t going to get any better.”
“No, trust me,” he continued. “Monday is really gonna suck.”
When the news broke about the famous chef allegedly groping multiple women, Bourdain released the thoughts that he had apparently been sitting on for quite awhile.
“It’s Batali, and it’s bad,” he said. Then, in response to fellow chef, Allison Robicelli, who tweeted, “So no, @Bourdain, today doesn’t suck. Today is the most wonderful day of the year for those who have been hurt by Batali, and all the other men just like him. No one is untouchable. We won’t be bullied into silence. We expect to be heard from now on,” following up with, “But to give some merit to @Bourdain and his statements — today does suck for every man, every restaurant group who built their empire on this (and worse). Because we are coming for every single last one of you motherfuckers,” Bourdain said, “..and like you, I’ve been sitting on stories that were not mine to tell . And feeling sick and guilty as fuck I hadn’t heard them before.”
Robicelli and Bourdain disagreed in a Twitter exchange about the reaction women are having to Batali’s reckoning (though quick note to Bourdain: Now isn’t a great time to tell a woman in the often male-dominated, boys club of an industry how she should feel about this).
Bourdain didn’t feel like anyone is or should be celebrating, but Robicelli pointed out the reason female chefs are feeling celebratory over the news:
“Why we’re celebrating: Mario is a monolith. No one could speak out against him because they would be destroyed by his legal team, plus no one would believe them. It’s the same model many restaurant groups still employ,” she said.
Bourdain, to his credit, ended the exchange by agreeing that he can’t argue with that. Meanwhile, another big celebrity chef also responded to him with a lack of surprise over the allegations.
“And no one should be surprised,” Chef Tom Colicchio tweeted.
The tweets suggest that Batali’s behavior may have been an open secret in the food community for awhile. And while it’s a good thing that the rotting underbelly of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment that has been thriving in so many communities is finally being exposed, it begs the question: What it will take for people to stand up to the abuse they hear of before a big article comes out? Before women are forced to work under their harasser quietly for decades?
If the most powerful members of any community allow such rumors to simply hang in the air for years, are they also complicit in allowing the abuse to continue?
Hopefully, we’re entering a new era where colleagues and friends will be willing to come forward and call out anyone who is yielding their power to hurt others before mass outrage and media coverage forces them to. Because right now, it’s becoming increasingly frustrating to continue to see women come forward about the pain they experienced, and have everyone admit they knew it was happening. And did nothing.