The recent "revelations" of rampant harassment in the restaurant industry weren’t exactly a shocker to the women working in it.

Or the men, for that matter.

This isn’t just a matter of a few bad eggs and ​we all know it. For every John Besh splashed across Page Six, we can assume hundreds, if not thousands, more chefs run kitchens just like the ones his female employees described.


Something’s broken here.

It’s time that chefs and restaurant owners candidly acknowledge the larger culture that hatched all these crummy eggs, and have some hard conversations amongst ourselves that are long overdue.

Let’s start with this:

Assessing a woman as a body, rather than as a person with a mind, character, and talent, denies the full measure of her humanity.

It’s wrong and it demeans us all. Men shouldn't need to be told this. They shouldn’t need to be told that the high stakes of elite kitchens don’t justify the ugly machismo that runs through so many of them.

There was a stretch in the late ’90s at Gramercy Tavern when all the senior chefs in my kitchen were women. Night after brutal night we faced the same pressured ballet of high heat, 86’d salmon, and tickets spitting out of the printer at a clip too fast to meet.

The only difference was the quiet; the smack talk was gone. These chefs were tightly focused, competing against themselves and not each other. I recall a group of French chefs were visiting at the time who had a good sneer over the male to female ratio in the kitchen. I also recall they shut up pretty quickly once they saw the food.

As men, it's time for us to take responsibility for the culture of sexism in restaurant kitchens — and to fix it.

My kitchen is hardly perfect.

I’ve let my temper run high and driven the pressure up. I’ve brushed off the leering without acknowledging its underlying hostility. I once called a journalist a 'rumor-mongering b***h' for printing gossip that hurt my staff, a gendered slur that I regret.

But, I count myself lucky. I had a father who wouldn’t allow disrespect of my mother, and that lesson sunk in more fully during my formative years than the casual misogyny I saw everywhere else. It made it an easy choice to turn away the high-paying bachelor parties that wanted to rent out the PDR and bring in a stripper, which isn’t an environment my servers signed on for. It made it a no-brainer to fire the creep of a staffer who snapped pictures of his female co-workers in their changing room without their consent. And it makes it easy for me to see that it’s time for men in the restaurant industry to say to each other: enough.

Deep down, men know that sexist shit-talk is just a lazy substitute for real wit.

They know that work is not sexy time. They know that if they have to insist it was consensual, it probably wasn’t. They know that women really don’t want to hear about their boners (and that they shouldn’t say boner because they’re not fifteen.)

I imagine leaders in our industry will now come rushing forward with talk about how women should feel safe and valued in our restaurants. But is it any wonder that this sexist culture persists in professional kitchens when most of the women are gone from the back of the house by the time they hit their 30s? When the ones who remain are paid, on average, 28% less than their male counterparts?

We need to do more than pay lip service to fixing this. It’s not enough for us to ask, "How can we behave differently around our women employees and coworkers?" Instead we should be asking "What barriers to their success do I owe it to them to remove?" Those of us with our own kitchens should be asking "What have I been able to take for granted on my way to the top that women often can’t, and how can I help fix that?"

We all sweated and scrapped and worked damn hard to get where we are, but most of us did it without the added torment of sexual harassment.

A generation ago, American chefs were the young upstarts, bucking old-world conventions and forging a new path. We were the ones to watch. Is this the end of that era? Or do we have a second act in us, one in which we excite eaters more than ever because we’re empowering a new generation of talent?

Chefs are a tough bunch: canny, creative and quick on our feet. That’s why I’m betting our industry can shrug off its leering lizard skin and get this right. I’m betting that we’re smart and confident enough to level the playing field and create real opportunity, or at least learn how it’s done from the new crop of women (and men) running their own kickass kitchens humanely and winning awards, all while parenting young kids. I’m betting we can reinvent our industry as a place where people of all genders feel safe and prepared to lead.

Some aging bros may give us flack for it. But only until they see the food.

This story first appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.