The most surprising part of Keith McNally’s essay for the Times about how restaurants have changed over his career is the Balthazar restaurateur’s musing on sexual harassment in the workplace. After writing that "restaurants were easier to build and a whole lot more fun in 1980 than they are today," McNally bluntly notes that "health and safety laws weren’t as stringent as they are now, and neither was the law protecting employees from sexual harassment." After noting that he met two of his wives in restaurants, Keith also writes: "[I]t's difficult not to be anything but fully supportive of a system that protects employees from harassment. But, remembering what it was like to be in my 20s, I believe it's also important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater."
Although many chefs and industry people have celebrated McNally's Times essay —which also includes his thoughts on the difficulties of doing business in NYC, and the changing tastes of diners — a number of restaurateurs and members of the food media have also expressed their frustrations over the comments about sexual politics and harassment. Cookbook author/fromager Tia Keenan took to Twitter yesterday afternoon:
1. As a woman [formerly] in restaurant business I'm wondering, after reading McNally's piece in NYT, why policy against sexual harassment— Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) November 1, 2016
2. Means "no sex amongst staff"? Pretty much universal policy in NYC now, to "avoid lawsuits" not CHANGE THE CULTURE of harassment in restos— Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) November 1, 2016
It also feels like a false equivalency of sexual harassment and consensual sex.— Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) November 1, 2016
McNally goes Seinfeld "I won't play colleges anymore": things were much more fun before women complained, then Henny Youngman w wife jokes— Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) November 1, 2016
McNally's beefs are w regulation and economic forces. But the one with sexual harassment? That's about female bodies occupying male spaces— Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) November 1, 2016
Anonymous food media commentator ShitFoodBlogger has a few thoughts as well:
.@nytfood Keith McNally likes his restaurants just like his women...untainted by the reality of his touch.— Subtle Cheddar (@shitfoodblogger) November 1, 2016
Canadian restaurateur Jen Agg chimes in
I just find it a bit gross when white men(& ITS ALWAYS WHITE MEN) pine for a time when they had more power but everyone else had less @kludt— Jen Agg (@TheBlackHoof) October 31, 2016
Business Insider's Linette Lopez also comments:
OK none of this had to really be said. https://t.co/m9hfV0XBol— Linette Lopez (@lopezlinette) October 31, 2016
If you have any thoughts on Keith's rant or the reactions to it, please share them in the comments.
In other McNally news, his new restaurant Augustine opens tonight in the Beekman Hotel, and he says that he's going to start work on the revival of Pastis in March.