Restaurateur Ken Friedman — the powerhouse behind landmark NYC restaurants like The Spotted Pig and The Breslin — has been accused of inappropriate sexual touching and advances, including groping in public, asking for nude photos, and attempting to kiss staffers, according to an investigation from the Times.
At least 10 women detailed “unwanted sexual advances,” while more noted that working at the Pig involved “tolerating daily kisses and touches, pulling all-night shifts at private parties that included public sex and nudity, and enduring catcalls and gropes from guests who are Mr. Friedman’s friends,” the Times reports.
Friedman said in a statement that some of the incidents that the Times reported “were not as described,” though he did not specify which ones. “My personal and professional life was intertwined with our restaurants and our staff,” the statement says. “I own my behavior which can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude and frankly wrong.” Update: Friedman will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the restaurants.
Chef April Bloomfield, his 15-year business partner, said in a statement that she knew of just two incidents of “uninvited approaches” over the years and told outside labor counsel. “I have spoken to Ken about professional boundaries and relied on him to uphold our policies. Nonetheless I feel we have let down our employees and for that I sincerely apologize,” she said. Bloomfield and Friedman did not immediately respond to Eater’s request for further comment.
Friedman and Bloomfield own a total of five restaurants in New York, including the Pig, The Breslin, John Dory Oyster Bar, Salvation Taco, and White Gold Butchers. They also have restaurants in SF and LA. They’re restaurants best known for making casual, gastropub dining worthy of culinary acclaim. The allegations outlined in the piece come from the longtime New York restaurants.
The news comes as a slew of powerful restaurateurs in the industry have been accused of sexual misconduct. On Monday, Mario Batali announced that he wold be stepping away from his restaurants after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior. Batali is also an investor in the Pig; in the Friedman investigation, staffers of the Spotted Pig said that they often witnessed Batali’s bad behavior when he visited the restaurant. In particular, a third-floor space at the Pig earned the nickname “the rape room” in part due to lewd behavior by guests at the restaurant.
Beyond allegations physical bad behavior, employees of Friedman and Bloomfield claim that Friedman would retaliate against staffers who complained, including firings or asking other restaurants to not hire particular people. Others allege that complaints to Bloomfield were met with the response: “That’s who he is. Get used to it. Or go work for someone else.”