April Bloomfield is apparently ready for her redemption. The acclaimed chef spoke with Times extensively for the first time about her partnership with Ken Friedman, who is accused of prolific sexual misconduct at restaurants that they ran together. She, too, faced criticisms for allegedly ignoring his behavior and victims who approached her.
Now, Bloomfield says that she felt she needed Friedman, who’d brought her over from the UK when she’d never run a restaurant before and, early on, threatened to revoke her work visa over a small disagreement. Later, Bloomfield says she she didn’t think she could succeed in the industry without Friedman, who “frequently told her that she had become famous and wealthy, and that he could undo her success with a few phone calls.” (He denied allegations.)
“I felt like I was in a position where he held all the cards,” she told the Times. “He had so much control, and he was so dominant and powerful, that I didn’t feel like if I stepped away that I would survive.”
Her side paints a picture of being young and inexperienced and choosing to survive her relationship with Friedman by keeping her domain to the kitchen, while letting the restaurateur control the front-of-house. She also acknowledges that she knew of some of Friedman’s behavior because “hugging and flirting were routine” in public space, though she says she was unaware of “coercive or physically abuse” behavior.
More recently, Bloomfield tried to “escape” Friedman with the restaurants in California, Tosca and Hearth & Hound, hoping that the space would help, and two years ago, she started talking to lawyers to see how she could split from him, before the allegations.
Bloomfield, who kept the Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar in New York and the California restaurants, is further trying to reach out to Friedman’s victims soon to “hear what happened to them.”
But some of her former staffers tell the Times that they don’t buy Bloomfield’s story. Several wouldn’t even speak on the record because they didn’t “want to contribute to any narrative that might appear to offer her redemption.” She was “harsh and demanding” as a boss, and many found it difficult to believe that she would be scared of Friedman. Others say that they approached her directly about misconduct only to be ignored. One former server says Bloomfield “has always been out for herself. She was a perpetrator in a lot of this.”
And another server named Natalie Saibel said she emailed Bloomfield a complaint about Friedman groping her in 2015, and Bloomfield never responded, only sending it to a manager. Saibel was then fired. “That’s why it was doubly shocking and devastating that she did nothing to stop it,” Saibel says.
Since allegations broke last December, Bloomfield has largely remained silent about her approach to Friedman’s behavior over their 15-year partnership, in which they launched hits like the Spotted Pig. In June, she announced that she’d be splitting from him, though that process has yet to finalize.
She now says she understand that her silence “inflicts its own damages” and wants to both tell her story and rebuild her reputation. “I failed a lot of people,” she says. “That’s on my shoulders.”
Meanwhile, Friedman has had his own issues to tackle. UWS restaurant White Gold Butchers shuttered, and he’s been facing a variety of financial missteps, including owed rent and a $5 million lawsuit from the people behind Ace Hotel accusing him of fraud. He says he plans to talk more soon.