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Spotted Pig’s New Chef on Partnering With Ken Friedman: ‘He Built Something Special’

Ashley Merriman will be in the kitchen when the partnership starts

WASTED! The Story Of Food Waste Premiere - Celebration At Mission Chinese Food, New York, NY
Ashley Merriman and Gabrielle Hamilton
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for WASTED! Documentary

More details are now out on the impending business partnership between Prune chefs Gabrielle Hamilton and Ashley Merriman with restaurateur Ken Friedman at the Spotted Pig: Merriman will be in the kitchen, and they’re keeping the iconic restaurant’s name.

In an interview with Eater National, Merriman doubled down on her wife and partner Hamilton’s defense of the new partnership with Friedman, who’s been accused of behavior such as requesting nudes, attempted kissing, and groping in public. (He has denied characterizations of many allegations.)

Like Hamilton, Merriman compared the business enterprise to entering a storm: “We’re going into the eye of the storm and help some people out, that’s our way of approaching it,” adding that Friedman has financially lost out enough already and deserves to keep making money from the Spotted Pig:

I guess my question about that is: What does it look like for [Ken to pay]? What will be satisfying? Should Ken lose all his businesses? Should he never make a penny again? That’s a real genuine open curiosity. I think he’s already lost in his split with April a number of his restaurants.

This is again — please, I sincerely hope you will not paraphrase me — it’s a real, genuine question: What does it look like, should the guy not make a penny again? I think he should be able to. He did build an iconic restaurant. He and April built something special at the Spotted Pig, and I’m not sure his shitty boorish outrageous disgusting behavior [should keep him] from ever earning a living again.

Its a sprawling interview where Merriman expresses the sentiment that she and Hamilton think that the methods developed at Prune, when implemented at Spotted Pig, will help “a paradigm shift” for the industry, even if Friedman still profits. She also will likely get rid of the famed burger from chef April Bloomfield, who nixed her partnership with Friedman following the allegations.

Merriman joined Hamilton at Prune more than three years ago, and although she’s lesser known than Hamilton, she’s also quite pedigreed. For years, she worked as executive chef af Waverly Inn.

The restaurant’s name, which will remain, also has a backstory: In 2006, Friedman told the Times that it was an allusion to his friend Mario Batali, an investor in the restaurant who’s also been accused of sexual misconduct and is now being investigated by the NYPD for sexual assault that allegedly occurred at the Pig. (Batali has denied accusations of rape.)

Shortly after the news of the planned partnership came out Wednesday, Hamilton and Merriman were already being widely criticized — with people saying that the female cooking icons shouldn’t help a restaurateur disgraced in the #MeToo movement continue to make money in the hospitality industry.

But Hamilton defended the decision, saying “You have your heroic José Andrés going into the eye of the natural disaster, and in us, I think you have two highly qualified and capable women going into the ground zero of the man-made disaster to start to help out.”

Take a look at Merriman’s full interview here.

The Spotted Pig

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