The celebrity chef and “Top Chef” judge published a scathing open letter on Medium Wednesday decrying the industry’s “ugly machismo” culture and calling for men to change it. The missive follows recent reports that fellow chef John Besh let sexual harassment run rampant in his kitchens and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female employee.
“This isn’t just a matter of a few bad eggs and we all know it,” Colicchio wrote. “For every John Besh splashed across Page Six, we can assume hundreds, if not thousands, more with kitchens just like the ones his female employees described. Something’s broken here.”
Last month, Besh stepped down from his restaurant group due to the allegations, which put a spotlight on what one former employee called the “boys club” of kitchen culture. New Orleans’ Times-Picayune published an investigation in which 25 current and former employees detailed sexual harassment in Besh’s kitchens and by Besh himself.
The report speaks to a larger issue: 37 percent of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from the restaurant industry, according to a 2016 report from the nonprofit advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
″...It’s time for men in the restaurant industry to say to each other: enough,” Colicchio wrote. “Enough; Because 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.”
Colicchio listed some personal failings in the letter, saying he’s let his “temper run high” in the kitchen and “brushed off the leering without acknowledging its underlying hostility.” He also said he used a gendered slur against a journalist for printing “gossip,” something he regrets.
After tackling many of the factors that drive women from the industry, he wrapped up the piece with a call for men to do better.
“I’m betting we can reinvent our industry as a place where people of all genders feel safe and prepare to lead,” he wrote.