Anthony Bourdain on sexual harassment in the industry

26 October, 2017 by Annabelle Cloros

Anthony Bourdain has spoken out on harassment in the restaurant industry after a number of women accused John Besh of sexual misconduct.

Bourdain reposted a discrimination complaint filed against the Besh Restaurant Group with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on his Twitter account along with the comment, “The beginning of the end of institutionalised Meathead Culture in the restaurant business”.

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Bourdain has recently addressed a number tweets regarding sexual assault on his account, including responding to a follower regarding the prevalence of male-on-male assault, tweeting “there certainly was when I was starting out. It was like prison”.

In an interview with Slater, Bourdain acknowledged the difficulty women face when speaking up about mistreatment. “I’m angry and I’ve seen it up close and I’ve been hearing firsthand from a lot of women,” he says. “Also, I guess I’m looking back on my own life. I’m looking back on my own career and all these years women did not speak to me.

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“I’ve been out of the restaurant business for 17, 18 years. I’m really not in the mix. Other than one woman chef restauranteur friend from Canada, nobody has really been speaking to me about this until recently.”

In the interview, Bourdain questioned why he was not seen as the type of person women could confide in, citing it as a “personal failing”.

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Bourdain also pondered his contribution to the culture, citing his book, Kitchen Confidential.

“I’ve had to ask myself, and I have been for some time, “To what extent in that book did I provide validation to meatheads?

“If you read the book, there’s a lot of bad language. There’s a lot of sexualisation of food.

“I don’t recall any prurient interest in the book, other than the first scene as a young man watching my chef very happily [have a] consensual encounter with a client. But still, that’s bro culture, that’s meathead culture.”

Bourdain says he “never wanted to a part of bro culture” and was “embarrassed” by his label as a bad boy, macho figure.

“I am a guy on TV who sexualises food. Who uses bad language. Who thinks our discomfort, our squeamishness, fear and discomfort around matters sexual is funny. And because I was a guy in a guy’s world who had celebrated a system, I found myself in this very old, phallocentric, oppressive system and I was proud of myself for surviving it.”

However, Bourdain says he never hesitated to take action if a member of staff was being mistreated under his watch. “I’ve certainly fired people, even back in the ’80s: If somebody was taking their personal business out on a female employee, or creeping on an employee, they were gone. They were fucking gone. It was just not something I could live with.”

In the interview, Bourdain also discusses the ritual of the male-dominated kitchen where abuse was rampant from the top of the food chain.

“The traditional system was the male chef would abuse his male chef de cuisine. The male chef de cuisine would then abuse his sous-chef. The sous-chefs would take it out on all the cooks who would then physically hit, kick, torment, haze, and pressure each other as punishment for bringing this shit down on them yet again. And God help you if you were a woman in those days.”

Image credit: Pittsburgh Magazine