Longtime restaurateur Ken Friedman, whose empire spans from New York City to San Francisco to Los Angeles, has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. Ten different women have come forward to the New York Times to speak out on what they say is years of ongoing groping, sexual misconduct, and verbal abuse.
The Times piece details a staggering series of incidents across Friedman’s multiple New York City restaurants, which are described as being “unusually sexualized” by former staff members. Those same restaurants also regularly host many of the city’s elite and powerful, including The Spotted Pig backers like Jay-Z. Friedman is currently the owner/operator, along with chef April Bloomfield, of new Hollywood restaurant The Hearth & Hound.
Investors in Friedman’s Spotted Pig include Mario Batali, who, Spotted Pig employees tell the Times, regularly engaged in sexually aggressive behavior there. Batali was accused of serial sexual misconduct yesterday by several women in an Eater New York report, and has since stepped away from his restaurants and various television shows, some of which have halted production altogether.
As for Friedman, the Times piece chronicles a wide range of abusive behavior, including lewd text messages, on-the-record accounts of groping, and even retaliation against employees who spoke up. The story also recounts one witness’s attempt to bring the issue up directly with Friedman’s business partner and collaborating chef, April Bloomfield:
Several other employees say they also brought their complaints and concerns about Mr. Friedman to Ms. Bloomfield. “Her response was always the same.” Ms. Nelson said. “‘That’s who he is. Get used to it. Or go work for someone else.’”
In statements to the paper, Friedman says that his professional and personal lives are intertwined within the restaurants he runs, and that he apologizes for his actions. Bloomfield told the Times: “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.”
Friedman and Bloomfield are both currently in Los Angeles, having only opened their new restaurant The Hearth & Hound last Friday, December 8. Batali, meanwhile, has long been a fixture in the Los Angeles restaurant world as a partner in properties like Mozza and the newly-opened Eataly in Century City.
Update 2:26 p.m.: Ken Friedman will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from managing his restaurants, effective immediately.