Food correspondent (and Eater’s former executive editor) Helen Rosner wrote some pointed questions to restaurant reviewers in a piece for The New Yorker today. Rosner’s article is in response to Eater’s new policy to stop reviewing any restaurants associated with known abusers.
Rosner gives an early mention to Jonathan Gold’s late-January review of The Hearth & Hound, whereupon co-owner Ken Friedman had a lengthy pattern of alleged sexual harassment and assault to employees at his New York City restaurants. She used this case to ask the following question: now that #MeToo is part of the everyday lexicon, should other publications follow suit?
Rosner looks at several high-profile cases where restaurant reviewers looked past the sexual misconduct, and wrote something anyway. After Friedman took indefinite leave, and co-owner and chef April Bloomfield apologized, the restaurant struggled. According to Rosner, The Hearth & Hound was on the verge of closing. But Gold’s review was its saving grace.
Gold’s review openly wrestled with Friedman’s alleged behavior. “So, if you boycott the Hearth & Hound to express your distaste for Friedman’s alleged acts, are you silencing an important woman’s voice? Does the ineffectiveness of Bloomfield’s responses to Friedman make her complicit in his alleged misconduct? (“I know that it wasn’t enough,’’ she posted on Twitter.) [...] If you had built an empire through your imagination and sweat, would a partner’s alleged misbehavior cause you to dissolve it?”
Rosner also cited a few other notable cases similar to Gold’s The Hearth and Hound review. Craig LaBan, restaurant critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer. LaBan wrote the following essay, “It’s Not My Job to Pass Judgment on a Chef’s Character.” And the Houston Chronicle’s Allison Cook reviewed Aqui, by Paul Qui, who was arrested for domestic violence assault.
Rosner wonders if this type of critique is justifiable, and hopes that publications will take steps to address abuse throughout the restaurant industry. She also notes the James Beard Foundation’s recent decision to address the #MeToo movement, and contends that the presence of more women and minorities could make a difference.