It is an incredibly difficult and wrenching thing to come forward, to go public with claims of sexual assault or misconduct — as I have seen up close. Women risk a crushing level of public skepticism, vilification, shaming, and retribution. They have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.
Any admiration I have expressed in the past for Mario Batali and Ken Friedman, whatever I might feel about them, however much I admired and respected them, is, in light of these charges, irrelevant. I will not waste anybody’s time with expressions of shock, surprise, or personal upset, beyond saying that I am ashamed that I was clearly not the kind of person that women friends who knew — and had stories to tell — felt comfortable confiding in.
In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories. I am grateful to them for their courage, and inspired by them. That doesn’t make me any more enlightened than any other man who has begun listening and paying attention. It does makes me, I hope, slightly less stupid.
Right now, nothing else matters but women’s stories of what it’s like in the industry I have loved and celebrated for nearly 30 years — and our willingness, as human beings, citizens, men and women alike, to hear them out, fully, and in a way that other women can feel secure enough, and have faith enough that they, too, can tell their stories. We are clearly at a long overdue moment in history where everyone, good hearted or not, will HAVE to look at themselves, the part they played in the past, the things they’ve seen, ignored, accepted as normal, or simply missed — and consider what side of history they want to be on in the future.
To the extent which my work in Kitchen Confidential celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviors we’re hearing about all too frequently is something I think about daily, with real remorse.