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Tom Colicchio responds to a labor violations lawsuit and says that he believes ‘there is no problem here.’
Colicchio and his team at ‘wichcraft take these allegations very seriously.
We reported yesterday that Top Chef judge and Craft founder Tom Colicchio is facing a labor violations and sexual harassment lawsuit from two female former employees who worked as delivery drivers at ‘wichcraft in Queens. Today, Colicchio responded to these allegations, telling The Daily Meal, “We take the allegations seriously, and we will cooperate, but we believe there is no problem here.”
In the lawsuit, ‘wichcraft is described as a “boys’ club,” and one of the plaintiffs alleged that her bosses turned a blind eye in August after a male co-worker took a video of her changing into her uniform in a locker room.
To the allegations, Colicchio told The Daily Meal that,“The complaint mentions a co-employee taking photos of the employee in question in the locker room and that evidence was deleted. Well, when it happened, the employee was fired immediately, which we thought was the smart thing to do, and we deleted the photos. We didn’t think it was a prudent thing to have the guy walk around with the photos with the possibility of leaking them. As for the other allegation of a boys’ club, we have 34 managers at ‘wichcraft, 16 of whom are women. So if the attorney got that wrong, what else did he get wrong?”
As far as the third part of the lawsuit, which accuses managers of time-shaving and docking tips, Colicchio explained that the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a non-profit dedicated to improving wages and working conditions, publishes a handbook every year, and as far as he knows, he is one of the few restaurateurs to meet their gold standards annually.
“We always try to comply with the laws; they are so difficult to deal with,” Colicchio said.
When Male Chefs Fear the Specter of ‘Women’s Work’
Like many other major cultural institutions, the restaurant industry is reckoning with an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault. Like many other reckonings, this one is long overdue. Over the past few decades, the role of chefs in America transformed from never-seen, poorly paid labor hidden away in cramped kitchens to objects of endless fascination across television, news media, books, and increasingly, film. The chefs anointed as cultural arbiters were almost always white, almost always male. They shouted. They swaggered. They got sued for sexual harassment.
But when one fell, there was always another white man to take his place, and never enough discussion why. In the wake of the Times-Picayune expose about pervasive harassment within the Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans, one that many employees say emanated from top management, longtime advocates for equality in the industry like Preeti Mistry, Jen Agg, and Amanda Cohen are speaking out about kitchens’ long-unspoken epidemic of sexual harassment. Male food-world celebrities and chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, and Daniel Patterson have decried systemic sexism in the industry, and take (some measure of) responsibility.
On November 17, the Washington Post published a wide-ranging investigation into the epidemic of abuse afflicting women working in all positions, front and back of the house, across the entire restaurant industry, including allegations of rape, sexual assault, and harassment so routine women accepted it as just part of the job. The Post identifies a host of causes for this toxic environment on the kitchen side, this includes a long history of all-male chef hierarchies, dating back to Auguste Escoffier’s military-inspired brigade.
Disrupting the kitchen boys’ club, which fosters these toxic levels of harassment, requires hiring and retaining more women chefs. But even when those women arrive, as the experiences outlined in the Post and elsewhere suggest, they face a blistering hostility. Why are restaurant kitchens, especially high-end kitchens, so persistently male, and why are they so inhospitable to women who seek to join their ranks? Behind the history of all-male brigades is an effort to distance restaurant cooking from home cooking, the result of a phenomenon some sociologists call “precarious masculinity.”
“When we’re talking about precarious masculinity, it’s not a conscious process,” says sociologist Deborah Harris. “Men don’t form a cabal [to ask], ‘What are we going to do this week to keep the women down?’” In 2015, Harris and Patti Giuffre published Taking the Heat, a study of gender discrimination in the restaurant industry. Composed of a wide-ranging survey of food media, as well as interviews with 33 women working in the restaurant industry, the book identifies several causes for rampant gender-based discrimination (Harris also spoke with the Washington Post about some aspects of their research).
According to Harris and Giuffre, the media plays a distinctive role in defining men’s cooking as important and innovative, and male chefs are hostile toward women out of a fear of losing that vaulted status. The fear is that if more women enter the industry, chefs’ cooking might be equated with “women’s work.” Truly changing the culture of restaurant kitchens, in other words, will require redefining who can be a chef — and whose skill as a cook is valued.
The media-fueled mystique around chefs is rooted in their image as professionals and artists — technically gifted and extraordinarily creative, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and seeking to revolutionize the way we eat (backed up by mountains of profiles portraying them exactly as such). Conversely, women cooking at home are portrayed as relying on instinct and love, hewing to tradition and happy to nurture their families for free. Two dueling short profiles of Nadine Levy Redzepi, in The Guardian and Bloomberg, both written by men, emphasize the simple, homey nature of her cooking, and the supposed challenge of “cooking for the best chef in the world,” contrasting her baked salmon with the exotified live ants deployed by her famous chef husband, René. Meanwhile, when René Redzepi released a personal collection of cookbooks, his insights about home cooking and family traditions were received as instruction from an unimpeachable expert.
In other words, male chefs are considered cultural influencers because the cooking they do is seen as fundamentally more skilled — and more important — than the cooking done in the home by women. (Ina Garten may be famous, but few in our culture would consider her an artist, or a visionary, however short-sighted that opinion is.)
Preeti Mistry, the chef-owner of Navi Kitchen and the soon-to-close Juhu Beach Club, says that as a prominent woman chef, her work is linked to home cooking much more often than that of her male colleagues. “Could you ever imagine a male chef being asked if he learned to cook at his mother’s apron strings?” Mistry said. Harris and Giuffre also find that across food media, female chefs are more likely to have their cooking compared to home cooking, which creates the impression their food is “unworthy of attention” in the public sphere. "There’s no science or true professionalism to it,” Mistry says of the common outsider impression of home cooking. “It’s Grandma sitting at the dining table shelling beans with her granddaughter."
Some chefs and savvy business owners try to have it both ways. The practice of naming a restaurant after a female relative, or extolling “grandma cuisine,” functions as a way of gaining the authenticity associated with home cooking, while also distancing male chefs’ work from both the domestic arts and cooking by female chefs. According to Harris, when male chefs cite this kind of domestic inspiration, and the media uncritically reports it, “there’s a pattern to chef myth-making, a common trope where he would become inspired by women and by their cooking, but he would surpass it, and transform it into something worthy of attention and praise.”
To Mistry, that performative recognition of female home cooking — giving credit to those who came before as inspiration and nurturers but not as experts — only reinforces all-male restaurant networks. “All of those big-boy male chefs, they give all this praise to grandmothers, but not their colleagues who are women,” Mistry says.
There’s a lot at stake for male chefs to uphold this dichotomy between the traditionally female-associated home cooking and the male restaurant kitchen: power, status, and, most importantly, money. In an industry plagued by tight margins and low wages, if chefs can sell the public on the idea that they have unique expertise, they can become celebrities, franchise their restaurants, nab TV and book deals, and fly around the world to speak at conferences. At the moment, it’s possible for a man, usually a white man, to cook for a living and, at the highest levels, be considered an empire-building, cuisine-redefining, lone genius chef, charging hundreds of dollars per customer and featured on at least one extremely sympathetic television program. Few women, very few, enjoy similar privileges.
What would happen if restaurant cooking were seen on a continuum with women’s domestic innovations? If this realignment accompanied by a deep and vast reckoning with our culture’s hostility toward women’s domestic work, it could lead to greater equality in and out of restaurant kitchens. But, in the current environment, if restaurant cooking became feminized, then it’s very likely all the capital and status and fame so recently attached to chefs would drain away, fast.
Traditionally male industries often resist integrating more women workers because, as Harris and Giuffre note, “the higher the percentage of women in an occupation, the lower the pay.” When a field transitions, pay and status drop. In Taking The Heat, the co-authors cite elementary school teachers as a prime example. Until the early 20th century, the field was male-dominated, well paid, and high status. As men transitioned to manufacturing jobs and more women entered the teaching ranks, pay began to drop, and teaching became more associated with caretaking.
The stigma around “women’s work” is especially pernicious when it comes to care work, which might help explain why male chefs cultivate a shouty, rough-edged environment, lest they be mistaken for nurturing grandmas. According to Harris and Giuffre’s work, the women who enter these kitchens are expected not to challenge the culture, even if it hinges on hostility toward femaleness. Instead, they’re pressured to conform. In the Washington Post, women chefs describe the complicated dance they must perform to both fight back against harassment and resist being labeled as a “prude.” Restaurant consultant Heather Carlucci told the Post, “In the beginning, you try to ignore it, or you try to deflect it, to be both funny and defensive, and know how to put them in their place.”
When Mistry was rising through the kitchen ranks, she found she was better able to handle this hostile culture as a masculine-leaning queer woman — after all, like her straight male colleagues, she was attracted to femme women her identity didn’t threaten men afraid of a feminized space. But she was also never welcomed with open arms the way a new white, male hire would be, and says her colleagues who were straight women and gay men faced “a whole host of other challenges.” Her method of pushing back also reflects the tension between needing to be funny and defensive. Mistry used to call out bad behavior by saying things like, “Dude, that’s fucking gross. If you want to say some shit, whisper that to your buddy, don’t shout across the room and make other people uncomfortable.”
In The New York Times, Tracie McMillan argues that the pressure to accept lower-level harassment creates an environment where women cannot tell who is joking and who is not. “When the entire culture of a place is lewd, it makes it impossible to tell which men are dangerous,” she writes. Harris says, “What are women supposed to do? Be silent for 12 hours a day? First I tease and joke to fit in, and then I have to read minds and which men aren’t doing it a jokey team-building way, and suss out who’s trying to make [me] into a victim.” Women cannot win in a hyper-masculine culture instead, it drives them out.
That said, many of Taking The Heat’s women interviewees bristled at the idea of restaurant culture becoming sanitized. “The chefs we talked to, they didn’t want a hardcore HR mentality — they think of the white-collar corporate model,” Harris says. “But when they became heads of kitchens they would take steps to keep [harassment] from happening. There are ways to create happy workplaces where people get along and enjoy their time at work.” Kitchen culture, and restaurant culture in general, is its own world and way of life, and even those vulnerable to its worst excesses do not want to lose the freedoms and camaraderie it offers. Instead, women chef-owners find a new direction for that culture, rejecting the conceit that a restaurant kitchen has to be a masculine space to succeed.
When Mistry opened her own restaurant, culture was first on her mind. She is fond of describing her restaurants as “opposite day,” with women, especially women of color, in prominent positions in front and back of the house. Mistry says when she celebrates her kitchen’s culture, “All of those social norms of straight white men being the epitome of power and leadership, we’re not dissing them. We’re celebrating beautiful differences.”
Daniel Patterson, who owns a number of restaurants in the Bay Area and is the co-owner of socially minded fast-food restaurant LocoL, says the first step to changing restaurant culture is to listen to the experiences of women who’ve suffered harassment and “[acknowledge] when you’re part of the problem.” He also believes it’s on male chefs to be part of the solution. It’s not enough for women (and men) with progressive values to open restaurants that are islands of safety. The whole industry must find systemic solutions to what he says is a systemic problem — which ultimately requires transforming the idea of who does and does not belong in the kitchen.
Patterson says his training as a chef in the early ’80s can be summed up by two words: Kitchen Confidential. After years of searching for a better model than the too-white, too-male culture he came up in, Patterson began working with Restaurant Opportunities Center on piloting a racial parity program at his Alta restaurants, which he says has also automatically involved addressing gender imbalances. Remaking a restaurant’s culture top to bottom, Patterson says, is “emotionally difficult” and challenging. But the benefits long term are innumerable, especially as competition across the industry for both labor and customers heightens. “In fine dining, if people of color see themselves represented in the staff, that feels really welcoming,” he says.
But even in kitchens that have achieved greater equity, like Mistry’s, there’s always the issue of integrating people from the outside. As a well-known chef and owner, surrounded by a racially diverse, queer-positive staff, Mistry has still had to grapple with employees who cannot conceive of a chef and boss who is not a white man. This is a double bind she says many female chef-owners grapple with. “If you put up with the bullshit talking about women, or someone slapping you on the ass, and then become the boss, shit gets really real,” she says of women chefs’ career paths when being a chef, especially a head chef, is still so aggressively coded male. “When you experience sexism [as a boss], you discover half the population really has a problem taking orders from you.”
Mistry says that some white cooks, especially white male cooks, have resisted adapting to her kitchen’s culture, despite the fact that that’s what white women and people of color are expected to do in white-male-run kitchens. Instead, insecure employees push back. Mistry recalls one white male employee who kept messing up a soft-cooked duck egg. Instead of asking for advice, he insisted Mistry was cooking them wrong. “He was literally 24 years old, I am 41, and I’ve been cooking for 16 years. He would never say that to a big white dude.”
Changing the mindset around who can be a chef, in addition to inviting in more customers, retaining more workers, and revolutionizing the conversation about food, would also heal a hypocrisy at the core of modern chef culture. “The funny thing is [male chefs] can use tradition to argue for hiring fewer women,” Harris says, but then these same men present themselves “as trailblazers questioning everything.” In reality, they’re the ones stuck in the past. If men, especially white men, cannot re-examine their ideas about whose cooking has worth, what trails can they hope to blaze?
Harris says that even if her findings suggest that, because of the larger sexism in society, men are discriminating against women in part to protect their economic interests, that same discrimination frustrates chefs’ attempts to frame their work to an art form, where the real glory is. “There’s this idea that food is art, and that chefs create the best thing possible,” she says. “If you’re saying to half the population, ‘Stay away,’ you can’t also argue it’s about artistic expression and meritocracy. You’re keeping half the group out.”
A Hot Topic Cools Off : Sex Harassment Suits’ Low Profile Reflects Changing Times in the Capitol
At any other moment in the legislative year but this one, this double-time dash to the finish line, the details of sexual harassment accusations against two legislators and their chiefs of staff might be meat and drink in this gossipy marble hive.
This week, though, both the man who oversees the handling of the Assembly’s sexual harassment training and a Senate staffer who feels not enough is being done agree--one with pride, the other with dismay--that “This is not the topic du jour, it really isn’t.”
That’s what they call progress.
Fifteen or 20 years ago, in the Capitol’s droit de seigneur atmosphere of a private men’s club where a legislator could--no joke--show off in front of a lobbyist by pitching pennies into a secretary’s blouse and getting a big laugh, “sexual harassment” was a phrase from an alien vocabulary such behavior wasn’t even on the misconduct map.
Says one longtime Democratic staff woman: “I think any woman who has worked any length of time in the Capitol probably has been sexually harassed at one time or another.”
Men in power did it because they could, and women who worked for them “put up with it,” says a veteran legislative staffer, for fear of losing their jobs. “Before, you knew going into it or thereafter that it was part of the job, or there were expectations, and no one said anything,” she said. “That’s not true anymore.” In the past, someone who complained might be told, with a shrug, “You know how they are.”
Today, after Anita Hill, after new laws and big lawsuits, “they” are taking some notice.
The cases that brought the issue home here in recent weeks involved Assembly members Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) and Rusty Areias (D-San Jose). An Assembly investigation corroborated most of the sexual harassment allegations against Conroy and his chief of staff by a former legislative aide who is suing the pair. Investigators found that their actions were the product “not of malice, but of ignorance and/or poor judgment.” Areias and his chief of staff have been sued by a woman who claims the chief of staff made advances, and Areias ignored her complaints of them.
A Republican staff member who says she has never encountered overt sexual harassment has realized that in the last couple of weeks, even men who reached out innocently to pat her on the back “stopped before they touched me. . . . I think it’s made people think about what they say and do.” And in any case, “there’s so much information out there--lawsuits, training, seminars. I’d expect that people who live in a fishbowl would be more careful of their actions.”
Twenty years after she came here as a teen-age intern and witnessed some “troubling” antics, Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-Burlingame) carried the measure that brought the Legislature into compliance with federal harassment laws, beginning the internal training and disciplinary processes that are in effect today.
On Tuesday, on a break from the marathon sessions, she was in her Assembly office tending her 3-week-old daughter--something else that wouldn’t have happened back then, because there were almost no women legislators.
“Victims,” she says, “recognize they’re being taken seriously. In the early ‘70s, they weren’t. Is (the climate) better? I think so. Have members and staff become more sensitive? I think they have. Is this still a place where it will continue to be a problem? I think so.”
For Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), a legislator for more than 15 years, the “lifestyle” of the Legislature--long, late hours, sometimes far from families, makes people “become very relaxed around one another,” and there is casual talk at which “some people would be offended: Some of it is blunt, at times off-color. If you’d not been around that kind of thing, I think it could perhaps be somewhat intimidating.”
While women should always speak up--"if it gets too bad I just walk out of the room"--at the same time “there has to be a sensitivity to what is offensive, and that’s why we’ve been trying to set the standards,” she said.
In a workplace historically populated by men, Bergeson says, they were “likely to say anything that comes into their heads I think that’s more prevalent than this obvious ‘If you don’t go to bed with me, I’m not going to give you a raise.’ ”
In the supermarket-sweep rush to the end of the session Wednesday, two telling bills passed that some years ago would have been considered ridiculous, and the member who dared to bring them to the floor might have been laughed out of his gilt-and-white chamber.
One bill would prohibit merchants from charging more money for goods or services such as haircuts, clothing alterations and dry-cleaning, based solely on a person’s sex, and would bar employers from dictating that women employees not wear slacks to work.
And Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) wrote a bill awaiting the governor’s signature that would allow alleged victims of sexual harassment to sue certain professionals, such as bankers and landlords. It soared through the Assembly with a good dozen votes more than its author expected.
Everyone agrees that women legislators have made a vast difference in the climate and the substance of this place. When it comes to sexual harassment, so have words like “liability.”
“The liabilities associated with these penalties can be very expensive,” said Speier. “And the question will be raised, should the taxpayers pay for this” if public officials are found liable?
That also plays into Bob Connelly’s thinking. The Assembly’s chief administrative officer, Connelly organized the training sessions, the guidelines put out on yellow paper reserved for must-read matters, and the 88-minute videotape that is required viewing for everyone from the Assembly Speaker on down.
With all that, he believes, “if people are still afraid to make complaints, then they haven’t gotten the word, or we haven’t gotten the word out as well as we should.”
Anne Blackshaw is a veteran women’s issues activist now working for Hayden. She is the Senate staffer who is sorry that recent sexual harassment accusations are not Topic A.
“There’s no shortage of the institution saying sexual harassment is wrong, not to be tolerated by members or employees, but it’s the follow-up . . . that’s where they fall short. . . . If women feel they’re not believed, they’re less inclined to come forward.”
Even progress, she worries, is not what it seems. “That’s often what’s more dangerous. We have this feeling that things are different, that we no longer tolerate that kind of behavior, but really it’s just dispersed in different forms . . . more subtly.”
Share All sharing options for: Top Chef Boston Finale: Show Me the Mole
In the world, there are competitions that are meaningless, like high school prom queen. There are competitions that are total landslides, like an election in Utah or any time another team plays the Knicks. There are competitions that make you question the very future of humanity and its ultimate fiery crash and burn, like every season of The Bachelor.
The Top Chef Boston finale was none of those things. This was a fierce, exciting, and in the end, hopefully life-changing competition for the two winningest contestants of the entire season.
After fourteen grueling challenges and what seemed like five "last chance to make it to the finale" episodes, Mei Lin and Gregory Gourdet are the last chefs standing. They boldly cooked their way through Boston and all of its seafood-heavy, historically significant glory (side note: if you watched the whole season I think you earned three credits of American History from most accredited universities). And they both found great inspiration and success in the challenges throughout their time in Mexico. Now there's nothing left to do but leave it all out on the table, so to speak.
Mei and Gregory pile into a van so early in the morning that it's still dark out in Mexico. This is either the beginning of a very involved final challenge or Bravo has shifted gears from reality tv to a terrifying hostage drama (I guess they do have that show about divorced ladies now).
Instead of some weird remote kitchen or strange farm where they just grow mold and aloe, the van brings the two finalists to take a hot air balloon ride over San Miguel de Allende. After a white-knuckled (on my end because I'm afraid of heights) journey, they land in a vineyard to meet Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. It feels like a car might have been a cheaper option for travel, but I don't know Mexico's economy or vehicular laws.
The challenge, as Padma and Tom explain, is so simple it's near-impossible. The chefs must each prepare the four course meal of their lives. They will each be equipped with two sous chefs, a high-class restaurant kitchen, and $2,000 to show over the course of a meal who they are as chefs and what they are capable of. It's a tall order, really. There are probably hundreds of incredibly accomplished chefs across the country who struggle to put that into entire restaurants they have created, yet these two have just four plates.
Gregory chooses sous chefs first and picks Doug Adams and George Pagonis . These two have been on screen so often in the last few episodes without being competitors that I'm starting to wonder if they have producers credits or something.
I'm happy that Gregory didn't play this game defensively, and he let Mei pick her partner-in-culinary-crime Melissa King. In addition to Melissa, Mei selects Rebecca LaMalfa as her other sous chef, in part because Rebecca has a lot of pastry experience and Mei has been planning on doing a dessert. Not only has she been planning it, but she's been practicing it during the six weeks between Boston and Mexico. It's a smart move to have a back pocket dessert for this, but also a bold one. Four courses is not that many. As a mostly savory chef, that leaves her only three courses to showcase the style that got her on the show to begin with. That being said, a fully realized four course meal rather than four disparate plates of food seems to be a much better path to follow.
In addition to Tom and Padma, the chefs will be serving the other Top Chef judges Gail Simmons , Hugh Acheson , and Richard Blais , as well as a room full of other high profile chefs and culinary powerhouses. It is nice to know that whatever the outcome of the competition, some real high-profile people will be tasting this "meal of a lifetime" that Mei and Gregory are making. It would be a shame to put so much thought and effort and emotion into a meal that only five people taste and harshly judge.
The chefs and their teams head to the store to buy ingredients. Watching this I got instantly jealous of their ability to just easily buy ripe avocados and not spend $73 a piece or whatever the going rate is in New York in February. They are more expensive and hard to come by than a sparkly tiara that belongs to actual royalty and not a girl throwing up on the back-end of a twenty-first birthday bar crawl.
Gregory decided to really let Mexico inspire him, and rather than lean heavily on the Asian dishes that he's known for, he wants to let the ingredients of this country dictate his dishes a bit more. Mei wants to stick more with what she knows, like congee, but take the dishes to a new level through flavor and technique.
Back at the apartment for their last night that I assume Bravo will pay for, Mei and Gregory chat about their meals and realize that they are both serving octopus as a first course. I guess this is the Top Chef equivalent of showing up at a party wearing the same dress as the only other single girl.
Mei serves her meal to the judges first. She and Gregory have gone head to head several times before in this competition, and this will be the last one, the one that determines who is Top Chef and who gets to meet the head of Healthy Choice to collect their $125,000 (before taxes) check. I think that's how this works.
Mei's first dish is braised and fried octopus with fish sauce vinaigrette, avocado coconut puree, and herbs. The presentation is more visually stunning than 95% of what passes for art in the world. It's elegant, sophisticated, and incredibly flavorful, according to the judges. The only issue with the dish is that the octopus is a little overdone and chewy, but overall a great start to her meal.
For her second course, Mei went back to the first dish she served that won her a challenge: congee. This time she wanted to go more interesting and local, so she prepared congee with carnitas, scallion puree, hot sauce, Japanese peanuts with lime spice, and egg yolk. The result is a warm bowl of flavorful comfort food. It appears that most diners enjoyed it so much that there was nothing left in the bowl. It's hard to improve on something that's already a success, yet she nailed it.
The third course is a huge risk because she uses the very tricky corn mold from one of the previous Mexico challenges. Mei serves duck with braised lettuce, kimchi butter, jicama, and huitlacoche. It's a plate full of strong flavors that will either sing together or fight each other. Judges have mixed opinions of which one is happening here. There are issues with texture and others with the fat rendering. It's still a beautiful plate of food consistent with Mei's style through this meal and the whole season.
Her final dish is by far the most nerve-wracking. While she struggles to get the sweet and tart balance of her dessert right, Tom is telling his table that if he were in this competition as a savory chef, he wouldn't do a dessert. It's not a bad observation, as so many chefs have been sent home or lost challenges thanks to weak desserts over the years.
Mei's dessert comes out smoking. Literally. Icy smoke pours out of the bowl, which contains strawberry lime curd with toasted yogurt, milk crumble, and yogurt lime ice. It's beautiful, it's complex, it's spectacularly flavorful. It's the ideal note to end a meal and a season on. After tasting (ahem, finishing) the dish, Tom has two important points. His first is that it's the best dessert that he's ever had on Top Chef, and his second, is that Mei made the right choice in serving a dessert.
The judges head to Gregory's restaurant to see what he prepared to represent himself as a competitor and as a chef. Everyone agrees that his menu certainly looks tasty, and it's very obviously influenced by the flavors and styles of Mexico.
First up is Gregory's grilled octopus with prickly pear, xoconostle, passion fruit, and cashew milk. The judges love it, especially Padma. The table agrees that putting this head-to-head with Mei's dish is pretty difficult, though it might be the tastier of the two.
For his second course, Gregory serves shrimp broth with green chorizo, pickled nopales, and crispy shrimp heads. He found such success with the green chorizo in his carrot and chocolate dish in the last challenge that he went back to use it again. The chorizo was a smart move because the flavors more or less work, but the dish isn't the mature, refined bowl that the judges were hoping for. His decision to include the shrimp heads in the broth was actually a mistake, as Gail and Padma both make sour faces about how they can feel the pieces in their throats. Just imagining eating pieces of shrimp shell takes me back to bad cocktail parties where the shrimp cocktail hasn't been properly shelled and you choke on a sharp sliver while trying to explain to your friend's new boyfriend that liking a politician's page on Facebook is not the same thing as voting.
Gregory is preparing his third course when he realizes that he didn't properly assemble his carrot sauce. He forgot sugar and vinegar when making it and now it was all wrong. In a pinch he adds more sugar, but then realizes it's too sweet and adds more salt on top of that. He's obviously shaken by the mistake and when presenting the dish to the dining room seems a little defeated and definitely nervous. His striped bass with roasted carrots, radish, pineapple, tomatillo, and carrot sauce did not go over well with the judges. It was, according to Tom, sweeter than Mei's dessert, which is not a good thing. Among the criticisms, the loudest and most important one was that the dish just didn't work.
For his final course, Gregory served a red mole with short ribs and agave sweet potato. While his mole is traditional, the use of short ribs is not, and it's a gamble that pays off tenfold. Everyone loves the dish and heralds it as a brilliant success.
Padma goes into the kitchen to find Mei and Gregory. She asks them to come with her because "we'd like to ask you a few questions." Is this Judges' Table or a murder investigation on Law & Order ?
Overall, both chefs put out excellent meals. Their octopus dishes were fairly close with perhaps a slight advantage to Gregory. For the second course Mei crushed it and Gregory's dish was a bit scattered. Both chefs struggled on the third course and both had outstanding finishes. In his critique, Tom tells Mei of her dessert that not only is it the best dessert he's ever had on Top Chef, it's one of the best desserts he's ever had in his entire life. Honestly, she should win for that alone.
And after a shockingly short period of dramatic music for tension, Padma announces that Mei did in fact win, for that dessert and for everything else. Her meal overall was stronger and more refined than Gregory's. Mei is Top Chef!
This is exactly the outcome I've been hoping for all season. From day one Mei was a tough, fierce competitor that left a lot of really talented chefs in her wake. She fought hard all the way through and thoroughly deserves this title. And I have to say this and I know that mansplainers and meninists and Mennonites—wait that's a different thing—everywhere will roll their eyes, but I am beyond thrilled that a woman won this year. Only two women have won the title in the previous 11 seasons, so it's about time.
Also, if anyone at Bravo is listening, I would very much enjoy a show about Mei and Melissa running a restaurant together I don't know I'm just spitballing here but can we at least all take a meeting or something to get the ball rolling? Great.
Hundreds claim Sterling Jewelers had harassment culture: 'If you were even remotely attractive . you were meat'
10:45 AM on Feb 28, 2017 CST
Hundreds of former employees of Sterling Jewelers, the multibillion-dollar conglomerate behind Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers, claim that its chief executive and other company leaders presided over a corporate culture that fostered rampant sexual harassment and discrimination, according to arbitration documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Declarations from roughly 250 women and men who worked at Sterling, filed as part of a private class-action arbitration case, allege that female employees at the company throughout the late 1990s and 2000s were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed. Sterling disputes the allegations.
The arbitration was first filed in 2008 by more than a dozen women who accused the company of widespread gender discrimination. The class-action case, still unresolved, now includes 69,000 women who are current and former employees of Sterling, which operates about 1,500 stores across the country.
Most of the sworn statements were written years ago, but the employees' attorneys were only granted permission to release them publicly Sunday evening. One of the original women who brought the case, those lawyers said, died in 2014 as proceedings crawled on without resolution.
The statements allege that top male managers, some at the company's headquarters near Akron, Ohio, dispatched scouting parties to stores to find female employees they wanted to sleep with, laughed about women's bodies in the workplace, and pushed female subordinates into sex by pledging better jobs, higher pay or protection from punishment.
Though women made up a large part of Sterling's sales force, many said they felt they had little recourse with their mostly male management. Sanya Douglas, a Kay sales associate and manager in New York between 2003 and 2008, said a manager even had a saying for male leaders coaxing women into sexual favors to advance their careers, calling it "going to the big stage."
"If you didn't do what he wanted with him," she said in the 2012 sworn statement, "you wouldn't get your (preferred) store or raise."
Sterling spokesman David Bouffard told The Post in a statement Monday that company officials "have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture."
The company "has created strong career opportunities for many thousands of women working at our stores nationwide" and takes allegations of pay and promotion discrimination seriously, with "multiple processes in place to receive and investigate allegations of misconduct," Bouffard said.
Allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination "involve a very small number of individuals," he said, adding that their claims were included in arbitration filings by employees' attorneys "to paint a negative and distorted picture of the company."
In arbitration, Sterling presented experts it said had reviewed some employee allegations and concluded that the company "devotes adequate resources to manage complaints of unwanted sex-related behavior," according to a 2015 filing.
Not all of the 69,000 class members are alleging sexual impropriety. Many are accusing Sterling of wage violations, arguing women were systematically paid less than men and passed over for promotions given to less experienced male colleagues.
The former and current employees are seeking punitive damages and years of back pay, though no estimate of the potential damages has been given. A class hearing, during which witnesses will be called to testify before the arbitration judge for the first time, is scheduled for early next year.
Sterling, like other U.S. companies, requires all workers to waive their right to bring any employment-related disputes against their employer in public courts. Instead, complaints must be decided in arbitration - a private, quasi-legal system where cases are guaranteed little transparency.
Since 2015, The Post has requested to review the employee statements submitted as part of arbitration, all of which were designated as confidential. Employees' attorneys have also sought to make them publicly available. Attorneys for the employees and the company recently reached an agreement that the documents could be made public on the condition that they not identify any of the individuals to whom conduct was attributed.
More than 1,300 pages of sworn statements were released Sunday and feature company-approved redactions that obscure the names of managers and executives accused of harassment or abuse. But a memorandum by the employees' attorneys supporting their motion for class certification, filed in 2013, revealed that top executives including Mark Light, now chief executive of Sterling's parent company, Signet Jewelers, were among those accused of having sex with female employees and promoting women based upon how they responded to sexual demands.
Light did not respond to requests for comment, and the company did not make him available for an interview. The company declined to address detailed questions about the allegations made by former employees against Light and other managers.
Many of the most striking allegations stem from the company's annual managers meetings, which former employees described as a boozy, no-spouses-allowed "sex-fest" where attendance was mandatory and women were aggressively pursued, grabbed and harassed.
Multiple witnesses told attorneys that they saw Light "being entertained" as he watched and joined nude and partially undressed female employees in a swimming pool, according to the 2013 memorandum.
Routine sexual "preying" at company events "was done out in the open and appeared to be encouraged, or at least condoned, by the company," Melissa Corey, a manager of Sterling stores in Massachusetts and Florida between 2002 and 2008, said in her declaration.
Ellen Contaldi, a Sterling manager in Massachusetts between 1994 and 2008, said in her declaration that male executives "prowled around the (resort) like dogs that were let out of their cage and there was no one to protect the female managers from them."
"I didn't like being alone, anywhere. I used to dread going" to the meetings, Contaldi told The Post in an interview. "If you were even remotely attractive or outgoing, which most salespeople are, you were meat, being shopped."
"It was like nobody knew right from wrong, and there was nobody trying to show anybody right from wrong," Contaldi added. "There was no discipline. There was no consequence. You were on your own."
Former employees who sought help or reported abuse through an internal hotline alleged in their declarations that they were verbally attacked or terminated. Kristin Henry, a five-year Sterling employee who said she was 22 when an older district manager tried to kiss and touch her at a managers event, told The Post she was falsely accused of theft and quickly fired after reporting his advances to superiors at Sterling.
The case, Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers, was filed before the American Arbitration Association, one of the nation's largest arbitration organizations. Kathleen Roberts, the case's arbitrator and a retired federal magistrate, is forbidden by association rules from speaking with the media. Like other arbitrations, the case before Roberts is conducted in private and is legally binding. While arbitrator decisions are appealable, there are very limited grounds on which decisions can be overturned. The confidential nature of the case has made it difficult to determine why it has taken so long to resolve.
In a 2015 decision to grant class-action status to the women, Roberts wrote that the testimony includes references to "soliciting sexual relations with women (sometimes as a quid pro quo for employment benefits), and creating an environment at often-mandatory Company events in which women are expected to undress publicly, accede to sexual overtures and refrain from complaining about the treatment to which they have been subjected."
"For the most part Sterling has not sought to refute this evidence," Roberts wrote. Instead, she wrote, "Sterling argues that it is inadmissible, irrelevant and insufficient to establish a corporate culture that demeans women."
The case could deeply tarnish a business that sells billions of dollars worth of jewelry a year through romance-centered marketing campaigns such as "Every Kiss Begins with Kay." Signet told shareholders in an annual report last year that it would have to "pay substantial damages" if it lost the case. Zale Corp., headquartered in Irving, was acquired by Signet in 2014.
Sterling's mall outlets and storefronts account for a large chunk of America's jewelry market, as well as more than 18,000 jobs across all 50 states. Its parent company, Signet, which is domiciled in Bermuda but headquartered in Ohio, is the world's largest retailer of diamond jewelry, selling more than $6 billion of jewelry, watches and services in 2015, company filings show.
Joseph Sellers, a partner at the Cohen Milstein law firm and lead counsel for the case, told The Post in an interview that the former employees' statements provide "breathtaking evidence of ways in which women were mistreated in the workplace."
"It was terribly demeaning to them as women," Sellers said, "not just because they themselves were mistreated but because they saw how their co-workers were treated as sexual objects."
When Heather Ballou left her job at a small jewelry store and moved to a Kay retail outlet in Pensacola, Florida, in 2000, she believed she had made the right move to advance her young career. Sterling seemed to offer high standards, a professional atmosphere and managers willing to groom and mentor new employees, Ballou, a class member in the arbitration, said in an interview with The Post.
As she worked her way up to store manager, though, she said, she became increasingly disturbed at the frequency of sexual harassment from the company's crude "boys club." At a managers meeting in 2005, a district manager promised to help transfer her to a better store if she had sex with him, she said in her sworn statement. That night, she did, believing she was "backed into a corner" and had no other way to advance.
"Looking back, I can't believe I did some of the things I had to do," Ballou, 41, told The Post, adding that in the moment she thought: "You suck it up and do what you have to do for your family. You need this job."
Ballou attended four of Sterling's multi-day managers meetings, where attendance was mandatory for managers at company stores nationwide. The events, which were mostly held in Orlando, included daytime work seminars but were infamous for their wild parties at night, employees said. It was common practice, former employees said, for executives and high-level managers to ply subordinates with alcohol.
One night, Ballou told The Post, she saw a top executive watching as female managers in varying stages of undress splashed in a hotel pool. "He had a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other, just taking it all in, like, 'I am the king and this is my harem,'" she told The Post. She was prevented by her attorneys from naming which executive was involved, because of the condition of the arbitration documents' release. The 2013 class-action motion states Light took part in a pool-related incident similar to the one Ballou described.
Henry, who attended the 2005 meeting, said she was retrieving her shawl from a hotel room when a male district manager who was her father's age, and whom she had been told to treat like a mentor, forcibly tried to kiss and touch her. Stunned, she left immediately afterward and called her parents for advice.
"I was so embarrassed," she told The Post. "I was afraid of what would happen next, how I would be treated, if it was something he would tell other employees about."
A few days later, she called an internal hotline to report the encounter, believing her identity would be protected. But within days of her report, a regional boss visited her store for two days, interviewed her co-workers and reviewed surveillance video before accusing her of stealing a gold necklace and $100 in cash. She told The Post she showed the boss evidence that she had not stolen anything, but Sterling fired her, a few days before she was set to receive an annual commission payment worth roughly $30,000, she alleged.
Because she was fired and accused of theft, she told The Post, she was unable to find a job at another jewelry store. Now 34, she works as a nurse in Florida.
"Friends to this day ask: What ever happened to that job? And it's one of those situations: Do I tell the truth? Or do I say I just moved on, to save myself the embarrassment?" she told The Post. Seeing Kay commercials, she said, continues to unnerve her.
"They're still hiring younger women, and I worry about those women," she told The Post. "I worry about what might happen to them."
Julia Highfill, a nine-year Sterling manager in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, said in her sworn statement that the company "did not have an effective or serious mechanism by which female employees could complain about their mistreatment." After calling the company to report that a district manager had arrived to work late and reeking of alcohol, she alleged that he called soon after to warn her against calling again. He told her, "Anything you say, I'm going to know," she recalled in an interview.
Men who are not part of the class also filed sworn statements alleging Sterling was a hostile workplace for women. Richard Sumen, who worked for Sterling in Ohio from 1992 until 2005, said in his declaration that a group of managers and officers commonly known as the "good ole boys" was infamous for "protecting and promoting their friends, and wild escapades of sex, drugs, excessive drinking and womanizing." He recalled one former Ohio-based executive saying, "Why pay women more when they just get pregnant and have families?"
In his sworn statement, Sumen also recounted an incident at corporate headquarters in which an executive pointed to a female secretary and asked a district manager, "Are you doing her?" The secretary looked visibly uncomfortable, Sumen said, but the executive said again, louder, "I want to f---ing know if you are f---ing doing her."
Sumen told The Post that he remained troubled by what he called Sterling's discriminatory corporate climate. He wrote in his 2008 declaration, "This culture of sexism and womanizing was so prevalent that female management employees were pressured to acquiesce and participate."
This culture seemingly arose in a company whose sales force was mostly women. More than 68 percent of Sterling's store managers are women, the company told The Post. Three of Signet's 10 executive officers are women. A job-recruitment video calls Sterling "your place to shine" and promises an "exciting and fulfilling career."
Light was made Sterling's chief executive in 2006 and presided over an eight-year growth streak during which the company's sales more than tripled. Light, now 54 and chief executive of Signet, earned about $7.4 million in salary, stock and bonuses in fiscal 2016, up from $2.4 million in 2014, company filings show.
Signet, the parent company of Sterling, Zales and other jewelry brands, has struggled in recent months because of disappointing holiday sales, investors' worries over how much of its jewelry is bought on credit, and a scandal during which Kay customers alleged diamonds they had brought in for cleaning were swapped for lesser-quality stones. The company denied the diamond-swapping allegations. Its share price has dropped by half since its late-2015 peak.
Since 1998, Sterling has forced all employees to agree to arbitration - a no-judge, no-jury resolution system that allows companies to keep potentially embarrassing labor disputes and case records mostly confidential.
The nonprofit American Arbitration Association, where the Sterling case is being heard, allows companies to refuse arbitrators they believe will not fairly rule on their case.
Some companies have argued that arbitration allows them a quicker path to resolving employee disputes beyond traditional courts. Workers effectively consent to the rules when they sign agreements requiring arbitration as a condition of their employment, as seen with Sterling's contracts.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a report last year that mandatory arbitration policies "can prevent employees from learning about similar concerns shared by others in their workplace."
Ballou, who left the company in 2009, is hoping the case leads to more than back pay. Now 41, the single mother is back in school studying to become a registered nurse and working as an office manager for a real estate company, where she told The Post she "hasn't encountered an inkling" of what she saw at Sterling.
"What's sad is that I was there for so long, it was almost like when someone is in an abusive relationship: You think that's what normal is," she told The Post.
"I can't even go into a Kay anymore. It just turns my stomach," she added. "Even seeing those 'Every Kiss Begins with Kay' commercials revolts me, thinking of what's behind them. All the good things they do, all the lovely things they promise. It's a lie."
She told The Post she wanted to speak out in hopes that it could help other women, as well as her 8-year-old daughter.
"I was a victim, and I didn't have anyone to speak for me," Ballou said. "As humiliating as it was, it was worth it, because now maybe it won't happen to her."
World's Most Extravagant BYOB
Daniel Johnnes' office looks out onto the intersection of West Broadway and Canal Street at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel. Yet for Johnnes, the view is far less important than the gallery of photos on the wall to the right of his desk, where black-and-white headshots of Burgundy’s greatest winemakers peer over his shoulder like patron saints: Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier in Chambolle-Musigny Jean-Marie Fourrier of Domaine Fourrier in Gevry Chambertin Dominique Lafon of Domaine Comtes Lafon in Meursault and Frédéric Mugnier of Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier also in Chambolle-Musigny, to name a few. All have the pensive eyes and deeply etched skin of men who spend their life in the vineyard and the cellar.
Johnnes gestures toward his friends. “They’re all coming back this year,” he says. He’s referring to La Paulée de New York, the Burgundy festival he hosts in Manhattan bi-annually, modeled on Les Trois Glorious, an event held in Beaune each year on the third weekend in November, which begins with a banquet hosted by the Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, continues with an auction of wines from the Hospices de Beaune and ends with the famed La Paulée de Meursault.
La Paulée de Meursault is a true bacchanal. Winemakers, vineyard owners, and Burgundy connoisseurs from around the globe bring a few bottles of their own wines to Château de Meursault, where they gather at long communal tables for a gala lunch which lasts well into the night. They sing harvest songs and pull cork after cork after cork.
The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when Cistercian monks invited their vineyard workers to a dinner celebrating the end of the harvest. In fact, the name La Paulée draws from the French word for frying pan, poêle, from which food prepared by the monks was served. Its modern incarnation, created in 1923 by the renowned winemaker Jules Lafon, has become one of the wine world’s most coveted tickets.
In 1993, Johnnes received an invitation from Dominique Lafon, the great-grandson of Jules Lafon, to attend with his wife Sally. The event’s camaraderie, generosity and unabashed joie de vivre overwhelmed him. It was everything he loved about Burgundy, blown up on steroids. He decided, “I have to bring this to New York!”
This year on February 12, 350 people will gather at the Metropolitan Pavilion for the 10th La Paulée de New York Gala Dinner. While the spirit of the event is about sharing without pretension, La Paulée de New York is more about special wines than it is about celebrating the harvest. With over $1 million of wine in the room, it may be the world’s most extravagant BYOB party.
Guests enter the hall and check their coats at the coat check and check their wines with a sommelier. The sommelier puts the guest’s name on a bottle and brings it to the “war room,” where another sommelier places it with the other bottles to be served at the guest’s table.
Over the course of the evening, sommeliers pour each guest 120 wines, four wines from 33 top Burgundy producers, plus their own bottle. A core group of collectors bring very rare wines: a 1992 Le Montrachet, a 1971 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg, or a Christophe Roumier Bonne Mares 1998. Mere mortals bring more accessible wines, often sentimental bottles purchased on a trip to Burgundy or on a special occasion. A troupe of traditional Burgundian folk singers, Les Cadets de Bourgogne, lead guests in a variety of traditional harvest songs. Women in cocktail dresses, famous winemakers, celebrity chefs and men in custom suits wave napkins as they sing.
The meal, not to be upstaged, is commandeered by a different chef for each course. “Listening to chefs come up with recipes is always exciting,” says Johnnes. This year Tom Colicchio offers Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Michel Troisgros prepares a Lobster Navrin, Daniel Boulud makes Poularde Demi-Deul, Daniel Humm serves Veal Cheeks with Black Truffles, and finally Daniel Dominique Ansel offers Chocolate and Praline Ganache for dessert.
The price tag for the dinner is exorbitant at $1,400 a person, but for hardcore Burgundy lovers it is worth it. “The great Burgundy producers don’t open their cellars to the public because their bottles are heavily allocated and they would have no wine to sell to those who come to taste. We give people access to great domains and the chance to meet the winemakers and talk about the wines,” Johnnes says, adding, “Wine lovers, especially Burgundy lovers are drawn to that.”
For hard-core Burgundy lovers for whom the price of the dinner is prohibitive there are other events, including an Insider’s Tour of Burgundy with Jasper Morris, MW and Becky Wasserman and a Grand Tasting with winemakers from 33 leading domaines serving four wines each.
Top sommeliers come from all across the United States at their own expense to work the event without pay. Their official role is to help the guests share their wines with one another. But they come for the chance to meet famous producers, taste rare wines and to find camaraderie among colleagues and clients.
Led by David Gordon of the Myriad Group and Bernie Sun of Jean Georges, the list of participating sommeliers reads like a fantasy league team for wine service. It includes Michel Couvreux of Per Se, Paul Grieco of Hearth and Terroir, Michael Madrigale of Bar Boulud, Rajat Parr of Michael Mina, Juliette Pope of Gramercy Tavern, Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin, and Chad Zeigler of RN 74. Johnnes acts as host, walking the floor with a jéroboam (double magnum) of a Grand Cru such as “Clos des Faively,” the only Grand Cru site to bear the name of its owner.
Johnnes’ ascendance to being New York’s bridge to Burgundy began in 1983. Having just returned from studying in France, he worked as a salesman at the Upper West Side wine store Acker Merrall & Condit under the tutelage of Jerry Jacobson. Back then Acker Merrall was one of the few wine stores that carried all the great domains. Jacobson brought Johnnes with him to Burgundy on a buying trip, during which they went into the cellars and met the winemakers.
“That is when I met Christophe Roumier,” Johnnes points to his wall of pictures. “He had just taken over for his father.”
At that time, Johnnes also worked at the restaurant La Regence. There he met two more men who became instrumental in his professional life, the chef Daniel Boulud and the then captain Drew Nieporent. Johnnes helped Nieporent open Montrachet and went on to become the wine director for Montrachet, Nobu, and Tribeca Grill, Nieporent’s other restaurants.
In 1988, a friend of Johnnes named Phil Stafford came to Montrachet to show him a half bottle of 1917 Richebourg from the cellar of an estate where Stafford was renting a carriage house. The owner wanted to sell the cellar and Stafford asked if Johnnes would assess the collection. At the time, Stafford was in the process of obtaining an import license for a company called USA Wine Imports. Johnnes asked Stafford if he could clear some wines for him to bring in for the restaurant Montrachet. Stafford agreed. Little by little other people wanted to buy Johnnes’ wines, the clientele expanded and the import company Daniel Johnnes Wines was born. Today Michael Skurnick is the exclusive importer for Daniel Johnnes Wines, which includes selections from Alsace, the Loire Valley, the Rhône Valley, Bordeaux, Languedoc Rousillon, and, of course, Burgundy.
“After a week of eating in fine restaurants surrounded by collectors and journalists, they want to let loose. At heart, they are farmers,” [Johnnes] says.
When after September 11, 2001, Tribeca became hauntingly quiet and stayed that way for a while, Daniel Boulud asked Johnnes to help him open Bar Boulud and come on as beverage manager of the Dinex Group. For Johnnes, this was a dream job. He would have another opportunity to work with high-quality professional chefs and assemble a team of top sommeliers. “Daniel has a great appreciation of wine,” says Johnnes, “finer than any chef I know. He understands even great sausages deserve to be paired with fine wine, even if it is in a more rustic style.”
In 2007, not to miss a part of the trade, Johnnes began moonlighting as a winemaker in both Oregon and Burgundy. In Oregon he was mentored by his friend the esteemed winemaker Eric Hamacher and in Burgundy he learned from Frédéric Mugnier, one of the most talented winemakers working today. In 2009, he made a second vintage of wine in Burgundy with grapes from Gevery-Chambertin.
“With the first vintage, I threw away two thirds of the grapes from the sorting table over the course of 12 hours,” he recalls. “I’m very competitive, so when after all that time Fred observed, ‘the grapes are not so pretty,’ we sorted some more.”
Johnnes made two barrels of wine he describes as very light, but expressive of its type with gentle vibrations, high tones and brightness. “What I like is that I know the grapes gave all that they could,” he says. Then, with a sense of awe, he describes how the legendary winemaker Henri Jayer could look at the quality of the grapes at harvest time and imagine the wine they could become. “Jayer is a true artist,” says Johnnes, “a conduit between grapes and wine.”
In the month leading up to La Paulée de New York, Johnnes abstains from alcohol. When the night begins, he will walk the room with his jéroboam and a tasting glass, sampling multiple vintages of his favorite wines: Chambolle-Musigny, which he loves for its elegance, intensity, lightness on the tongue and layers of aroma as it ages and Le Montrachet, which he calls the world’s greatest expression of Chardonnay.
The next morning, when the party is over and the collectors and connoisseurs are home in bed, Johnnes arranges a bike ride for the celebrated winemakers he feels lucky to count among his friends. He takes them on a ride up the West Side through Central Park to Harlem for BBQ, or over the Brooklyn Bridge to Red Hook for coffee and a ferry ride to The Statue of Liberty. This year he is looking for a beer hall in Williamsburg. “After a week of eating in fine restaurants surrounded by collectors and journalists, they want to let loose. At heart, they are farmers,” he says.
Sophie Helene Menin writes about food and wine, sense of place and the pleasures of the table. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Departures and Saveur, among other publications. She lives in New York City.
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at [email protected] .
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The Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to advance a bill creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, voting 54-35 as Republicans invoked the first legislative filibuster of the Biden presidency.Why it matters: Democrats argue the commission is urgently needed to investigate one of the darkest days in U.S. history. Republicans fear the commission could be weaponized to damage them politically ahead of the 2022 midterms. Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Zoom in: The six Republicans who voted in favor of the commission were Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), and Ben Sasse (Neb.).A spokesperson for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he missed the vote because he had a "family commitment," but would have voted in favor of advancing the legislation.Toomey was one of 11 senators who missed the vote, including Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Shelby (R-Alal.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).What they're saying: "I am sorry if an independent commission to study an attack on our democracy isn't a Republican ad-makers idea of a good time. This is too important," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor on Thursday.Schumer asked Republicans in a speech on Friday, moments before the vote: "What are you afraid of, the truth? Are you afraid that Donald Trump’s Big Lie will be dispelled?""The Department of Justice is deep into a massive criminal investigation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) countered. "I do not believe the additional, extraneous ɼommission' that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to."Behind the scenes: Republicans have privately said that a 9/11-style commission would be a political mess for the GOP and could jeopardize Senate seats next year, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.Former President Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the GOP, has condemned the proposed commission as "partisan" and demanded investigations into left-wing political violence during racial-justice protests last year.Ahead of the vote, the mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick met privately with Republicans to urge them to vote for the bill. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who has sought to downplay the severity of the Capitol attack, said he "respectfully disagreed" with her on the "added value of the proposed commission."Catch up quick: 35 Republicans supported the bill passed in the House, which was negotiated between the top Democrat and Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.Murkowski, Romney and Collins were the only GOP senators to publicly say they would vote for the commission prior to Friday — though Collins said she wanted to see changes to the House bill.Murkowski blasted McConnell on Friday for refusing to back the commission, accusing the leader of her party of putting "short-term political gain" over finding out the truth about the deadly insurrection.Cassidy said in a statement after voting in favor of advancing the bill: "The investigations will happen with or without Republicans. To ensure the investigations are fair, impartial, and focused on the facts, Republicans need to be involved."Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — who publicly oppose eliminating the filibuster — had pushed Senate Republicans to "find a path forward" on the commission so "our nation never has to endure an attack at the hands of our countrymen again." Manchin said on Thursday that he would not be willing to "destroy our government" by getting rid of the filibuster if Republicans blocked the commission, but added: "You have to have faith there's ten good people."What to watch: House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) previously told reporters that Democrats would likely pursue a select committee if the bill fell short in the Senate. Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live in Montecito, California. Here are the other celebrities who call the exclusive neighborhood home.
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Canada's COVID-19 cases seen falling if restrictions maintained
Canada's third wave of COVID-19 infections should decline steadily through the first part of June, driven lower by health restrictions and the steadily increasing numbers of people who are at least partially vaccinated, health officials said on Friday. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told reporters that the downward trend in cases is "very encouraging", but added "now is not the time to relax our measures". While some of the 10 provinces, like Quebec, are beginning to open up businesses and relax health restrictions, others are not.
We can’t stop Kentucky’s love affair with guns. But we can make it a safer one.
Our nation has always loved its guns, but 2008 was a particularly special year in that relationship. That’s when studies show we finally had one for each citizen, more than 300 million altogether.
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Investigators release report on NYUAD labor violations
Nardello & Co, an independent investigative firm hired by NYU to review allegations of labor violations at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus released their report Thursday morning. Investigators confirmed that while NYU’s labor standards applied to 20,000 workers, labor rights abuses did occur during the construction of the Saadiyat Island campus.
The report showed that one third of the workers were not treated according to NYU’s labor standards due to a de facto exemption policy. The firm further concluded that the university and other parties were not aware of the problem.
NYU President John Sexton said the university was not aware of the policy in place and plans to ensure violations like these do not occur in the future.
“Neither we nor Tamkeen knew about the exemption policy or how widely it was being applied (roughly one-third of the workers — about 10,000 people — worked for contractors deemed exempt from the rules),” Sexton said. “ That is why we were so taken aback by the media accounts and NGO reports of substandard treatment of workers. Both we and Tamkeen commit to ensuring that we will not allow such a compliance gap to occur in the future.”
The report showed that NYU tried to comply with the labor standards, including the provision of fair wages, compensation for overtime work and protection against harassment or abuse.
“Reports by several newspapers and Non-Governmental Organizations have alleged that many workers on the campus construction project were not treated in accordance with the guidelines and implied that NYU and its government partners merely paid lip service to their commitment,” the report reads. “Our investigation found that the commitment was real, implemented in good faith and, to a large measure, effective.”
Paula Chakravartty, Gallatin professor and member of Coalition for Fair Labor, said the report verified the problems CFL had identified and added that the university should implement the investigators’ recommendations.
“We hope that the public acknowledgement of violations of labor standards for some 10,000 workers involved in the building of the NYUAD campus, the ongoing issues around crushing recruitment debt and lack of mechanisms for worker representation make it clear that meaningful changes are urgently needed,” Chakravartty said. “The time is now for President Sexton and the administration to encourage student and faculty input on compensation for lost wages, settling recruitment debt and oversight into a truly independent labor monitor.”
Email Alanna Bayarin and Marita Vlachou at [email protected]
How Do You Drive Out a Union? South Carolina Factory Provides a Textbook Case
SUMTER, S.C. - Tom Brown, the leader of an anti-union campaign at the EnerSys battery factory here, made some surprising admissions in recent testimony about how his campaign had been run and financed.
Mr. Brown, a longtime maintenance man, acknowledged that a mysterious consultant known as Mr. X had advised him on how to oust the union and had helped him write fliers that called the union's leaders names like "trailer trash," "Uncle Tom" and "dog woman." Not only that, Mr. Brown testified that envelopes filled with cash had often been sent to his home. He said he had no idea who had sent them. "I don't look a gift horse in the mouth," he said.
Across the South companies have long used bare-knuckled tactics to fight unions. But now a surprisingly detailed roadmap to such tactics has emerged from an unusual court battle between EnerSys and its law firm over whose wrongdoing -- the company's or its lawyers' -- led to a $7.75 million settlement that EnerSys entered into after federal officials accused it of 120 labor law violations in its seven-year effort to eliminate the union.
The company has accused the firm, Jackson Lewis, of malpractice and of advising it to engage in illegal behavior. The law firm says that EnerSys ignored its sound advice and that the company is trying to avoid paying its legal bill.
The wrangling has cast a spotlight on how the company fired and harassed the union's top officials and aided Mr. Brown, the anti-union leader, although federal law prohibits companies from financing or otherwise assisting efforts to get rid of a union.
The litigation also highlights a little known but thriving business in which law firms and consultants work with corporations to beat back unionization efforts. Jackson Lewis, a national law firm based in New York, describes itself as "committed to the practice of preventive labor relations."
"Union membership is declining because employers will stop at nothing to prevent employees from having a union," said David Bonior, the former Michigan Congressman who is now president of American Rights at Work, an advocacy group fighting violations of workers' rights. "Unfortunately, 75 percent of employers use union-busting consultants to fight unionization drives."
Labor experts call the EnerSys case unusual, with federal labor officials accusing the company of firing the top seven union leaders, spying on workers, refusing to bargain and ultimately closing the 500-worker plant to retaliate against the union. Its $7.75 million settlement is evidence of how far the company strayed from the law. But labor experts also say the case opens a window onto some common tactics.
"Jackson Lewis is a key player in the union avoidance industry," said Fred Feinstein, former general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board. "This kind of aggressive anti-union campaign is not unusual."
Jackson Lewis says it did nothing wrong.
"Jackson Lewis zealously represents its clients," Kevin A. Hall, a lawyer representing the firm, said. "In doing so, the firm always honors the letter and the spirit of the law. Jackson Lewis was neither involved in the initial campaign by the union to organize the employees nor involved in any effort to assist the employees to oust the union." EnerSys refused to comment.
This tale began a decade ago when the International Union of Electrical Workers began rounding up support at the factory, which produced giant batteries to power forklifts and provide backup power to cellphone towers.
The union petitioned for a unionization election when many workers voiced dismay about meager pensions, bullying supervisors, production speedups and safety problems, especially with the high temperatures and lead used in production.
The company, then called Yuasa, hired Jackson Lewis to help mount a last-minute anti-union campaign. The company required employees to listen to speakers saying the union did not want to help workers, but only wanted their dues money. Management posted pictures of tombstones and skulls and crossbones in the cafeteria to warn employees that unionized factories often closed.
But on Feb. 23, 1995, the workers voted 191 to 185 to unionize. Management was livid.
"They said that if the union came in the company was doomed," Paulette Jackson, a union steward and quality control worker, said. "They fought tooth and nail. They didn't want a union in the South. Period."
The company fired Ms. Jackson, accusing her of failing to detect some faulty batteries, but her supervisor later told the National Labor Relations Board that the charges were trumped up.
The company's tactics led to many tangles with the labor board, which ultimately filed a sweeping complaint against EnerSys, accusing it of 120 violations of federal law, among them wrongly firing Ms. Jackson and other union leaders, assisting the anti-union campaign, improperly withdrawing union recognition and moving production to nonunion plants as retaliation.
As a result of all the litigation -- including the battle between the company and its lawyers -- detail after detail of what had happened emerged. In a deposition, Darryl Davids, the factory's director of human resources, testified that John Craig, the company's president, had once said: "We need to do whatever we've got to do to get rid of this union, regardless of what it may cost us."
After the unionization vote, management refused to negotiate a contract, challenging the union's victory. After a two-year legal battle, a federal appeals court ruled that the union's victory was valid and ordered the company to bargain. During those two years, the company refused to grant raises.
Once negotiations began, the company said it faced such hard times, even though the economy was booming, that it would lay off workers unless the union accepted a 10 percent pay cut. Management indicated that a new "gainsharing" plan would offset those cuts by providing bonuses for increased productivity.
Pressured by union leaders from Washington, union officials and workers in Sumter reluctantly approved management's proposals, they say.
But then the company stunned the workers, cutting most salaries by 16 percent, not 10 percent. Workers complained that the gainsharing bonuses were minuscule, even though productivity had increased.
"They gave us a bum deal on that gainsharing," said David Bunker, a machine operator whose pay fell to $11.07 an hour from $13.26. "The union was trusting the company to do what is right. That didn't work."
The union protested the tiny bonuses, and the dispute went before an arbitrator. After two more years came a final ruling that EnerSys had improperly manipulated the system to give paltry bonuses.
The arbitration's star witness was a former human resources director, Choice Phillips. Mr. Phillips said the factory's budget had provided no money for bonuses, indicating that management had never intended to offset the pay cuts.
Mr. Phillips also testified that the plant manager, Doyle Thresher, used to leave cash on a table in his office for Mr. Brown, to help finance the anti-union campaign. The plant manager, Mr. Phillips testified, said the cash was "trash" that Mr. Brown was to pick up.
EnerSys said in legal hearings that Mr. Phillips had been fired for sexual harassment, an allegation he denies. The company won a defamation suit against him, but in November, a federal judge vacated that judgment, concluding that EnerSys had lied when it denied that it had helped the anti-union campaign. Mr. Phillips said he had been dismissed for refusing to participate in the company's illegal conduct.
"They did everything they could to make the union look bad," Larry Brown, a union vice president, said.
Many workers became angry with the union over the pay cuts, especially because they received no raises from 1995 to 2001.
The anger fueled the effort to oust the union. Tom Brown organized anti-union meetings, sent mailings to the plant's 500 workers and asked them to sign cards saying they wanted the union out.
Mr. Brown testified that Mr. X, the company consultant, had given him advice. EnerSys officials later admitted that they had paid the consultant $39,000 to help guide the anti-union campaign. Mr. Brown also acknowledged that company officials had given him stamps for anti-union mailings.
The company also went after union officials directly. In June 2001, EnerSys fired Vincent Gailliard, the union's president, during an arbitration hearing over the bonuses, accusing him of lying. EnerSys announced that same day that it was withdrawing recognition from the union, asserting that a majority of workers had signed cards saying they no longer wanted a union.
"They figured if they got rid of the leaders, the rest of us would buckle under," Cathy Moody, another fired union official, said.
The labor board accused EnerSys of fabricating its allegations against Mr. Gailliard, asserting that it fired him to cripple the union and cow workers.
Facing a downturn in orders, EnerSys began several rounds of layoffs in 2001, often giving no advance notice to the union. On Sept. 10, 2001, EnerSys announced it was closing the factory, again giving no notice.
Federal law generally requires that factories give unions notice before large-scale layoffs and plant closings.
Union officials said EnerSys's tactics were an egregious version of what many corporations do. According to N.L.R.B. statistics, companies illegally retaliate against 20,000 workers a year for supporting a union. And according to a study by Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University, half the companies that face unionization campaigns threaten to close their plants and one fourth fire at least one union supporter to derail the campaigns.
Faced with the sweeping complaint by the N.L.R.B., EnerSys agreed to pay $7.75 million to settle the board's charges and the union's lawsuits over the failure to pay bonuses or give notice of the layoffs.
After the settlement, EnerSys sued Jackson Lewis, accusing it of malpractice, including misleading federal investigators, giving illegal assistance to Mr. Brown and engineering "a relentless and unlawful campaign to oust the union."
"The company gave carte blanche to the law firm -- the law firm was pretty much running the plant," Mr. Gailliard said. "It came back and slapped them in the face, and now they want someone to blame."
EnerSys said that Jackson Lewis had engaged in malpractice by recommending that the company withdraw union recognition when the firm must have known about the illegal anti-union aid. Federal law bars the withdrawal of union recognition when companies have financed a decertification effort. EnerSys also accused Jackson Lewis of wrongly advising it not to give the union notice of the layoffs and plant closing.
Jackson Lewis has mounted a vigorous defense. It has accused EnerSys of obstructing justice and paying "hush money" to Mr. Brown by placing him in a job with a company that services the shuttered battery factory and by paying his salary there. EnerSys insists that the arrangement was not intended to buy silence.
Jackson Lewis says it consistently gave sound advice.
Mr. Hall, the lawyer representing the firm, said, "Sometimes when clients ignore their attorneys' advice and end up with disappointing results, especially where legal fees are still outstanding, they deny responsibility for their own conduct and sue their lawyers for malpractice, hoping that the case will settle with a forgiveness of the legal fees." Jackson Lewis says EnerSys owes it more than $270,000.
Frank Macerato, general counsel for EnerSys, which is based in Reading, Pa., declined comment, saying the company would not discuss matters in litigation.
Today the factory lies quiet, and many workers remain unemployed. Jackie Clemmons, one of the earliest union supporters, said the firings, the lack of raises and the plant closing had all sent a powerful message.
"After all this, I don't think you could pay the people here to join a union, to mess with a union," Mr. Clemmons said. "And I don't believe the union would want to deal with us anymore down here."
Aramark’s Long History of Missing the Mark
NYU’s Lipton Dining Hall, which recently failed a health inspection by the New York City Department of Health.
By Kristina Hayhurst, Deputy News Editor
February 26, 2018
Aramark, NYU’s food provider, has come under fire again due to the discriminatory Black History Month meal served at the Weinstein Passport Dining Hall last week.
This is the second Aramark controversy resulting in employee dismissals this academic year, the first of which followed Lipton Dining Hall’s New York City Department of Health low-graded inspection, in which rat droppings were found in the facilities.
This meal was served only a week after a similar menu of fried chicken and grape Kool-Aid was served at Loyola University. The incidents at NYU and Loyola are only the most recent instances of mismanagement for Aramark.
Karen Cutler, vice president of communications at Aramark, emphasized in a statement to WSN that one of the company’s core values is quality support for its numerous consumers.
“We operate our business with social responsibility,” Cutler said in the statement. “We focus on initiatives that support our diverse workforce, advance consumer health and wellness, protect our environment and strengthen our communities.”
Aramark also supplies food to private prisons. Beginning in 2014, there have been a myriad of reports claiming that Aramark’s sanitary and health practices are detrimental to the well-being of prisoners.
In 2014, inmates found maggots while peeling potatoes at the Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson, MI. About 30 prisoners fell ill from food poisoning at another Jackson facility supplied by Aramark. A former Aramark employee reported unsanitary kitchen practices such as serving raw or undercooked meat, falsifying records about dishwater temperatures and quality of cleaning solutions and inflating the count of meals served to inmates. This complaint was supposedly one of the reasons the employee was fired.
In September 2014, inspections of Aramark’s meal service for seven prisons in the Ohio area received contract compliance scores of less than the minimum level of 80 percent.
In 2015, the Michigan Department of Corrections confirmed that Aramark served food that had been thrown in the trash to prisoners in Saginaw County. Before this, Aramark employees instructed kitchen staff at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility to serve rat-bitten cakes covered with icing.
More maggots were found at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Michigan. The culmination of these grievances caused the state of Michigan to end its three-year deal with Aramark 18 months early.
Aramark’s issues aren’t limited to health and sanitation. There have been reports of Aramark employees smuggling marijuana into Michigan prisons and attempting to hire inmates to assault other inmates and a multitude of inappropriate relationships between staff and prisoners.
Cutler claimed that much of this information is untrue.
“There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda around Aramark and our service of food to the Corrections industry, as a result of a Netflix documentary [“13th”] and ongoing activism around the prison industrial complex and anti-privatization,” she said.
She also denied the existence of any infestations in Ohio or Michigan.
“There are many unfounded allegations about the quantity and quality of food for inmates, service levels and sanitation issues,” Cutler said. “The most disturbing and damaging of these baseless claims involved ‘maggots.’ There was not and has never been an infestation of any kind in food served to offenders in Ohio or Michigan [Department of Corrections] facilities.”
Even so, these allegations prompted a direct response from NYU last spring, when NYU Prison Divest started a petition urging NYU to divest from Aramark. Joseph Taecker-Wyss, a Gallatin junior and a member of the Incarceration for Education Coalition, outlined a few of the reasons why they started the petition. The IEC is a group of NYU community members working to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated NYU applicants and applicants with criminal records.
“Aramark is one of the biggest profiteers from mass incarceration,” Taecker-Wyss said. “Fundamentally, it’s an unjust company. It has had a huge range of human rights abuses, and it’s directly tied within the system. With NYU supporting it, it’s supporting the practices of Aramark and mass incarceration.”
Prison Divest’s petition, which gained 391 signatures in the past year, was brought to the administration in the spring of 2017. According to the IEC, the university rushed them through its offices quickly and said it would consider the petition when renewing the contract with Aramark in August of this year.
“NYU’s primary tactic when dealing with on-campus student organizations is to just deflect, to claim they’re unaware or to claim it’s somehow outside of their control,” Taecker-Wyss said. “Obviously NYU does choose what they’re invested in, what organizations they support, and it’s an intentional choice to support Aramark.”
Aramark has also recently faced backlash internationally, stemming from its ties to Direct Provision, an institution that houses asylum-seekers and their children while they await relocation. Direct Provision has been widely criticized because it denies residents the right to work, study or cook their own meals. While it is supposed to house asylum-seekers temporarily, many families end up spending seven to 10 years in it.
Colleges across Ireland have started to protest Aramark, including the Union of Students in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin Students Union and University College Dublin. Alex Greene, a 2017 alumna and a member of the IEC, said that she wasn’t surprised that Aramark has ties with Direct Provision. She emphasized that it was all the more reason for NYU to take accountability.
“NYU should hold themselves to the standard that they claim to have, which is that they’re diverse, inclusive and non discriminatory,” Greene said in an interview with WSN. “Yet they continue to use and invest in companies that use prison labor and utilize unethical practices.”
The main motive for NYU’s continued partnership with Aramark, according to Greene, is that the university’s administration finds it too hard and financially taxing to secure a new food provider.
“They have the financial incentive to do nothing,” Greene said. “They don’t have to put in the time and money to find a new company or figure out new ways to provide dining services to a large university. One of their largest pushbacks was that they didn’t want to go through all of that to find a new company, but I mean, that’s their job.”
When questioned about whether NYU was considering divestment from Aramark when their five-year contract ends this summer, NYU spokesperson Matt Nagel referenced a message sent to NYU’s Resident Assistant Council and Inter-Residence Hall Council this month from Owen Moore, the assistant vice president for the Division of Campus Services.
“The university has begun planning for a RFP [request for proposal] process for food service providers,” the email stated. “I want to initiate consultation with the I.R.H.C and RA council at the next Dining Advisory Board meeting on March 21 (which is open to all students), as we will be reaching out soon to the university community for input.”
The IEC will be organizing a protest against Aramark this Thursday, Feb. 29, in Downstein.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 26 print edition. Email Kristina Hayhurst at [email protected]
How to Write a Report
This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA. Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014.
There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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When you’re assigned to write a report, it can seem like an intimidating process. Fortunately, if you pay close attention to the report prompt, choose a subject you like, and give yourself plenty of time to research your topic, you might actually find that it’s not so bad. After you gather your research and organize it into an outline, all that’s left is to write out your paragraphs and proofread your paper before you hand it in!