Ken Friedman is the latest high-profile restaurant owner to be accused of sexual harassment.
A day after sexual misconduct allegations against Mario Batali were reported, 10 women came forward on Tuesday in a New York Times article, describing how the owner of N.Y.C.’s famed gastropub The Spotted Pig has allegedly been subjecting his employees to unwanted sexual advances for years.
Friedman, whose restaurant has earned several Michelin stars, a James Beard Foundation award, and is known as a celebrity hot spot run by chef April Bloomfield, has reportedly groped several of his female employees in public and has demanded group sex or nude pictures via text messages, the Times reports.
“Many others also said that working for him required tolerating daily kisses and touches, pulling all-night shifts at private parties that included public sex and nudity, and enduring catcalls and gropes from guests who are Mr. Friedman’s friends,” the article reads.
One longtime server Natalie Saibel told the Times that in 2015 Friedman “ran his hands over her buttocks and then her groin” in the middle of the restaurant and then joked he was “searching her pockets for a forbidden cellphone.” Another employee Amy Dee Richardson, who was a bar manager in 2004, says he “bit her on the waist as he bent down to duck under the bar.”
Friedman, who also co-owns New York’s Breslin Bar & Dining Room, John Dory Oyster Bar, Salvation Taco and White Gold Butchers in addition to San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe and L.A’s Hearth & Hound, responded to the allegations, saying, “Some incidents were not as described, but context and content are not today’s discussion. I apologize now publicly for my actions.” He then said his behavior is accurately described as “abrasive, rude and frankly wrong.”
Several employees of the restaurant said they have attempted to come forward about the harassment, confiding in Bloomfield, who they say dismissed their concerns.
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“Her response was always the same,”says Trish Nelson, a former server. “‘That’s who he is. Get used to it. Or go work for someone else.'”
Bloomfield denied avoiding support, and said in a statement: “In the two matters involving uninvited approaches that were brought to my attention over the years, I immediately referred both to our outside labor counsel and they were addressed internally. I have spoken to Ken about professional boundaries and relied on him to uphold our policies. Nonetheless I feel we have let down our employees and for that I sincerely apologize.”
The news comes on the heels of celebrity chef Mario Batali—who is said to be a regular at The Spotted Pig—being accused by four women for sexual harassment and announced he is stepping back from his restaurant empire and his gig as co-host of The Chew.
“Employees of the Spotted Pig said they regularly experienced or witnessed sexual aggression by Mr. Batali there, often with Mr. Friedman’s knowledge,” the Times report reads.
RELATED VIDEO: Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Multiple Women
Fellow well-known chefs have took to Twitter to express their anger surrounding sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. Anthony Bourdain tweeted on Sunday night: “No. Trust me. Monday is really gonna suck,” he wrote. He then followed with: “It’s where you stand when the people you care about and admire do awful things that matters. Keeping head down and hoping it goes away? No.”
Chef Tom Colicchio also commented, writing, “And no one should be surprised.”