Some of Portland’s most acclaimed restaurants are contending with allegations of sexual harassment, toxic managers, and discriminatory behavior within their kitchens, after claims surfaced last week in a string of social media posts. The person who opened the floodgates is a restaurant owner herself: chef Maya Lovelace, of Southern restaurant Yonder and supper club Mae.
On July 1, Lovelace began posting screenshots of messages from food service workers about the toxicity of the Portland restaurant industry to her Instagram account. It began with a post about a Portland chef, calling him a “rapist and a predator.” Then she shared a post calling out Mi Mero Mole owner Nick Zukin for recently comparing the experience of owning a business in Portland to the police killing of George Floyd.
Next Lovelace put out an open call, asking anyone who had a story about toxic behavior in the city’s restaurant industry to message her. She promised, in turn, to share it through Instagram Stories, with the sender’s name cropped out. “Portland is a small enough town, and a small enough restaurant industry that everybody knows everybody’s business; everyone knows who’s abusive. These are the conversations line cooks, dishwashers, servers are having after work at the bar,” Lovelace told Eater PDX. “I started this exhausted — exhausted by keeping people’s secrets, exhausted by the fact people were actively not listening to these people’s stories.”
Over the next week, Lovelace says that she received hundreds of messages from restaurant workers and that they contained numerous accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, racist behavior, and hostile work environments throughout the Portland restaurant world. She shared them — primarily as blocks of screenshotted direct messages, with the names cropped out — tagging the chefs and restaurants involved.
Several of the restaurants tagged are local icons, including “pan-Asian” hotel restaurant Departure, known as the vehicle of Top Chef darling Gregory Gourdet; Ava Gene’s, owned by James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Joshua McFadden; and vegan fine dining spot Farm Spirit. All three have appeared on Eater PDX’s map of essential restaurants.
Some of Lovelace’s more than 7,000 followers started reaching out to the restaurants in question, seeking explanations and apologies regarding the claims made in her Instagram posts. A number of the people facing accusations — like McFadden and representatives from Olympia Provisions — published responses to criticism in written statements or on their own Instagram accounts, while others responded to Lovelace directly; she published direct messages she received from those chefs, some of whom shared their regrets or explained their behavior.
Lovelace’s argument is that her method — albeit imperfect — allows people to speak openly and freely, something that has been extraordinarily difficult in a small restaurant scene where a thumbs-down from one restaurant owner could leave some workers blacklisted. “I don’t think very many people lie about being sexually assaulted, and I don’t think many people lie about abuse that they experience,” Lovelace says. “People want to believe that people make things up to make people look bad, but I think power plays a really important role in this. I wanted to empower people who are not in power, to get some clarity or some closure or to get the first opportunity to say it out loud.”
As Lovelace reposted the stories, she became the subject of threats, violent language, and criticism — about the lack of vetting the damaging, potentially inaccurate information regarding already-struggling businesses, about her self-appointment as a voice of the unheard as a white business owner, and about her own management style. Coworkers from her time as a sous chef at Beast took to Instagram describe experiences of her “bullying” and “gaslighting” fellow employees; employees at Yonder, where she is currently the chef and owner, described difficult working conditions that they claimed pushed one employee “to the point of actual hospitalization.” Lovelace says that she’s spent the last few days reflecting on these claims, admitting she was unaware of the emotional harm she was inflicting on her own employees.
Sunday night, Lovelace decided to step back. “I thought I was going to post four things. Then, I got completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and the Portland food community in the last few days, and I wouldn’t take that back. My decision to stop was because I wanted to self-reflect, I wanted to make space to allow people to critique me... I wanted the industry to do a little bit of self-reflection, and I think that’s a good thing to come out of this.”
Many restaurants report having made changes as a result of the posts — firing certain employees, changing their business structures, and hiring HR consultants to help build a better management system to protect employees. Below, we break down how six of Portland’s most prominent restaurant groups and their figureheads — including Lovelace herself — say they plan to move forward.
On July 1 and 2, Lovelace shared screenshots of conversations that she said were with employees of celebrated charcuterie maker and restaurant group Olympia Provisions; those posts described OP as having a management team that tolerated a hostile work environment, ignored employee complaints, and mishandled harassment investigations and claims. In particular, the conversations referenced an incident involving a manager sexually assaulting another employee. The employees also alleged that the ownership team stole tips from front-of-house workers.
A public statement from Olympia Provisions obliquely acknowledges the claims without responding to each specific claim or apologizing for them directly. “Recently we were publicly accused by a fellow restaurant owner that had received a DM from a former employee about incidents in our past,” its statement begins. “Part of our culture is that we know mistakes happen and it is what you do after a mistake that defines you. Do you sweep it under the rug or do you own up to it, learn from it, and make a change? We own our mistakes, learn from them, and make changes.” The statement, posted on OP’s website, also addresses criticism of a 2015 Christmas party it described as “Mexican Fiesta / Luche Libre”-themed, in which employees and managers took photos wearing sombreros and sarapes, and posed with a live donkey and fake guns.
In a conversation with Eater PDX, Olympia Provisions co-owner Michelle Cairo addressed the accusations regarding sexual assault and the hostile work environment. “We researched every sexual assault, any allegation, even before we had HR,” Cairo says. She says that the accused employee was fired the day the ownership team learned about the event; the firing of the employee who spoke out, she says, came later, and was unrelated to the assault allegation.
As for tolerating a hostile work environment, Cairo says things are more complicated — she says the ownership team tries to balance the urge to train and help develop someone’s management skills with the need to protect employees from toxic behavior. “For us, and for a lot of people, it’s really easy to fire someone when it’s egregious, if you assaulted someone,” she says. “But if someone’s a bad communicator, if they’re tolerating grumpiness on their line, people being curt, swearing... those terminations are harder for us. We give people the benefit of the doubt a lot. I think there are times we could have gotten involved sooner.” Cairo says the restaurant has recently hired Workplace Change, a progressive human resource firm, to help develop a list of core values and a new system of enforcement and management when employees deviate from those values.
Cairo also addressed the specific complaints about tips in an internal company email: In it, Cairo said that the company records tips as they come in, as well as how they are distributed, and no complaint of wage theft has ever been made to HR. Speaking with Eater PDX, Cairo added that an employee reached out after she sent the internal response email, saying that Lovelace’s tipster could have been referencing an incident where the company switched its tip policy, and the company started distributing tips to back-of-house employees. “So we learned from that experience — if you make a policy change, you need to have a meeting about it,” Cairo says.
Lovelace’s social media posts also described the “Mexican Christmas” party, which involved a nacho cheese fountain and a photo booth with props like fake guns. A former employee of the restaurant, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retribution, confirmed this account and shared now-deleted online images from the party. In these photos, employees are seen wearing sombreros, shaking maracas, and posing with fake guns and a live donkey, both appropriating aspects of Mexican culture and perpetuating racist stereotypes.
The former employee said he felt compelled to come forward after seeing Olympia Provisions’s initial response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which he felt highlighted the owners’ interests in getting better without acknowledging past mistakes. “A lot of owners are trying to signal that they want to be part of the positive change. So people are going, ‘Remember this event, that we were all at, that at the time was really fucked up?’” the former employee said. “I don’t think this was malicious, I think they made a mistake, but I want them to be held accountable.”
Olympia Provisions’s public statement also responds to the party. “We were able to reflect and understand why this party theme was inappropriate, and we now have a deeper understanding of cultural appropriation and cultural stereotyping that we perpetuated at this event,” the public statement reads. “Our intention was to celebrate a culture — we realize now that our actions demonstrated cultural insensitivity.”
The statement ends with some of the cultural changes Olympia Provisions is working on right now, including a pay equity study; the forming of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board; bias training for all managers; and plans to communicate more in Spanish. “Last week for the first time we had a translator come in to help us do some work and it is already making a huge difference,” the post reads. “This board is going to be really important for us because we want it to inform the policies and decisions we make and to make sure that all voices are heard.”
Cairo says that she has been processing the input from her employees, journaling, and reading through the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. She understands why Lovelace did what she did, but she’s still concerned about what the posts’ long-term impact. “I do think the conversations need to be had, and I don’t think Maya went into it with bad intentions... but I think it was reckless,” Cairo says. “When you post something like that, and you’re not filtering them... I don’t know what’s true about any of those other business owners. People could just send something made up and she would post it. Thinking that wouldn’t happen is naive.”
On July 2 and 3, Lovelace shared messages from apparent employees who claim to have witnessed or experienced homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny while working for Submarine Hospitality, the group behind Italian hotspot Ava Gene’s, where co-founder Joshua McFadden is also the executive chef, and Mediterranean restaurant Tusk. The posts alleged barriers to pay for queer employees and managers working while visibly intoxicated.
On Instagram, McFadden and co-founder Luke Dirks publicly responded. McFadden nodded toward his role as “part of an industry status quo that hasn’t provided the positive and inclusive working environment that it should,” while Dirks acknowledged “a toxic environment that has made a number of our staff feel alienated, unsafe, unprotected and uncared for.”
“Victims of abuse in any situation deserve to have their voices heard in whatever context they feel is right for them,” Dirks told Eater in a later statement. “Instagram stories is a deeply flawed forum to have the conversation [Lovelace] was proposing, but I’m more concerned with listening to the voices than judging the venue.”
As the allegations published by Lovelace came to light, other former employees of Submarine Hospitality began speaking out. One such employee posted an Instagram story to their own account describing the culture at Ava Gene’s as “so oppressive and toxic, I watched several of my coworkers have panic attacks on the floor.” They also claimed that McFadden regularly screamed at back-of-house staff and was a “racist, transphobic, misogynistic piece of trash.” Another told Eater PDX that working at Submarine was “an absolute nightmare.” She described McFadden as dismissive, rude, and occasionally hostile, “screaming in my face;” in the comments of McFadden’s personal Instagram post, multiple people describe instances where McFadden would scream at employees.
Tusk’s general manager Karlie Pelczar told Eater PDX that issues with the restaurant’s culture became glaringly evident during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic as team members from Tusk and Ava Gene’s worked together in a shared kitchen. In a staff meeting in early June, employees brought up concerns regarding workplace culture within Submarine Hospitality; Pelczar described Dirks as extremely receptive and engaged, taking responsibility and expressing sincere grief and regret in his role in developing the culture of the restaurant group. McFadden had a different response, according to Peclzar. “Joshua didn’t speak the entire time except once to defend himself and say that we didn’t know how hard it was to run a business,” Pelczar says.
Dirks’s July 3 open letter to his staff on his personal Instagram confirms the staff meetings, acknowledges the “bad actors” that the company had allowed to work there, and expresses regret at his own role in enabling them. “What has become clear to me is this,” he writes. “There has been a vast difference between what I believe and aspire to personally and the actual lived environment I have allowed to exist in our restaurants. This void between aspiration and reality has allowed for a toxic environment that has made a number of our staff feel alienated, unsafe, unprotected and uncared for. For this, I am deeply sorry. I take responsibility for this.”
On July 5, McFadden took to Instagram with a message that addressed the current “upheaval within our Portland restaurant community,” and that “I know I must do better and have committed to this work.” His post did not address any of the specific accusations regarding his behavior or the behavior of those who worked for him, and it received more than 100 comments, most from people unsatisfied with his statement. Tusk executive chef and co-owner Sam Smith wrote, “Your lack off [sic] accountability is disappointing, Joshua. The people that have been struggling under your leadership deserve more. We obviously all have work to do, but you need to do better than this.”
Miriam Perala, an employee at Submarine Hospitality, expressed her disappointment with McFadden while speaking with Eater. “I find every aspect of his response to have been insensitive and manipulative... By refusing to reveal the true context out of which his statement was demanded (and completely evading any true accountability) he capitalized on the trauma he was supposed to address in order to make himself out as a trailblazer of industry restructuring.”
In a statement to Eater PDX, McFadden writes:
I take full responsibility for Submarine’s culture. I’m grateful to the team members who have spoken up, and I am deeply sorry. The past few months have been the hardest I’ve ever faced as a restaurant owner. The past week has been earth shattering. Learning that [the] Submarine team have been marginalized at work, and felt unheard, has been heartbreaking. I am deeply sorry and deeply sad. I take full responsibility for Submarine’s past and its future. As such, the restaurants have been closed for a period of time and I am putting the work in, in person, with the team to start to chart a path forward. That is work that I am focusing on right now and I will continue to be engaged in this work for some time.
In her Instastories, Perala noted McFadden’s public apologies, but added “I think it’s funny” that apologies were sent to the press but not herself and her coworkers. “That’s the difference between accountability and manipulation,” she wrote.
In a statement to Eater PDX, McFadden noted that Dirks and Smith “will be moving on” from Submarine Hospitality. Dirks, the company’s cofounder, confirmed that he is walking away from Submarine in his own written statement:
I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented, hardworking and warmhearted people. Over the past few months, Joshua McFadden and I have come to the end of our working relationship. This decision is complex and layered, but at the end of the day I have decided to step aside and allow Joshua to chart the future of Submarine without me. This moment of crisis and self-reflection in the hospitality industry will be defined by the way we listen to one another, take accountability and fight for actionable change. I remain forever committed to this work but have chosen to continue it outside of Submarine Hospitality.
Higgins, known as one of the early adopters of the farm-to-table movement in Portland, has been a longstanding celebration restaurant in Southwest Portland since 1994. In one of her July 1 Instagram stories, Lovelace posted a screenshot from a former employee describing a culture of sex discrimination and harassment, including a pay disparity between female and male employees.
Owner Greg Higgins released a statement, saying: “At Higgins, we are committed to ensuring we have a safe and inclusive workplace for everyone. We were disheartened to read the social media post (presumably penned by a former employee) because that is not who we are. We would never tolerate this type of behavior. Any pay differentials at Higgins are due to lawful, bona fide factors, including seniority; we do not discriminate on the basis of gender or any other unlawful reason.” Higgins says he is scheduling an all-employee training on preventing and reporting sexual harassment.
On July 4, Lovelace added screenshots of messages from former servers and kitchen staff discussing the work environment at Departure, a rooftop restaurant within the Nines Hotel, alleging sex discrimination, a gender pay gap, and male managers commenting on female employees’ and guests’ appearances, particularly in regards to the workplace uniform. According to one post, Departure required that women wear a form-fitting dress without pockets, which made some employees feel uncomfortable and made holding things like order notepads difficult. The company would “shut down” employees who tried to wear a cardigan or leggings under the dress as a violation of uniform, a post claimed. Another post also claimed that Gregory Gourdet, now the culinary director at Departure, had taken credit for pastry recipes actually developed by the restaurant’s pastry chef.
After the posts went live, Gourdet messaged with Lovelace directly, describing the restaurant as a large operation, acknowledging his blind spots — a conversation that Lovelace posted on her Instagram. Later, however, in the comments of a different Lovelace Instagram post, Gourdet criticized her methods, describing her as “the judge, jury, executioner and apology accepter.”
“I absolutely believe these stories should be told. And I absolutely understand that people feel they have not been heard,” he wrote. “But let’s work on a solution and make sure there is follow-up, learning and moving forward in a way that creates positive change... The conversations I have had off line (sic) from this have been far more productive for all parties involved than the feelings of getting wrapped up in a post. I am thankful to the people who have gone into detail about how they felt and how I can be better.” Gourdet declined to comment for this story.
In a Portland Monthly story, Gourdet addressed the claims regarding the recipes, saying that the allegations first surfaced on a former cook’s Facebook page in May, and that he tried to reach out to the cook directly. “Everyone’s experience will be their truth,” he told the magazine. “But it’s not fair to go on social media and attack me when I made myself available and did not get a response.”
Meaghan Goedde, the executive vice president of Departure owner Sage Restaurant Concepts, addressed the allegations posed on social media in a written statement to Eater PDX. “As a woman who has worked in restaurants both front and back-of-house for more than a decade, I am personally devastated to hear these claims,” the statement read. In a second statement, Goedde wrote that, around the time the mentioned harassment allegations originally occurred, HR investigated the complaints internally and with a third-party consultant. The statement says that “appropriate corrective actions were taken as a result,” though it doesn’t specify what those corrective actions were; it also says that “the 3rd party investigation also resulted in the dismissal of claims that were not found to meet the criteria for violation of our zero tolerance harassment-free policy.” It also notes that Sage prohibits retaliation if employees file sexual harassment or discrimination complaints, and that employees should report them to a manager or the company’s anonymous ethics hotline.
A former kitchen employee says that, while she was on the receiving end of what she considered sexually charged comments from coworkers, she felt more comfortable in the kitchen at Departure than she did in any other restaurant where she worked. “It’s so much a part of the culture of kitchens,” says the employee, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional and personal retaliation. “I can’t say that it was a perfect place, but I will say that I felt safer there than I did in other places. I can’t say that chef Jami [Flatt, Departure’s current executive chef] or chef Gregory are perfect, but I can say I admire the strides they made in their leadership and their desire to see and support all of us individually and as a team.”
Nowhere has there been a more dramatic culture shift as a result of the online posts than at Farm Spirit, the Southeast restaurant that has received national acclaim as one of the country’s pioneering vegan fine dining restaurants. Over the last week, owner Aaron Adams has pledged to remove the hierarchical structure of kitchen roles, foster more open dialogue between employees, and create an anonymous complaint system to keep him accountable.
On Saturday, Lovelace posted screenshots of multiple messages from apparent Farm Spirit employees, describing aggressive manager behavior as a part of the work environment, as well as pay disparities between men and women. When employees reached out to Adams months before the post, Lovelace’s tipsters said he shrugged it off.
When Adams first saw the claims on Lovelace’s account, he said he felt resentful. Soon, however, he said that melted away to reveal a lot of shame — and a desire to make things better. He sent Lovelace a response to share publicly, which included an open apology to the employees who he said “were not treated with the respect they deserve.”
“When we moved to the new space, there was a shift in environment. Things felt off,” Adams says, speaking with Eater PDX. “I asked some people in managerial positions about it, they said things were going fine, and I talked to some of my most trusted employees, and they said things weren’t going well. And I didn’t listen to them. I absolutely fucked up.”
Adams decided he needed to take serious, direct ownership of what happened, and make changes. He invited his staff over for a meeting in his backyard July 4, and they talked through the issues. “I was taught, in order to have integrity, you own up to your mistakes and take it on the chin. As easy as it was to throw someone else under the bus, I can’t,” he says. “I’m the owner, I’m responsible for the business.”
After the social media posts surfaced, the team decided to shift the way the restaurant was structured: Instead of a “brigade” system — which creates a ladder of hierarchy between executive chefs, chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, and line cooks — roles would be on a level playing field. Now, people will have individual responsibilities — making kombucha, washing dishes — but no one will have managerial power over anyone else. Adams serves as the owner, or the main manager of the business, but to keep him in check, a comment box will be installed in the bathroom, where employees could share concerns or complaints anonymously. The only person with the key is co-owner Michael McCarthy, so people could speak freely about Adams.
As for claims of wage inequities among gender identification, Adams claims some of the highest paid employees at the restaurant are women, or are genderqueer. “When I ended up having a meeting with my staff, I said, ‘Actually, you make $5,000 a year more than that guy,’” Adams says. “The introspection I’m trying to have with this, is going, ‘What did I do to make someone feel like that was the case?’”
Adams says he feels grateful to Lovelace for sharing people’s stories. “People are like, ‘Oh, [Lovelace] has so much power.’ If this were a man that was doing this, everyone would be applauding,” he says. “Honestly, I’m uncomfortable, but big-fucking-boo-hoo. There were people who were uncomfortable in my business for a long time, and that’s unacceptable. If I have to be uncomfortable, that has to happen.”
Lovelace herself has been doing some reflecting over the last few days. Some former Yonder employees and Beast coworkers (Lovelace was a sous chef at Beast from 2012 to 2014) commented on her Instagram posts, describing her role in “creating a toxic work environment,” in the words of one poster. “In my time [at Yonder] I saw hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic cooks kicked out for expressing opinions,” a former Yonder employee wrote. “Two of the best workers in the restaurant were bullied and estranged by management, and when we had issue with this, we were told that if we continued to be difficult, they would take daily benefits (ie. meal & drink) away.”
Lovelace says, in particular, that she has been thinking about how her behavior relates to the abuse she experienced as a young chef. “I was brought up in kitchens where people threw shit at me, people burned me intentionally, [there were] constant comments about my body, people touching me inappropriately, people throwing things down my shirt from across the pass,” she says. “My approach was that the hyper-masculine, typical kitchen bad-boy shit had to end, and what I did accidentally, instead of being angry and throwing things… I turned myself into this weird toxic mother figure, which is fucked up on a lot of levels... The biggest thing I learned is that I was complicit in perpetuating this kind of abuse. That’s a huge one for me, and I will keep listening to people who are willing to talk to me.”
In an Oregonian story published July 9, a former Yonder employee, Nick Charles, describes feeling underpaid and under-appreciated while working at the restaurant, also saying that he was demoted after a trip to the hospital for an infected throat abscess, which he partially attributes to the restaurant’s 60-hour weeks. Speaking with Eater PDX, Lovelace says that Charles was demoted — set as an hourly employee instead of a salaried employee, still listed as management — for performance reasons. She also said that she regularly sent him home prior to his hospitalization, asking him to go to urgent care because he was showing up “visibly ill.”
In the same Oregonian story, Charles, who is Black, describes an incident where a group of brunch customers used racial slurs after he asked them to settle their tab. “They called me a servant, they said I was doing this for white owners, all this stuff,” Charles told the Oregonian. “I stood my ground, I backed up Maya, but they didn’t back me up in return.”
Lovelace told the Oregonian that she was “mortified” to hear about Charles’ experience with the brunch customers. In a conversation with Eater PDX, Lovelace says that she was out of the restaurant at the time, and says Charles didn’t say anything to her about the incident until the group had already left. “I told him that if anyone every gave him any shit, any, he had to let us know so that we could step in and protect him,” Lovelace says.
Charles also echoed a sentiment shared by many Portlanders concerned with the appropriation of fried chicken in Portland, that Lovelace didn’t incorporate the Black history of Southern food into her business as much as she should, including the introduction of African ingredients brought by enslaved Africans. “I don’t think that Black culture was ever really celebrated in that restaurant,” Charles told the Oregonian.
Lovelace categorizes that criticism as fair, but says that “I’m really frustrated that no one expects the white men in Portland who are selling barbecue and collard greens and fried chicken to have any level of understanding or responsibility for the history of Southern food.” She continues, “I try the best that I can to talk about the history honestly while not centering myself as a white woman in the story. I acknowledge that Black chattel slavery and Native American genocide shaped southern food, along with the flood of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and Germany that settled in the mountains. It’s a Creole cuisine, a melting pot. I’ve acknowledged that and tried to present that story since I started doing pop-ups. I could probably do it louder. And I accept that challenge, and will try to continue to do better.”
In an Instagram story posted last night after the Oregonian story went live, Lovelace wrote, “Now that they’re done with me, let’s see if anyone actually writes about the abusive men in power in this city, with much larger fanbases, much larger platforms, and way more employees to abuse.”
Lovelace has stopped posting allegations for now, partially because she says that she doesn’t want to center herself. “I’ve hurt people I care about deeply, I’ve helped folks speak their truth for the first time, I’ve received threats, and I’ve felt useful in a way I didn’t anticipate,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “Moving forward, I won’t be posting any of the things I’ve received here. I shouldn’t be doing this alone — I should be doing it with others and doing a much better job.”
Lovelace wants to grow and watch the industry itself do the same. “People that I’ve considered friends, people I’ve considered colleagues are comparing me to mass shooters, telling me that I’m evil,” she says. “People are just scared, no one wants to be called out, but I think it’s the only way I think people can change.”
The stream of accusations, public statements, and arguments within the comment sections of Lovelace’s Instagram account seemed to unveil multiple toxic environments within the Portland restaurant industry. Coming from the platform of a high-profile chef, these stories — grimly familiar in restaurant life — serve as a direct dispatch from within, shouted through a megaphone: Instead of waiting on the spotlight of a media investigation or the forbidding machinery of legal recourse, Lovelace took the story into her own hands, and let information flow directly from the voices of apparent restaurant workers.
As a result, others have started sharing their own experiences of harassment and inappropriate behavior on Instagram. A group has created their own anonymous Instagram account, posting stories about Portland’s toxic kitchen culture and screenshots of direct and public conversations with chefs and restaurant owners.
The message of these public accounts, although many specific restaurants have been named directly, is that the problem is not unique to one restaurant, or one or two bad actors. The pervasive nature of these problems — racism, sex discrimination, and inequalities within kitchen hierarchy — shows that Portland’s restaurants need a reckoning.
Ongoing public conversations about sexual harassment, substance abuse, and the mental health crisis among restaurant workers must also involve a recognition that abuse is embedded in the entire industry. There must be an acknowledgment that chefs who have experienced their own years of physical and mental abuse within kitchens are causing ripples of that pain with their employees, even if unintentionally. This field needs an audit, a full understanding and recognition of what has gone wrong and how to repair it, so the people involved can make amends and the industry itself can rebuild. It’s not something that can be done by one chef with an Instagram account. But it’s a start.