Restaurant workers cutting meat with knives in a kitchen.

Just after Christmas, the San Francisco Chronicle published a bombshell story about the Bay Area food scene. Local chef and restaurateur Charlie Hallowell, the man behind Oakland’s Penrose, Boot & Shoe Service and Pizzaiolo, was accused by 17 women of inappropriate touching and frequent sexual comments. Hallowell admitted to the Chronicle that his behavior at work was “unfiltered and often completely inappropriate,” and said he believed in this moment of reckoning for male bosses behaving badly. But Hallowell is only one of several prominent chefs accused of inappropriate behavior. Forum discusses sexual harassment in restaurants and kitchens, and the food world’s response.

Guests:

Tara Duggan, staff writer, San Francisco Chronicle

Tanya Holland, owner; executive chef, Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ

Saru Jayaraman, director, Food Labor Research Center, UC Berkeley; co-founder and president, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Bay Area Restaurants Grapple With Sexual Harassment Allegations 5 January,2018Mina Kim

  • Vern

    As bad as all this is, it pales in comparison to honor killings, acid attacks, and gang rapes that are used to keep women in line in Islamic countries.

    • Noelle

      so we shouldn’t do anything about harrassment here?

      • Vern

        Perspective keeps us from flying of the handle, going off the rails, losing the plot and from forgetting how lucky we are, and it serves as a reminder that we in the West have fought for our civilized society in ways that other cultures have not.

    • mgw

      This is what you call a “false equivalency”.

    • Robert Thomas

      So what? I don’t get it.

    • Bill

      It’s exactly the same. Masculine power over/oppression of women. BTW, all the items you list happen right here in the U.S., outside of Islamic culture.

      • Vern

        These are far less frequent in the USA and are less associated with any oppressive cult. They are however becoming quite common in the UK due to the Islamic influence. While men do bad things, bad behavior is not unique to men whereas cultish religion enables, normalizes and amplifies awful practices.

        • Ani Toroyan

          More home cooked meals, that is the answer.

    • ELZ

      That why the Democratic party is in for a major headache in the next few decades. The ultra progressives will have to embrace a super masculine, backward and homicidal culture to get votes. If this is the party who can get the dead to vote, they will find a way.

      • Vern

        You mean they became corporate.

    • Ani Toroyan

      we need to have more home cooked meals.

  • mgw

    Please, don’t bring Tara Duggan back on. Painful to listen to and doesn’t actually deliver a clear message. Voice journalism is definitely not her thing. “sort of”, “you know”, “um”, “kind of”, “so, you know”. Ugh.

    • Ani Toroyan

      Good! Also, let us start eating at home.

      • Leo Silvestre

        How many times are you going to say this? Some people don’t enjoy cooking, don’t have the time for it, or just simply enjoy going out to eat.

  • Robert Thomas

    “Tilted Kilt”? “Twin Peaks”? Denny’s?

    Good grief. Is this a California thing? Not at MY Denny’s.

  • Bill

    How about the fact that in most cultures around the world (U.S. included), the kitchen is the domain of females. Do men who find themselves in this career environment feel the need to overcompensate toward the masculine in order to dispel any impression that they are less of a man for working in a kitchen/dining room/food service industry?

    • Noelle

      yes, that’s a good point.

    • Vern

      In the same way women who enter corporate manager roles over compensate by acting cartoonishly masculine. But it’s society’s belief about the role that is to blame in both cases.

      • Ani Toroyan

        Home cooked meals is the way to go.

        • Vern

          Yep. Restaurants mainly sell toxic crap full of MSG and sugar.

  • Chelsea Judith

    When I was 31, I worked briefly as a waitress at Trader Vic’s in Pismo Beach. The required uniform was a SHORT black skirt and white blouse. I will never forget the time I offered a cheesecake platter to an older male customer sitting by himself and he said “I’ll only have one if you smear it all over your naked self and let me lick it off”. It was a disgusting remark but such a common theme in the kitchen that I didn’t feel supported to complain about it. I tried to shrug it off but I never forgot it.

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      I’m with you there, Chelsea. A lot of companies wouldn’t want you to talk back to a customer who made such a crude request either. I learned to ignore words, but there are plenty of randy customers who will try to touch, fondle, or grope you if given half a chance. That’s what I can’t handle!

  • Mel

    This industry has a lot of play, such as word play, and I see it on the show Top Chef. Much of it is fun.
    You’ve never worked in a restaurant, Tara, and while you mean well, you might want to consider that your introduction to them is leading to biased thinking. You’ve been soaking in stories about an individual who needs a lot of help, and probably needs to be prosecuted (C.H.), yet you are making massive generalizations about restaurant workers, especially females. We need to have boundaries, hr laws – and they need to be enforced. Restaurants are businesses and believe it or not, the majority of workers in them are responsible professionals who keep boundaries intact.
    We all have a lot of learning to do.

  • Jori Hook

    Though I respect your speaker’s need to process her future relationship with the accused chef, this is not about her ability to forgive. This is about the chef’s offensive behavior and whether he will change. As Maya Angelou told us, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  • Melissa Woods

    Not at a restaurant, but when I worked for Victoria Secret, I had a female manager request that I where more revealing clothing and to offer my own breasts to the male customers as an example of what their partners could ‘look like’. I also worked at a restaurant where it was clear that there women being being hired were a certain ‘type’. I also have heard that you need to give your head shot to restaurants in LA so the first thing they consider is your looks. All examples of women being objectified to get or keep their jobs.

  • Another Mike

    A dive bar I patronize has a lot of industry people as customers. One bubbly, attractive young blonde lady said she was a bartender at an upscale spot here in the South Bay. I asked her if she had gone to bartending school. She said no, she was in the bar one day, and the manager offered her a job. She had never thought about being a service worker before.

    • Leo Silvestre

      Most bartenders didn’t go to bartending school. It’s hardly something you need a school for.

      • Another Mike

        Her sole qualifications were looks and personality.

  • Another Mike

    The Playboy Clubs had insane standards for physical appearance. A friend’s stunning older sister tried out, but was rejected, because her thighs were one inch too large in circumference at the measurement point.

  • Noelle

    It’s a form of hazing,and our culture is full of it, like fraternities, boot camp, medical residency….

  • ELZ

    If California lets working women carry pistols, harassments will become a non-issue.

  • Kathryn C

    My husband and I, along with our friends, are frequent restaurant goers. We will stay clear of any and all restaurants where we hear this harassment goes on. Beware, Charlie Hallowell’s response to your invitation to be on the show could be manipulative. Yes, people can be redeemed. In his case, he should take this issue on with passion and make real change in the industry. How about his getting help, speaking out against this, promoting and insisting on sexual-harassment training, and on and on, and then, in a couple of years, if he’s made real change, he can gradually be trusted again.

  • marte48

    When I was young and attractive, I got so much unwanted attention that I wished that people (including other women) would just leave me alone. But I had confidence that my appearance would help to get me hired. After 50, sexual harassment turns into a different form of sexism: age discrimination. Now, I still need to make a living, but I know that my appearance will not help me anymore, even though I have way more tech skills and experience than I did when I was young. “Be careful what you wish for.”

    • Noelle

      I was never confident enough to use my attractiveness to my advantage, I didn’t think it was right(1980s-2000) but when you hear about tipping being NOT about service it’s something to think about.

    • Vern

      Men also experience age discrimination so it’s not sexual.

      • mgw

        She didn’t say it was sexual. However, she does note it is discrimination – which is the entire point of the discussion today.

  • EIDALM

    Many years ago my wife who was very attractive blonde and then Berkeley school teacher had another job as a cocktail waitress in the Crown room at the Fairmont Hotel, many nights she would come home crying and complain to me about sexual harassment by customers, and even worse was harassment by the management including the hotel owner R Swig…..I do remember going to the Hotel and meeting with their personal manger and warn them and threatened to file complaint with State, eventually she had to quit her job their.

  • Carolyn Guthrie

    I agree that most restaurants shouldn’t be boycotted because the customer demand might effect changes, but those businesses which brazenly flaunt their business model which depends on exploitation of women, (i.e. Hooters) in my opinion should be boycotted. I have not set foot in that chain and never will. If everyone would boycott such establishments, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business.

    • Ani Toroyan

      Cooking at home is the answer.

  • Another Mike

    Two sub issues I would like KQED to explore at a later date:
    1. The reality that some servers/bartenders are a form of sex worker, even if no consummation ever takes place.
    2. Many industry people I know were abused as children.

    • Ani Toroyan

      Good observation!

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Under those criteria, employees across the board — from bank tellers to welders — could be considered “sex workers.” What about a receptionist who’s hired for her “sexy voice” but who has no direct contact with the public? To me that’s hyperbole. Still, I once had dealings with a company who only hired women sales reps and forced them to dress provocatively on the job. A training manual said very specifically that women had to wear “short skirts, with underwear optional.” Their products (which had nothing to do with sex) were never up to industry standards, it turned out, however much sex may sell, and after a decade they went out of business. Another company I heard about tried to cultivate what they termed a “no-bra look” in its customer service reps. Sordid!

      • Another Mike

        Bartenders, especially, can use their looks and personality to get patrons to (1) visit their bars more often, (2) stay longer, and (3) spend more money. Nobody wants people clogging up the bank teller line because they’re attracted to the staff..

        • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

          Maybe — but bartenders are also trained to know when to cut people off and when to tell rowdy patrons to go home. I rarely visit bars — alcohol has never touched my lips, in fact — but from what I’ve seen most bartenders are men. In San Francisco there are a lot of gay bartenders who no doubt “use their looks and personality” to keep patrons of both sexes coming back for more. Many cavort around shirtless behind the bar to achieve that effect. But there are also usually strict policies against their crossing the lines with specific customers during working hours. They’re supposed to keep the maximum number of customers possible coming back to the bar, not just the ones who interest them.

          • Another Mike

            The first thing Jesus did, when he began his public ministry, was turn water into wine, so that guests at a wedding celebration could continue to enjoy themselves. (He did so at his mother’s behest.) Thus it sounds strange to hear from a pastor that alcohol has never touched her lips.

          • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

            According to some texts, he turned wine into water to put an end to frivolous revelry and carnal carousing. Alcohol is the devil’s potion.

          • Another Mike

            The only relevant text I know for the Wedding Feast of Cana is the Gospel according to John.

            Further, at the Last Supper, Jesus passes around a cup of “the fruit of the vine” for all to drink, stating that it is his blood. Considering that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is in the spring, while the grape harvest is not till late summer, the drink Jesus urges upon his disciples is wine.

          • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

            Does the text specify what was in that cup? Or whether it was actually changed into blood during the Eucharist? Think about it.

  • disqus_7LFWYVBRpp

    As someone who has been sexually assaulted and abused throughout her life I am thrilled that there is more awareness happening. I am afraid women don’t speak out as much because so many see their fathers, grandfathers, priest, uncles or brothers behavior and there is fear, loyalty and complacency there. This needs to be a conversation people have to feel safe to have for their to be healing. I hope everyone talks with their parents, grandparents and siblings about their own experiences. This is learned behavior and for some, like Charlie Hallowell I believe also an illness and he needs help. The Bay Area needs a collective hand slap, there are few who were surprised about these lawsuits and for every 1 who filed there were countless more who slept with him and flirted back. I am not condoning this behavior AT ALL but all sexes need to look at their own relationship with sexual power and abuse. Yes, everyone needs to feel angery and rage AND there needs to be some serious introspection and healing for this to change and new boundaries to be set.

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    I think men need to learn some manners. They need to restrain their baser sexual urges and keep their dirty thoughts to themselves. That means such thoughts should remain unspoken in mixed company. I blame the ubiquitous porno industry for the attitudes that an increasing number of men seem to have today. Too many men turn the most benign situation into a sexually charged encounter, even if it never escalates to harassment. Too many women think they have to put up with improper looks, touches, gestures, comments, innuendos, and jokes in order to keep their jobs. It doesn’t help that so many women try to take advantage of these situation by trading on their sexual charms, or their willingness to tolerate impropriety. There are a few women who harass both men and women as well. Everyone needs to knock off the porn and behave themselves.

    • Another Mike

      I’m not sure why the reverend is so down on the process that the Lord created to make more people. Flirtation, for example, is a game, and a game that if both parties agree, can be played very robustly.

      • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

        I’m not sure that most people go to work to flirt, court, or find a partner — unless maybe they work for an escort agency. What we’re talking about here is unwanted sexual attention imposed on employees by someone in authority as a condition of employment or advancement. I’m a married woman and men still ask me for dates. They ask if I would consider cheating on my husband to find “extra fulfillment.” I can tell them no in such a way that they get the message, but not everyone can do that and keep their jobs. Rejected sexual advances, however benign, can also escalate into other forms of workplace harassment. Don’t you think the porno industry makes men think that anything goes at work by sexualizing almost every type of encounter. It presents fables that suggest everyone is practically dying for a sexual release, no matter what the context. That kind of scenario poisons the minds of too many men (and a lot of women too).

        • Another Mike

          Sorry, your talk of men’s “baser sexual urges” threw me off. After all I, and most people I know, were the products of their parents’ lust. Without these baser sexual urges, there would be a lot fewer human beings.

          And today’s porn does not dwell so much on setting up situations (Why, Ms. Smithers!), but shoots right to the biological actions.

          • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

            Our church has a committee that reviews various forms of erotica to establish a depravity quotient (DQ) for each. Much of what is reviewed has a setup, however flimsy it may be in terms of plot and theme. A young student can’t reach her boyfriend one weekend and decides her teacher is sufficiently attractive; a young motorist negotiates the cost of car repairs with a mechanic; a librarian is asked to find a rare book on human sexuality and then to define a few of the technical terms in it. Blah – blah – blah. I understand that a lot of viewers fast-forward over these establishing shots to get to the basest part of the narrative. There is a difference, in my opinion. between wholesome sexual desire and the degrading animal lust that knows no boundaries.

  • Robert Thomas

    KQED and other organs of Public Broadcasting have spent a couple of years insisting that the technology industry of the Santa Clara Valley is misogynist. I have impotently argued here and elsewhere that as much as it may be so, no evidence has been presented that female engineers here are any more likely to suffer the unsolicited attentions of cads or abuse by pigs than will those of any other industry and certainly not so when compared to other gender imbalanced technical fields like petroleum engineering or civil engineering; or, for that matter, thoracic surgery (<4% female). Indeed, prominent cases aired in public who've been labeled "Silicon Valley" workers have in fact often been workers in financial services or other firms obliquely related either by sector or geography, rather than in SV engineering.

    I certainly don't mean to argue we don't have our share of pigs.

    I’ve worked in SV for a long time and there’s a difference that’s peculiar not just to my electronic technology industry but also actually to the physical region. I say this because at various times, I’ve also worked in such places as Los Alamos, NM; Huntsville, AL; locales in Wisconsin; Austin, TX; Long Beach; Melbourne Australia; New York City etc. over some extended periods, on specific programs. A stark difference in the tenor of everyday work, between SV and these other places which have employed many excellent, highly skilled women and men (more than half of whom have been smarter and more capable than I) is the general relationship between individual contributors and managers. In SV, among electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, manufacturing engineers et al. there is a long history of individual contributors treating their management as support staff – that in fact that the best and most valuable and admired managers are those who best fulfill that role. In the other places I mentioned above this attitude was decidedly less evident.

    Pigs though there may be across the male gender, when individual contributors (i.e., not managerial personnel) are considered to be the most valuable employees in an organization and where greater responsibility is settled on peer-to-peer cooperation and consultation, there is inherently less opportunity for managers to exercise nefarious leverage over women (or even other men) by means of employment threats – not least due to the comparative ease with which individuals may obtain alternative, well-paid positions. In industries such as retail service (wait staff and food service, as here); entertainment; financial services; advertising; medicine (totally unexplored in the popular media); law enforcement (equally unexplored); real estate (equally unexplored) and as we’ve seen, journalism, the oppressively top-down nature of the organization guarantees that toxic misogyny will be more often abetted. In other parts of the country (anecdotally, I would say New York was the worst in this way, in my experience), “corner office” primacy of technology operations is much more pronounced – a relic of pre-WWII attitudes still prevalent at engineering centers in the Northeastern U.S.

    Obviously, the effect of this gradient can only result in a statistical effect and as I say, I agree that there are pigs everywhere.

    • Vern

      TL;DR

      • Robert Thomas

        Other venues are more amenable to short attention spans and simple-mindedness.

        • Vern

          Sour grape.

    • Another Mike

      Another issue is that many nerds lack social skills. MIT is famous, for example, for having Charm School, to make up these deficits. Nerds typically are neither cads (lacking seduction skills) or pigs (randomly hitting on women.) A woman once recounted here how an older colleague, apparently long enamored of her, once hit on her drunkenly at a work event. She didn’t want him fired, but she did want to close off any possibility of a recurrence. Management took her concerns seriously, and transferred him to a different location.

  • Maha Kali

    As a woman and someone with first-hand knowledge of how Charlie ran his restaurants over the years, the thing that seems to be missing in this story is what did many of the female managers do during this situation? Almost all of his upper-level managers were women, and there was a significant amount of infighting, jockeying for position in the organization, and just plain straight “Mean Girls” type of behavior. Many times female staff members would complain to their female managers, and the female managers used those complaints to keep their positions of power within the organization. Accusing their subordinates of not being team players or blocking them from moving up out of fear of losing their perch close to the boss. I’m not excusing Charlie’s foul mouth, creepy tone, and lack of professionalism, but there are much more nuanced aspects of this story which are being ignored. As someone who spent nearly a decade working in a Fortune 500 company almost exclusively run by women and homosexual men — the same type of psychological politics and blatant discrimination existed there. Equal pay for equal work was rare. Men in the organization made more. Family leave was a joke, freelancers were taken advantage of, and workmen’s comp and harassment claims were not dealt with properly. In my opinion, the #metoo movement is not about gender or even sex. It’s about power. Abuse of power specifically. Abuse of power is a disease in this country, and it does not belong to men alone. My question is why? How do we cure this as a society? That’s the question I wish we were discussing. Instead, it’s turning into a she said/he said hammered out with a club. Bummer.

    • Another Mike

      Good point. Many female-led organizations are as cliquish as junior high. And if you are ostracized, you better find another job ASAP.

  • Nathan

    She didn’t say it was sexual. However, she does note it is discrimination – which is the entire point of the discussion today.

  • CAPTAIN

    This is what you call a “false equivalency”.

  • jason

    Under those criteria, employees across the board — from bank tellers to welders — could be considered “sex workers.” What about a receptionist who’s hired for her “sexy voice” but who has no direct contact with the public? To me that’s hyperbole. Still, I once had dealings with a company who only hired women sales reps and forced them to dress provocatively on the job

  • oscar

    I think men need to learn some manners. They need to restrain their baser sexual urges and keep their dirty thoughts to themselves. That means such thoughts should remain unspoken in mixed company. I blame the ubiquitous porno industry for the attitudes that an increasing number of men seem to have today

  • nick tuinstra

    Sour grape.

  • bruno_mirakuru_

    Another issue is that many nerds lack social skills. MIT is famous, for example, for having Charm School, to make up these deficits. Nerds typically are neither cads (lacking seduction skills) or pigs (randomly hitting on women.) A woman once recounted here how an older colleague, apparently long enamored of her, once hit on her drunkenly at a work event

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Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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