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Chef Anthony Bourdain Reflects On His Role In Glorifying Toxic Bro Culture In Kitchens

The fallout for the Weinstein scandal has the 'bad boy' celebrity chef examining his role in making restaurant culture unwelcoming for women.

Anthony Bourdain

Asia Argento and Anthony Bourdain in 2017. Photo, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.

Anthony Bourdain wrote the bible on macho restaurant culture — his bestselling and highly influential 2000 memoir Kitchen Confidential is packed with tales of sex, drugs n’ rock n roll behind the butcher block.

Now, in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein — which has led to similar claims against powerful men in other industries, including food — Bourdain is reflecting on his own role in glamorizing a type of swagger that, he fears, has given some men license to act inappropriately.

In a new interview with Slate, Bourdain explains his personal connection to the Weinstein scandal (his girlfriend, Asia Argento, told The New Yorker that the Hollywood producer sexually assaulted her. She is now moving away from her home in Italy, after being ostracized by the media there) and how it prompted him to think about how sexual assault in the restaurant industry was never really on his radar.

Them Too: It’s Time For Men Who Sexually Harass And Assault Women To Speak Up
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“I had to ask myself, particularly given some things that I’m hearing, and the people I’m hearing them about: Why was I not the sort of person, or why was I not seen as the sort of person, that these women could feel comfortable confiding in?” he said. “I see this as a personal failing.”

His reputation of being a hyper-macho dude in the kitchen was a “persona” he adopted, he says. And he’s now realizing it could have encouraged some other “meatheads” to behave the same way with their kitchen colleagues.

“I have done stupid, offensive s—t. And because I was a guy in a guy’s world who had celebrated a system — I was very proud of the fact that I had endured that, that I found myself in this very old, very, frankly, phallocentric, very oppressive system and I was proud of myself for surviving it. And I celebrated that rather enthusiastically.”

Bourdain’s thoughts come as top Ottawa chef Matt Carmichael admitted Wednesday he has sexually harassed women working in his restaurants. In a statement, the owner of Riviera, named one of Canada’s top 10 new restaurants of 2017 by enRoute magazine, says he is speaking out about it as part of his rehabilitation for alcohol and drug abuse.

“In a clear state of sobriety I feel its full effect and to the women I have harassed, I apologize,” Carmichael wrote.

On Monday, famous New Orleans chef John Besh stepped down as CEO of the company of restaurants he founded, after he and other male employees of his company were accused of sexual harassment.

In the Slate article, Bourdain said that he’s only met Besh once, and wasn’t deeply familiar with the accusations, but “the fact that it’s a company this size and that there was not a credible avenue . . . for women to report or to complain with any confidence that their complaints would be addressed . . .  it’s an indictment of the system.”