Ken Friedman, Tosca Cafe co-owner, accused of sexual harassment

Brunilde Fioravanti
Dicembre 13, 2017

Workers told of living in fear and trepidation with the knowledge that Friedman had retaliated against employees who stood up to him by firing, blacklisting or harassing them via phone, text or email.

Friedman, who launched five restaurants in New York City, including the internationally renowned The Spotted Pig, as well as several others in Los Angeles and San Francisco, has been accused of behavior including groping and demanding sex and nude photographs from women employed at his restaurants, the Times found.

Come Tuesday, Friedman's company released a statement saying that the restaurateur, who is married to a former Spotted Pig hostess, will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the management of his businesses.

Server Natalie Saibel said that in 2015, Friedman ran his hands over her buttocks and groin while they were together in a room packed with patrons.

According to one former longtime server, Trish Nelson accuses Friedman of once grabbing her head as she was kneeling down behind the bar, telling her 'while you're down there, ' and pulled it toward his crotch in one 2007 episode in front of diners.

She said one night in 2009, Friedman took her to a rooftop bar near the Breslin to scope out the competition.

Ten women who were former employees of his restaurants described receiving unwanted contact or sexual advances from Friedman and some of his famous guests, including Mario Batali, who also announced on Monday that he was "stepping away" from his restaurants after being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. The third-floor space of the restaurant was nicknamed "the rape room" among employees and "industry insiders", according to NYT. "Or go work for someone else", according to the Times.

Ms. Seet, the former manager, said that during a party in 2008, she intervened when she saw on the security camera feed that Mr. Batali, who was drunk, was groping and kissing a woman who appeared to be unconscious. The two broke onto the scene in 2004 with The Spotted Pig, a chic Manhattan gastropub that has become a favorite among celebrities and earned a coveted Michelin star. The women who work at our restaurants are among the best in the business, and putting any of them in humiliating situations is unjustifiable.

Employees believe Friedman was basically able to continue unchallenged for years given the restauranteur's good-natured playfulness and generosity (pay off) which made it possible for them to ignore the fear, chaos and power imbalance in the relationship.

"Some incidents were not as described, but context and content are not today's discussion", he said. "There are no excuses", he told the Times. 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.

Adding, 'I have spoken to Ken about professional boundaries and relied on him to uphold our policies.

'I apologize now publicly for my actions'. Nonetheless I feel we have let down our employees and for that I sincerely apologize'.

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