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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Tom Colicchio Pens Blunt Open Letter About Sexist Kitchen Culture: "Real Men Don't Need to Be Told"

"I'm betting our industry can shrug off its leering lizard skin and get this right," the Top Chef host wrote.

By Tamara Palmer

Tom Colicchio is using his prominent voice in the restaurant world to call out sexist kitchen culture, which has been discussed widely the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

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In a powerful "Open Letter to (Male) Chefs," the Top Chef host is beautifully blunt about problems of sexual harassment and disrespect between male chefs and their female counterparts.

"Assessing a woman as a body, rather than as a person with a mind, character, and talent, denies the full measure of her humanity," he wrote. "It’s wrong and it demeans us all. Real men don’t need to be told this. They shouldn’t need to be told that the high stakes of elite kitchens don’t justify the ugly machismo that runs through so many of them."

He acknowledges that he's made plenty of mistakes himself along the way.


"My kitchen is hardly perfect," he admitted. "I’ve let my temper run high and driven the pressure up. I’ve brushed off the leering without acknowledging its underlying hostility. I once called a journalist a ‘rumor-mongering b**** for printing gossip that hurt my staff, a gendered slur that I regret."

Talking without action is useless, so he suggested places to start: "We need to do more than pay lip service to fixing this. It’s not enough for us to ask, ‘How can we behave differently around our women employees and coworkers?’ Instead we should be asking ‘What barriers to their success do I owe it to them to remove?’ Those of us with our own kitchens should be asking ‘What have I been able to take for granted on my way to the top that women often can’t, and how can I help fix that?’ It’s time we reimagine the family-averse work week that tells young cooks being a ‘real’ chef is incompatible with being a parent. That tradeoff is a Faustian bargain, and its own form of harassment."

He ends the missive on a positive note, sharing his belief that real change can be made if the right questions are asked: "I’m betting our industry can shrug off its leering lizard skin and get this right."

Anthony Bourdain has also spoken out about the "abusive" and "cruel" kitchen culture in recent days.

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