World renowned chef and restauranteur Jean-Georges Vongerichten showed no remorse when telling a group of chefs, food writers, and publicists at the Philly Chef Conference hosted by Drexel University how he physically assaulted a dishwasher at one of his restaurants a decade ago for taking an ill-timed lunch break.

“I needed to do something,” he said to the crowd, laughing. “So, it was a little bit of physical abuse, for sure, for this dishwasher … but I had to react.”

Unfortunately for Vongerichten, so did the audience — in hushed amazement.

“It was as if a blast of ice went through the room — seriously, it was like the temperature of the room dropped,” Jeff Gordinier, food and drinks editor for Esquire magazine, told The Washington Post. Gordinier moderated the panel discussion with Vongerichten as well as Kith and Kin chef Kwame Onwuachi and former Bouley pastry chef Phyllis Grant. All three chefs had recently published memoirs.

jean georges vongerichten 375x210 Renowned chef apologizes for downplaying assault on dishwasher
Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Gordinier brought up the incident from Vongerichten’s memoir, “JVG: A Life in 12 Recipes.” In the book, Vongerichten said that he “beat the s—” out of the dishwasher in the walk-in refrigerator with his sous chef guarding the door. When he asked Vongerichten the question, “I thought he might express remorse,” Gordinier said.

It’s no secret there has been abuse in the restaurant industry, and many hoped those behaviors were changing. “Though there are plenty of chefs who are excited to talk about the ways they’re shutting down abuse in their own kitchens, there are still titans of the industry who have yet to realize the influence they wield in shifting the industry away from normalizing abuse,” Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme wrote in Philadelphia magazine.

Vongerichten ultimately issued a statement to The Washington Post apologizing for the incident and for downplaying the attack to the crowd, calling his remarks “irresponsible and ignorant.”

Employment law is a complex practice covering the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of an employer and its employees. Employers are also bound to federal and state labor laws and regulations that govern workplace safety and serve to protect the health and well-being of workers. However, employees may find themselves working under intolerable conditions for other reasons. Discrimination because of race, age, disability, sex, and other parts of a person’s personal identity are often the subject of hostile workplace claims. Sexual harassment and other forms of aggression and intimidation on the job also make for a hostile workplace.

Workers are often afraid to report problems or complain out of fear of losing their job or otherwise being retaliated against. Sometimes they feel corporate culture supports the climate of abuse, and that those in charge will just turn a blind eye. Attorneys who handle claims in the area of employment law can help a worker navigate this complicated situation. For more information about this type of claim, contact Beasley Allen lawyers Larry Golston, Leon Hampton or Lauren Miles.

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