An ex-employee of iconic Montreal restaurant Joe Beef has publicly accused a chef of sexual misconduct in the restaurant’s kitchen.
The employee, Miles Farrell, who was working as a busser in 2016, published a long message on Instagram this weekend alleging that when at a station, one of the chefs approached them from behind and groped them in the genitals. (The post was removed on Tuesday after appearing for several days online) The post alleged that the chef said the incident was acceptable because he thought Farrell was a man (Farrell identifies as transgender, and uses third-person pronouns such as “they”).
Farrell said they reported the incident to a manager at the time, but no owners addressed the situation, or Farrell in a direct manner.
“I think we can agree it’s time businesses be structured to support, hear, and act on their employees’ concerns; especially minorities,” the post read.
Farrell wrote that they had no choice but to trust the chef’s word that “things would change,” adding that they rapidly quit their job at the restaurant, and that some male colleagues thanked them for setting boundaries, because they had reportedly experienced similar behaviour.
The post appeared to be made in response to last week’s accusations of sexual misconduct against prominent Ontario winemaker Norman Hardie — after the Globe and Mail published a major investigation into Hardie, Joe Beef owner David McMillan was vocal in denouncing Hardie, having already cut business ties with Hardie some time before the Globe story was published. Farrell tagged the Globe and Mail in the post and also requested that the post be shared, but declined to give extra comment.
Farrell did not name the chef in question, reserving much of their criticism for the handling of the incident elsewhere in the restaurant, but said he held the position of chef de cuisine and was a partner of then-manager Vanya Filipovic.
McMillan told Eater he does not dispute Farrell’s account at all, and said he has been discussing the incident one-on-one with the former employee over the weekend. The chef in question did not comment.
“I’m not going to hide, I’m not going to talk to PR [representatives], I’m not going to talk to a lawyer, if anybody has any [problem], I’m open for communication,” McMillan said.
While McMillan was not present in the restaurant at the time, he said he takes responsibility for the situation and for allowing an environment where such an incident could take place, noting that addiction issues had also made him less-present at Joe Beef’s restaurants at the time.
“Did [Miles] feel he could come and talk to me? No, because I was stuck drinking somewhere — was I standing there telling [him] to relax? I wasn’t...there’s not one of us who thinks this is incorrect,” he said.
“We felt wrongly that this had been handled properly.”
McMillan said the chef is extremely remorseful, and has been for a long time.
“I’ve been very vocal about his mistake, I was not happy, [owner Fred Morin] was not happy, he can only apologize so many times and he’s proven by his actions that he’s a good man, and if he wasn’t, I would have fired him.”
While McMillan also expressed major remorse, he said he would still be committed to ensuring that kitchen environments would not be environments conducive to harassment.
“I want sincerely, at the end of my career, to help anybody and use my platform to promote change.”