Food industry workers recount what drove them to quit en masse this year

We had already stated that we would not be returning back to work, one, without signs, two, until at least Monday, so we have a company-wide call figuring out our unified response. The general vibe was, ‘We are not going back to work for this guy.’ The store manager of the Westport store [said Rosania] made a racist joke to him in the midst of all of this, about how white men can’t jump. The CEO went to the Park Slope location and made a false equivalency between his own BDSM proclivities and LGBT communities. My whole thing the whole time was, ‘I’m here standing in support with you guys.’ After all that was brought to light on Saturday, I was just like, well, now I have my own issues with working for this kind of person. So I officially sent my resignation to HR in the middle of the Zoom call. Everybody had decided they were going to do the same over the next couple of days. 

This is not the first time I’ve walked out of a job because somebody did some racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic shit. This is just the first time that, one, it wasn’t my idea, and, two, everybody else walked out with me. It’s fucked up what the CEO and the billionaire investor did, but that I expect. Everybody else’s behavior is just completely baffling to me in the best way possible. It really has made me have a little bit of faith in humanity, honestly. Every butcher shop in New York City reached out to me within like 48 hours and extended discounts, groceries, jobs to me and everybody in the company. 

Everybody from the Upper East Side has found new employment as far as I know. While we were sitting there [on Friday], I started posting on Instagram what was happening, like, ‘Oh, I may need a new job, if anybody’s looking for a new butcher, holler.’ The production manager from the Meat Hook follows me and she was like, email these two people. I went on, and made a, like, 15-minute resume. By Friday afternoon, I had an interview for Tuesday. Me and the head butcher vibed, I killed my cut test, and I have been employed there full-time ever since.

Kayla von Michalofski

Former sous chef, Solare, Seattle, Washington

On a Sunday morning in June, The Seattle Times published a lengthy investigation into multiple accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against renowned local chef Edouardo Jordan by his former employees. The report included accounts of unwanted touching and sexualizing comments that spanned at least seven years, and painted a distressing pattern of alleged misconduct by the decorated restaurateur, who has won two James Beard Awards, among other industry accolades. Within hours of the article’s publication, Kayla von Michalofski, then-sous chef at one of Jordan’s restaurants, and her colleagues began scrambling to organize a mass resignation.

In the weeks since, von Michalofski has taken some time off from the restaurant business to reflect on what she called a ‘toxic’ industry, where workers are notoriously underpaid, overextended, and, as ongoing reporting has shown, often subjected to abuse.

Edourardo Jordan called for an emergency staff meeting the Thursday prior to the article’s publication. He said that there was a story coming out that didn’t make him look good, and that he needed to step back for a little bit, kind of leaving all of us managers to fend for ourselves.

Leading up to Sunday, we were talking about what our plan of action was going to be. Once the article came out, we gave everyone an anonymous survey to tell us if they needed to work another two weeks, if they needed the money. But there was unanimous agreement to just quit that day. 

One thing that was tough was that our restaurant had a huge event that day that was already paid for. My general manager and I didn’t want to screw the customers over, but it was nerve-wracking to be there when we knew we were going to quit. After we finished, we turned in our keys, our HR representative sent Jordan an email saying that we quit, and that was it.

I was super anxious the entire day. We spent years working for this guy, who we thought was good, and who’s helped me in so many ways, but who wouldn’t own up to it. It kind of felt like I lost a mentor or a friend.

I was surprised by the whole thing, but I can’t support someone with those allegations. I definitely stand with the victims, so that was a pretty easy decision. Quitting with my colleagues made it easier, because no matter what happened, we would all be going through it together. We were super close as a team, so if anyone needed anything, we would have each others’ backs. So I wasn’t nervous about public backlash.

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