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Food writer Allison Robicelli calls Mario Batali sexual misconduct allegations 'an open secret'

Baker and food writer Allison Robicelli, right, has been a vocal critic of men in the restaurant industry accused of abusing their power. She and her husband, Matt, she owned Robicelli's, a popular bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y., before they moved to Baltimore.
Baker and food writer Allison Robicelli, right, has been a vocal critic of men in the restaurant industry accused of abusing their power. She and her husband, Matt, she owned Robicelli's, a popular bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y., before they moved to Baltimore. (HANDOUT)

Baltimore-based food writer and personality Allison Robicelli has spent the majority of the past two days firing off tweets in response to sexual harassment and abuse allegations levied this week against celebrity chef Mario Batali and New York City restaurateur Ken Friedman.

Robicelli, a James Beard Award-nominated writer who owned the popular bakery Robicelli’s in Brooklyn before moving to Baltimore last year, said she’s avoided Batali for years because of his reputation.

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“This is an open secret,” she said. “He’s been known as the ‘Red Menace.’ Everyone is scared of him.”

Robicelli stressed the difference between the often brash culture in the restaurant industry and sexual abuse and harassment.

“We’ve all heard stories about kitchen culture,” Robicelli said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “It’s known to be frat house-ish. That’s not necessarily OK. …The issue with Mario Batali isn’t an issue of kitchen culture. It’s flat-out abuse. These are people with an enormous amount of power. They have millions of dollars, PR firms, book deals and influence. They used this to hurt people. They knew it was wrong, and they didn’t care.”

You know when you are going to be loud there will be dudes after you. But I drink male tears. And they make me grow stronger.


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Robicelli did not have a run-in with Batali or Friedman but recalled a number of instances she experienced while working in the New York City food scene. She said men slapped her buttocks, rubbed against her, sent her inappropriate pictures and did “what they could to make me feel unwanted and weak.”

Robicelli prides herself on speaking out against abuse even though she knows it will result in criticism.

“There is no excuses here. There is no hiding. I will say s---. And I will be labeled ‘difficult’ for this,” she said.

And so far, Robicelli has fielded her share of negative feedback — specifically from supporters of famous men she addresses in her social media posts.

“You know when you are going to be loud there will be dudes after you. But I drink male tears. And they make me grow stronger,” she said. “I’m not talking about all men. There are some great ones out there. I’m talking about the ones that abuse the power and privilege of power that they are given.”

In the meantime, Robicelli said that a way to end the systemic harassment and abuse in the industry is by refusing to cover for and support abusers.

“You just stop writing about them,” she said. “Say ‘We don’t support abuse.’”

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