Why restaurant kitchens often serve up hostile working environments (Gillian Hnatiw quoted)

Sophia Banks would not recommend working in a restaurant kitchen. To anyone. Ever.

“It’s one of the most toxic environments I’ve ever encountered,” she says. “I’ve worked as a cook on and off for 13 years and it’s just pure abuse.”

The Weslodge case did help raise awareness of the issues hidden behind the doors of many restaurant kitchens. It prompted restauranteur Jen Agg, owner of Toronto’s Black Hoof and Rhum Corner, to organize “Kitchen Bitches,” a high-profile conference with the tagline “Smashing the Patriarchy One Plate at a Time” last month. But while kitchen abuse awareness is increasing, any change is incremental, according to Toronto lawyer Gillian Hnatiw, a partner at Lerners LLP.

“I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that changes overnight because it’s embedded in the individuals who still work in those kitchens,” explains Hnatiw, who specializes in claims arising from abuse, harassment and assault, “and it’s not until they face some sort of consequence of their action that they are motivated to change.”

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