June 13, 2024 4:53 pm

Acclaimed Boston chef Barbara Lynch denies staff abuse claims

One of Boston’s most famous chefs is denying accusations from former employees that she was physically and emotionally abusive.

In separate investigations by the New York Times and the Boston Globe, several staff accused Barbara Lynch of alcohol-fuelled verbal aggressions.

Ms Lynch is a nationally renowned chef who oversees several acclaimed restaurants in Boston.

In a statement to the Times, she called the allegations “fantastical”.

“I expressly reject the various false accusations lodged against me that I have behaved inappropriately with employees or crossed professional guideposts that are important to me,” she said.

Ms Lynch said she makes “personnel decisions that may rankle those who don’t measure up or don’t want to commit to true teamwork and service; perhaps some I should have removed sooner”.

She added she was “committed to taking responsibility and working on myself” while alleging the accusations were “designed to ‘take me down'”.

The BBC has reached out to Ms Lynch for comment.

The two newspapers reported that Ms Lynch brought staff together last month at one of her restaurants, Menton, following the deaths of two employees, executive chef Rye Crofter and a line cook. Both died of drug overdoses.

The outlets each obtained a recording of the meeting, during which staff said Ms Lynch drunkenly yelled at employees and got into a confrontation with the restaurant’s new head chef, who alleged Ms Lynch had not come to the kitchen after Mr Crofter died.

She fired the chef and threatened to shove his head through a window after he said he would ruin her reputation, the Times reported. Several of the Menton staff resigned after the altercation, according to the newspaper’s reporting.

Former staff also reportedly allege the 59-year-old made other impulsive firings, subjected employees to unwanted touching, and made threats of violence, especially while under the influence of alcohol.

Ms Lynch was named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in 2017 and has won multiple James Beard awards, which recognises the culinary arts.

She has spoken of her journey from a difficult childhood in a Boston housing project to the heights of the restaurant scene in the US, and about the sexism she has faced climbing the ladder in the male-dominated restaurant industry in the country.

But her employees said her behaviour has become increasingly unpredictable over time, alleging she would threaten staff members with knives and reprimand employees in front of customers.

Sometimes staff felt they needed to drive her home because she was too drunk, staff told the Times.

Ms Lynch was charged for drunk driving in 2017 and has detailed her struggles with alcoholism in her memoir Out of Line, which was released that year.

In a statement to the Boston Globe, Ms Lynch said she was “a creature of the alcohol-steeped hospitality and restaurant industry” but argued allegations from staff falsely conflated her with “peers accused of behavior that is absolutely criminal”.

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