Well, Well: Has South Beach Wine & Food Festival Removed Michael Chiarello and Paul Qui From The Roster?
Wonders never cease.
January 10, 2018 ● 2 min read
By Cassandra Landry and Richie Nakano | Getty Images
So, maybe Twitter's not useless.
Last week, it came to our attention that the line-up for the 2018 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, a glitzy celebrity chef event held in Miami every year, was perhaps a little... ill-advised. Despite the overwhelming social revolution brought on by #MeToo and revelations concerning powerful men in the restaurant industry, both Michael Chiarello and Paul Qui (about whom too much digital ink has been spilled, so we won't repeat their sins, save to say they are widely known) were among the featured chef talent. This seemed gross, so staff writer Richie Nakano tweeted about it, which he does a lot.
".@SOBEWFF @nytfood why are you guys featuring [Paul Qui]?" he wrote. "This is tone deaf at best, at worst it makes you complicit in enabling abusers to get away with their behavior." On its heels: ".@SOBEWFF how come you guys are featuring serial sexual harasser @ChefChiarello at your event? @nytfood why are you guys sponsoring the event that features him?"
Fair questions, and ones that received no immediate reaction. Not long after, Eater published an article titled, Stop Inviting Known Bad Men to Food Festivals. "When it comes to men who have clearly made their businesses unbearable for women, the only recourse that does seem clear is excision, and that includes from the festival circuit," wrote Eater's Meghan McCarron. "If harassment is a cancer, then it must be cut out."
Why does any of this matter? Why should chefs like Chiarello and Qui not be allowed to demo on a stage in a nice beachy location for 20 minutes? Two reasons: symbolism, and representation. These festivals pay homage to and elevate the top rungs of the restaurant industry—the chefs who matter, and who lead the industry. It means exposure, and even though events are a massive logistical timesuck to a chef, it's an honor to be invited. The only way to keep harassment squarely in the dumpster fire of 2017 is by sending the message that this shit cannot stand. That's why this seemingly small matter of a guest list matters. The status quo must be policed.
As of today, it appears that both chef's profiles are missing from the SOBEWFF website following the outcry. Their names have been removed from all associated events. The backlash and corrections against bad behavior might be slow, as Pete Wells pointed out last week in the New York Times, but is it possible that the biggest ship of them all—the national food festival circuit—is proving more agile than the average kitchen?
We have reached out to the festival organizers, and are awaiting comment.