Blue Hill at Stone Barns Is Accused of Employee Mistreatment and Misrepresentation, a New Report Reveals
Blue Hill at Stone Barns has gained accolades from just about every corner of the food world (including two Michelin stars) for its groundbreaking approach to sustainable gastronomy. But Dan Barber’s restaurant may be selling a story that doesn’t quite align with its practices inside and outside the kitchen.
To detail accounts of everything from deception to sexual assault, Eater’s Meghan McCarron spoke with more than 45 people, including more than 20 former Blue Hill employees. Repeated requests to speak with Blue Hill’s leadership were denied, and all communication from Blue Hill and Barber came through a spokesperson. (As of writing, Blue Hill has not responded to Robb Report‘s request for comment.)
While McCarron’s report is worth reading in full, a few episodes in particular illustrate the unsustainable working environment that existed at Blue Hill at least from 2014 to 2020, the time period that McCarron covers. Temper tantrums and angry outbursts have long been documented in some of the world’s best kitchens, and Barber seems to have carried on that tradition. Employees said Barber made them cry on multiple occasions, and some picked up his practices and bullied others in return. One employee said that, at a non-work barbecue, a cook pushed him so that his hands landed in a fire. While he told Barber about the incident at the time, the response was simply to “quash this thing and get back to work.” (The spokesperson for Blue Hill said Barber didn’t remember the incident or making the purported statement.)
One of the most serious allegations in the piece comes from a former cook at the restaurant who says he was sexually assaulted at a party by another chef at Blue Hill in a management position. While the restaurant carried out an investigation at the time, it did not fire the more senior chef, which devastated the younger cook and ultimately contributed to him leaving Blue Hill. (Through its spokesperson, Blue Hill disputed much of the former employee’s account.)
The behind-the-scenes infractions are pretty damning all on their own. But even beyond that, McCarron explains how Blue Hill, which prides itself on its innovative use of the natural environment and local farming, is not so up front about its practices and ingredients when talking with guests. Some diners were treated to a slow-poached egg pulled straight out of Blue Hill’s compost oven—except one employee recalled having placed fully cooked eggs into the oven before guests arrived.
In another example, employees would churn butter right in front of guests, talking about Blue Hill Farm and its cows. However, oftentimes the butter was made with cream from another dairy farm. (Blue Hill told Eater that it never intentionally misrepresented its preparations, dishes or ingredients and sought to clarify the butter incident in a nearly 1,000-word statement.)
In all, the report is an unflattering portrayal of one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants—one that punctures its idyllic image of itself. But the last couple years have show that what is alleged in the Eater article is not entirely uncommon in the restaurant industry.
Source: Robb Report