Celebrity chef Ming Tsai issues apology for controversial comments

Chefs Ming Tsai (left) and Irene Li speak onstage at an event hosted by WBUR's CitySpace on Feb. 6. (Courtesy WBUR CitySpace)
Chefs Ming Tsai (left) and Irene Li speak onstage at an event hosted by WBUR's CitySpace on Feb. 6. (Courtesy WBUR CitySpace)

Celebrity chef Ming Tsai apologized for some controversial comments that were the subject of online blowback this week.

During an interview at WBUR's CitySpace last month, Tsai asked fellow chef Irene Li if she had "roofied" him. He then joked that he put a date-rape drug in her drink.

Earlier this week, Li called out Tsai's comments on social media. An Instagram reel posted to her account shows a compilation of Tsai’s remarks from the interview.


Li declined to comment for this story. A publicist for Tsai referred WBUR to his online statement.

In addition to the roofie comment, the Instagram reel depicts an exchange between Li and Tsai in which she asks him if he thinks Boston will have a “Me Too moment” in the restaurant industry.

“Have we not? Have we not been talking about it enough?” Tsai responds. Later in the exchange, he adds, “I could probably say all my chef buddies around the country — I was just on the phone with Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller, we were just in Lyon — none of us are like that. It’s like social media, the bad boys get the press. It’s not [that] the whole industry is a bunch of SOBs. It’s not.”

Commenters on Li’s post took Tsai to task. “You can't have ‘I roofied you’ and also ‘none of us are like that,’" wrote Instagram user @halfbakedplants.

Prominent Boston restaurateur Biplaw Rai, of the recently-opened Comfort Kitchen in Dorchester, also weighed in. “I hate to believe this is [a] generational thing,” he wrote. “This happens when celebrities get away with everything and anything and no one checks it.”

On Monday, March 13, Tsai issued an apology. “I made some comments I regret, including those about the Me Too movement,” his statement says, in part. “It was not my intention to be insensitive or dismissive of the experiences of those who have been affected by sexual misconduct.”

He did not apologize directly to Li.

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Amelia Mason Senior Arts & Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.



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