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Lynch defends herself as abuse allegations against the Boston chef stir industry

Chef Barbara Lynch poses for a portrait inside of her restaurant The Butcher Shop in Boston in 2018. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Chef Barbara Lynch poses for a portrait inside of her restaurant The Butcher Shop in Boston in 2018. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Star Boston chef Barbara Lynch is defending herself against allegations of workplace abuse made against her by former coworkers in recent news articles.

In a lengthy statement emailed to WBUR on Tuesday, a spokeswoman called allegations published recently in The Boston Globe and The New York Times "a coordinated attack by a group of individuals targeting Barbara and the brand she has built over decades."

Several workers accused Lynch of physical and verbal abuse and sexual harassment, according to the reports, claiming she frequently was drunk at her own restaurants and bars while on or off the clock. Lynch owns several high-end restaurants in Greater Boston, including No. 9 Park and Menton, and says she employs more than 160 people.

Following the media reports, Lynch had initially released a different statement, saying, "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."

The new statement Tuesday rejected specific claims in the media reports. It said Lynch was not invited to a memorial event for a colleague who had died suddenly, while the reports said she had skipped it. The statement said a former employee, Tim Dearing, who'd confronted her about not meeting with staff after the death of the colleague, had resigned and was not fired.

The statement also said some details included in the media reports were based on an employee's recording of Lynch that was made without her consent and was therefore illegal under Massachusetts law.

Lynch is "weathering an onslaught of negative media coverage that appears coincidentally timed to legal action brought by certain former employees," the statement said.

Two former employees filed a lawsuit against Lynch last month, alleging that she withheld tips from employees after her restaurants reopened following the COVID pandemic. The statement rejected the claims in the lawsuit.

The allegations of abusive workplace behavior by Lynch have shaken up members of the local restaurant industry, with some venting outrage on social media while others expressed relief that these alleged experiences were being brought to light.

Some in the local restaurant business say negative workplace culture is not widespread.

"Most restaurants are all doing the right things and the employees are doing the right thing," said Stephen Clark, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. "If you think of the entire scope of the industry, there are safe workplaces happening. There's always conversations that can happen and more education that needs to happen. But, by and large, I think most people that choose to work in this industry are happy that they're here and they like where they are."

Deborah Hansen, the chef and owner of Taberna de Haro in Brookline, said a positive restaurant culture depends on having good leaders, and the industry is moving in the right direction.

"Are we moving toward a better culture? I think we are," Hansen said. "Will there always be outliers that have their own personal issues and they bring them to their workplace and they don't know how to control themselves? Yes, that will be the case in restaurants, and every business."

This segment aired on April 25, 2023.


Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.


Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.


Rob Lane Producer
Rob Lane is a producer for Radio Boston.



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