Chef Barbara Lynch Accused Of Ongoing Workplace Abuse

When chef Barbara Lynch called a meeting for two dozen employees from her Boston restaurant empire on March 15, 2023, it was supposed to be an occasion of sharing and healing from the tragic death of two chefs from Lynch's most prestigious restaurant, Menton (via New York Times). Instead, employees say they were subjected to an alcohol-fueled, "expletive-laced confrontation" culminating in Lynch's firing of her executive chef and then claiming she would put his head through a window. 

The meeting was recorded by one of Lynch's employees, and that recording has been shared with The New York Times and The Boston Globe. As shocking as these revelations are about the chef, what may be even more shocking is the flood of accusations that has followed the incident. These accusations depict Lynch, named one of Time's most influential people in 2017, as an abusive tyrant.

How have employees described chef Lynch's behavior?

The New York Times reported that employees who've worked in the seven restaurants in The Barbara Lynch Collective say that Lynch was frequently intoxicated in her establishments. She would get into confrontations with guests and subject employees to verbal and physical abuse, including groping, unwanted propositions, and a number of instances of "impulsive firings."

The chef was a powerful figure in the Boston restaurant scene, and as the majority owner of her restaurants, there was little oversight by investors, creating the perfect condition for Lynch's abuse without consequences. Employees claim the working conditions were an open secret in Boston, where Lynch's political connections and powerful investors made employees feel like their only option was to take their accusations public.

The Boston Globe spoke with more than a dozen former and current employees of the chef's restaurant group who recall incidents of being groped, "manhandled," berated in front of guests, and having to handle an intoxicated Lynch by confiscating her keys, sequestering her from guests and carrying her to a cab.

Lynch's response to her staff's allegations

Lynch's 2017 memoir, "Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire," details her difficult upbringing, which included sexual abuse, a family history of alcoholism, and violence in the poor South Boston neighborhood where she grew up. The chef has been vocal about the difficult road and sexism she faced on her climb to the pinnacle of culinary success.

In light of the recent allegations, Lynch admits to The Boston Globe that she can be "a hard charging boss." She also told The New York Times, "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." Her statement also questions the timing of her employees' accusations, noting that they followed in the wake of her firing executive chef Tim Dearing at the meeting when he threatened to "drag" Lynch.

And the chef has supporters, including a longtime employee, John George, who says that Lynch "maintained her professionalism on site as the owner and leader" and that all the accusations are "part of a smear campaign," per The Boston Globe.