Recently, the culinary world was rocked by numerous allegations of abuse perpetrated by restaurateurs, chefs, and various others in positions of power in the dining industry. These troubling revelations have put the actions of renowned chefs into question, as well as those of lesser-known food figures in the male-dominated field. Apparently, Milwaukee isn’t immune from those unacceptable incidents. After learning about some of the hardships a female friend of his faces in the culinary industry, Milwaukee chef Shay Linkus—former Vanguard and current Snack Boys chef/owner—decided it was time to speak up.
“A good friend of mine works in corporate [restaurants] and is constantly looked down upon for being a woman,” Linkus says. “It hurt me. Not being able to help her was crushing.”
Linkus says this friend told him the only way he could help her was to raise his son to be a good person who would never treat someone with less compassion because of their gender. Her advice prompted Linkus to write an “open letter” about the culinary industry, which he claims “is plagued with predators and vultures,” both in Milwaukee and as a whole.
“It really stuck with me and this is how to start being a better person for him,” Linkus says.
You can read full statement Linkus sent Milwaukee Record below:
My name is Shay Linkus. I used to be a chef. I’m not sure what I am anymore. Restaurants and bars have the ability to change neighborhoods and shape the youth that will likely spend time working in them. Even when they decide to love or leave it, these kids will be affected by their time in the workplace. That being said, this industry is plagued with predators and vultures. I have always wanted to change it into the happy place that I thought it could be, but I might as well give up. Heroes of this job are overlooked, while scum and bottom feeders rise to the top on the shoulders of false merit. I can only hope that the ones who provide a safe place and care for everyone with respect and equality are given the credit they deserve.
Philanthropy is not part of the job description, but chefs and owners are the teachers and parents of hundreds of people that work for us. We are the ones that can show people the love that is needed to provide the caring environment for the next generation. Things have changed since my time climbing up the ranks, but only to the public eye. It is still ripe with sexism and homophobia. Abuse of power and alcoholism are going to hide in the shadows and no one will say anything about it out of fear of losing their membership to the clubhouse. That being said. I am not perfect. I have my own demons and tend to feel happiest staring at the world through the bottom of a bottle. Lately, I just don’t give a fuck anymore.
Chefs and owners should be given the opportunity to narrate their own life. We stand in front of the firing lines of online criticism and judgement based on the whims of trolls and the social elite. We should stand as moral leaders and be critiqued on the way we run our business and lead the kids who work beside us. I make the food I want to eat. If you don’t like it, fine. That’s your call. If I’m a piece of shit who stands tall while degrading and abusing the ones who can’t defend themselves, shame on you for supporting me. It’s okay to have a wild time and live like tomorrow is your last day. But always remember that if it’s not [you last day], you will have repercussions to deal with. People will rise and people will fall, but the next one to stand up and take the reins should be based on the talent that was nurtured and the morals that were passed down.
If you are reading this and need someone to talk to, I will always be there to listen and stand beside you. If you can’t defend yourself, I will walk in your shadow to make you feel safe. There are a lot of great people in this industry and Milwaukee has such an amazing community of chefs and owners, but we are not without our rotten eggs. Fuck this boys club and the predators that swim in the waters.
Shay Linkus, Sandwich Artist