Jen Curtis, 39, was a seasoned chef when she left her job and went back to cooking school just so she could intern at Willows to cook. “The kitchen is what I identify with,” said Ms. Curtis, who grew up on a Cape Cod farm. “Hyperseasonal, Coastal, Handmade.”
When she was hired full-time, she said Mr. Wetzel told her she was standing in line for a sous-chef position. (Many employees said they heard the same promise, usually when they were about to quit.) But she said she resigned after two years of watching younger men steadily promoted in front of her and others Female cooks were ignored.
Mr. Wetzel said: “I support female chefs with all my heart (so much that I married one). Anyone who would say I don’t support cooks is lying. “
Many former employees said they put up with the abusive language, sexism and bullying from Mr. Wetzel because a recommendation from him is a stepping stone to any cooking job in the world. But many others left the off-season or left the house in the middle of the shift.
“There have been countless times I’ve tried to get top management to get the human resources department over to our problems,” said Anne Treat, 42, who was fired in September 2020 after confronting Mr. Wetzel. “There was no interest in why we keep losing employees.”
Going to Mr. Johnson, the longtime manager, was the only recourse for the many employees who clashed with Mr. Wetzel. But they said Mr. Johnson boasted a “hands-off” management style that made it unnecessary for him to intervene and never responded to complaints against Mr. Wetzel.
Mr. Johnson made no comment on the article, but Mr. Wetzel wrote: “Reid Johnson appropriately records, reports and acts on every complaint in the workplace.”