Controversy rages over Minnesota restaurateur’s choice of James Beard Award

Controversy erupted online Thursday over the recognition of a Minnesota restaurateur who was named one of Wednesday’s semi-finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award.

Kim Bartman, owner of Bartman Group, is In the semi-finals In the Distinguished Restaurateur category, which honors a restaurateur “who uses his organization(s) as a vehicle for building community, demonstrates entrepreneurial creativity, integrity in restaurant operations, and makes efforts to create a sustainable work culture.” Bartmann was previously named in this category in 2013 and 2015.

Bartman, owner of seven restaurants in Minneapolis, came under fire in 2020 after employees said she had laid off workers during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. without giving them their final salaries. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office launched an investigation in 2020 and found that Bartman also failed to compensate workers for overtime, in addition to lost salaries.

Bartmann Group reached a settlement in 2021 for more than $230,000, which included nearly $99,000 in back wages and more than $66,000 in overtime wages that Bartman had already paid employees. As part of the settlement, the group had to pay just over $66,000 in additional damages. Legally, the settlement is not an admission of guilt or the equivalent of a conviction.

Commentators on social media, including former employees of the Bartman Group, spoke on Thursday about what they see as a violation of the James Beard Awards. code of conduct, which lists “stealing wages or gratuities” as a practice contrary to the values ​​of prizes. Several commentators urged people to write to the organization’s email address that goes to the Ethics Committee.

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Bartman said Thursday that she “did not violate” the Byrd Foundation’s code of ethics and “did not violate it.”

“I’m just going to say the gastric cap is fully operational,” Bartmann said. “Double standards are more powerful than ever. The world is still full of misogyny, trolls and slander.”

She said she did not see the social media comment on the awards but said she was “honored to qualify for the semi-finals for the third time”.

“I’ve been doing a lot of good work for the past 30 years,” she added. “I’ve helped a lot of nonprofits in this city, a lot of young entrepreneurs, artists and musicians. This is a part of the restaurant business that I’m passionate about.”

The controversy comes at a pivotal time for the prestigious James Beard Awards, which return in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic – and An internal account of diversity.

During that time, the foundation underwent a “full scrutiny of its policies and procedures, continuing work to remove bias, increase transparency and accessibility, and bring the program more in line with the foundation’s mission and values,” according to the statement.

Adrian Miller, president, and Alicia Vermillion, vice chair of the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee, responded to an inquiry from Star Tribune about the awards vetting process and the controversy surrounding Bartmann’s recognition, saying they used “external counsel” to screen the semifinalists and vet nominees.

“While we have taken every step to ensure that participants in our programs are in line with the values ​​of the James Beard Foundation, we know that no system is infallible,” they wrote in a statement. “We unequivocally support workers’ rights.”

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Miller and Vermillion have directed people to report allegations of violating the Foundation’s Code of Ethics to Awardsethics@jamesbeard.org, where the allegations will be independently reviewed by the Ethics Committee.

Pongweng Lee, a Kansas City-based food photographer and writer with ties to the Twin Cities, has been a longtime Midwest judge for the James Beard Awards. Books on the 2020 moral debate for the site eater. “In terms of the Beard Awards, there’s a lot of irony here.

“One of the things that I found problematic about the way the JBFA handled the 2020 awards was that there were unverified, unfounded, and some anonymous accusations against some of the nominees,” said Lee, who was not familiar with Bartman and its restaurant group. . “The James Beard Awards were trying to be a judge and jury on situations where they didn’t really have all that much information.

“[The Beard Awards] I created this problem. You have tried to be everything to all people. It’s time to sit down and find out what the institution is and what the awards are. We all predict fairness when we don’t know what fair is.”

With Bartman’s nomination, he said, “maybe they’re trying to get away from this.”

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