Hazing News

Hazing in the restaurant kitchen: then and now

Great column by Thomas Farragher on a chef who overcame the brutal hazing we are only hearing about the last few years in the restaurant business. Men used to (sometimes still do) insist the restaurant kitchen is a man’s domain.


[Denise Graffeo in 1974]

In 1974, she was 24 and newly divorced. She lived on the top floor above that restaurant, working a grueling morning-to-night schedule, scarcely feeling sunshine on her face for six months.

 She carried 50-pound boxes of grease to melt in the deep fryer. She peeled potatoes, made her own french fries, and served club sandwiches on 12 kinds of bread.

“This was my first experience in the world where it was all up to me,’’ said Graffeo, who became the first woman elected into the American Academy of Chefs Hall of Fame this year.

“I was going to succeed because I would not let myself fail. I’m all pumped up because I had a cookbook from the Culinary Institute of America. It wasn’t much. But it was mine.’’  …..

…By the time she walked into the Ritz-Carlton kitchen in 1979, she was one of a handful of women working among 50 men. She also learned a valuable lesson: Never let them see you cry.

“Two years, I cried,’’ she said. “Always in the locker room. In the maids’ locker room.’’

She remembers colleagues who bumped her, who sabotaged her stock pot, who counted on the complicity of managers who displayed no sympathy. Her thick skin saved her.

“I had the Tap behind me,’’ she said, referring to her start in Haverhill. “You’re not going to kill me with this stuff because I could do the job. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction. I knew the sous chef who hired me had my back because he didn’t want me to fail because if I failed, he wasn’t going to look good.’’

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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