Celebrity chef Ming Tsai has apologized after taking heat over controversial remarks he made during an onstage interview with a local news outlet last month.
Tsai, the man behind Boston’s acclaimed restaurant Blue Ginger and star of PBS’ longest-running, Emmy-nominated cooking show, “Simply Ming,” sat down with fellow restaurateur Irene Li of Mei Mei Dumplings for an episode of WBUR’s “Curated Cuisine” on Feb. 6. The interview was held at the media company’s CitySpace, an event venue in Brookline.
The eyebrow-raising moment in Tsai’s interview apparently started after the 23-minute mark, when he paused to take a sip from his drink before joking: “Did you roofie me? You should have. I roofied you.”
“Roofie” is one of the lay terms for flunitrazepam, a tasteless, odorless drug commonly used in date rape crimes.
Acting as a tranquilizer, it can be crushed and dissolved in liquid, causing a loss of consciousness in higher doses.
Why Tsai decided to make a joke about the drug is unknown. Boston, however, has recently seen a rise in drink-spiking across bars and clubs since late last year.
Tsai has also come under fire for his remarks regarding sexual harassment allegations against other chefs.
After the 44-minute mark, Li asks Tsai if he thinks Boston’s restaurant industry will see a #MeToo movement in response to the allegations.
“Have we not? Have we not been talking about it enough?” Tsai asks. “Are you saying, like, is there going to be another gigantic fiasco?”
The chef went on to say he wishes for it to happen “every day,” but he also quickly defended all his “chef buddies.”
“I could probably say all my chef buddies around the country — I was just on the phone with Daniel Boulud; and Thomas Keller, we were just in Lyon — none of us are like that,” Tsai told Li.
He added, “It’s like social media, the bad boys get the press. It’s not [that] the whole industry is a bunch of SOBs. It’s not.”
Li shared the controversial clips in an Instagram Reel on Sunday, calling them “some of the standout moments” from the hour-long interview.
Instagram users — including Li’s own husband, Chris Ward — quickly jumped to criticize Tsai and praise Li for maintaining her composure.
“Nothing like watching a grown man who is old enough to be my dad make a joke about slipping my wife a roofy [sic] during a public interview,” Ward commented.
“‘We’re not like that’ but date rape drug joke? Self awareness much?” another user questioned.
“This is a nightmare mix of abusive and dismissive statements dropped in a casual tone with a side of ego and name dropping,” another concluded. “Nothing about this is OK.”
“The fact these are the things he would say in a public, recorded interview makes me cringe,” another replied. “Wonder what he ‘jokes about’ behind closed doors…and dismissing sexual assault experiences as just another ‘fiasco’ (for your PR team, sure), I just can’t.”
“I just watched the whole thing and it is pure unhinged-cringe,” another said. “I’m wildly impressed by your composure.”
Tsai addressed the controversy and apologized for his comments in a statement published Monday.
“I made some comments I regret, including those about the Me Too movement. It was not my intention to be insensitive or dismissive of the experiences of those who have been affected by sexual misconduct,” he said.
The chef added that he has “always built my teams with women,” citing his executive chef and chief marketing officer at MingsBings — his brand of plant-based versions of the Chinese snack bing — as examples. He also said the “best chefs in the country today are women.”
“Moving forward, I commit to being more mindful and respectful of the topics that are important to others, and to approach all conversations more empathetically,” Tsai said.
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