Their flagship was always the Spotted Pig, the only one of the restaurants that Mr. Friedman still owns. (In August, he closed White Gold Butchers on the Upper West Side.)
In June, Ms. Hamilton, a longtime friend of Mr. Friedman’s, shocked many people in the food world when she announced she would be taking over operations at the Spotted Pig, along with Ms. Merriman, the chef whom she married in 2016 and who works with Ms. Hamilton at Prune, in the East Village.
At the time, Ms. Hamilton, who in May won the James Beard Foundation’s top award, for the nation’s Outstanding Chef, likened herself to José Andrés, the chef who headed into Puerto Rico to help last fall after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Ms. Hamilton called the Spotted Pig a man-made disaster, and said she and Ms. Merriman could help “make things right.”
In later interviews, after widespread criticism of their alliance with an accused harasser, both she and Ms. Merriman said they hoped to provide a blueprint for a post-#MeToo era. In the end, however, they could not find a way to make it work with Mr. Friedman.
“I trust he knows better than we do what the path forward is for you all,” she wrote in the email to employees. “I wish you all the very, very best, for yourselves personally, and for our industry as a whole.”
In an email posted Monday by Eater, Ms. Merriman told the staff that the break “has nothing to do with money.”
“In the past few days, finally, we have come to understand that we quite simply can’t reach an agreement that feels just and ethical,” she wrote, adding, “We wanted to be the final decision-makers at the restaurant — The Buck-Stops-Here-type owners for the good / the bad / the ugly and everything that comes between in a restaurant. We can’t come to an agreement with Ken about such a structure.”
One former Spotted Pig server, Trish Nelson, welcomed the news. “As a woman who has experienced sexual harassment and assault at the hands of Ken Friedman, I was, of course, disappointed when I heard that a female industry leader like Gabrielle Hamilton was going to partner up with him,” she said Monday. “No matter how she tries to spin it, she was attempting to capitalize on the pain and suffering of others. She was being self-serving and opportunistic in the worst kind of way. Karmically this end result makes sense to me.”