Boston Teamsters Indicted for Allegedly Intimidating Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef Crew

A Boston City Hall employee is tied to the intimidation.

Padma Lakshmi and Marty Walsh on the set of Top Chef Boston in 2014. Photo by David Moir/Bravo

Padma Lakshmi and Marty Walsh on the set of Top Chef Boston in 2014. Photo by David Moir/Bravo

Four members of Teamsters Local 25 were formally indicted on extortion charges in federal court on Wednesday for allegedly intimidating the production company behind the Boston edition of  Top Chef. 

The indictment describes the Teamsters using the most stereotypical tactics possible in an attempt to muscle their way to jobs on the set of the popular Bravo cooking show. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz was so disgusted by their alleged actions she used the term “old-school thug” to describe them in a statement.

According to the indictment, Teamsters Mark Harrington, John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, and Robert Cafarelli, “yelled profanities and racial and homophobic slurs at the crew and others” and used  “actual physical violence and threats of physical violence” to intimidate the production company behind Top Chef when they realized they were not using union labor.

Charges against a fifth person listed in the indictment were dropped due to mistaken identity.

The indictment recalls a well publicized tire slashing incident outside Steel & Rye in Milton. Teamsters reportedly threatened the show’s host, Padma Lakshmi, with violence when she was outside the restaurant, shouting, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you fucking whore!” Local Teamster officials denied the incident at the time and framed media reports as an attempt to smear organized labor.

The wrath of Local 25 was set off after Harrington, the secretary-treasurer for the union, met with the show’s crew at the Revere Hotel in June 2014 and told them he wanted Teamsters  “hired on the show,” according to the indictment. When told Teamsters would not be used, Harrington and Redmond threatened the the crew with a picket that would “shut the production down that night.”

Days later, an unidentified person in Boston City Hall called the Omni Parker House and Menton to inform them Teamsters were planning to picket the filming of Top Chef. Not long after, the management at Omni Parker House told Top Chef’s production company they were no longer welcome to film at the historic restaurant. Attempts to reach both for comment were unsuccessful.

Boston City Hall officials declined to comment on the identity of City Hall staffer who made calls for the Teamsters.

“The city issued multiple permits to allow for Top Chef to film in Boston and the mayor participated in the show. If the allegations against these five individuals are found to be true, we do not condone these activities in any way,” said Walsh communications director Laura Oggeri in an emailed statement. 

A Boston review of the plethora of permits for Top Chef indicates the Boston Film Bureau was indeed helpful in guiding the show through the city’s bureaucratic maze.

Pouring some cold water on the idea that Walsh was determined to squash the filming of Top Chef because of their local labor choices, is his 2014 appearance on the show.

In interviews on Wednesday, Walsh said he was not called to testify before a grand jury on the incident.

“If these allegations come out to be true, then certainly I’ll be very disappointed about it,” said Walsh to the Boston Herald.

The Teamsters, ever a controversial union nationally and locally, have donated heavily to political figures in Boston. The group donated $500 to all 13 members of the Boston City Council in the last two years while giving $14,999 to Walsh’s 2013 campaign for mayor. Local 25 has steadily donated to Walsh, first as a representative and later as mayor, since 2003. The union last donated to Walsh, according to OCPF records, in 2014 when they gave Walsh a $500 check.

Throughout his mayoralty, Walsh has tried to walk the fine line between placating the strong unions who helped elect him and reassuring local business leaders that he is not going to give away the farm to labor. Walsh, the former head of the Boston Build Trades, has signed collective bargaining contracts during his time in office that received mixed reviews from local watchdogs. Unlike his predecessor though, Walsh’s time in office has been marked by steady peace between City Hall and local unions.

Other notable politicians receiving checks recently from Local 25 include Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg,  Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, and Attorney General Maura Healey.

The Massachusetts Republican Party has called on elected officials to return donations from Teamsters Local 25.

According to a report in Thursday’s Boston Globe it does not appear their call has been well received.