Note: this article and the above video contain coarse language that may offend some readers.
In June 2014, “Top Chef” producers found themselves in a sticky situation — and it wasn’t because of a cooking fiasco.
The hit Bravo show, which is non-union, landed in hot water when they arrived at one of their Boston filming locations and were greeted by Teamsters Local 25, an affiliate of the Teamsters Union — one of the largest labor unions in the country.
Several men were waiting for producers and crew to arrive at the filming location, the Revere Hotel. Once crew members arrived, a protest began for the show to hire union workers as drivers.
But according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Kaplan, per Reuters, the men were asking to be hired for jobs that didn’t exist:
“This was all for wages for services not needed, not wanted and that others were already hired to perform.”
It wasn’t long before the situation got out of hand.
“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi was reportedly affected to the point that she was “paralyzed with fear.” According to People magazine, when Lakshmi arrived on location in a van, several men “swarmed [her] vehicle and surrounded it.”
The altercation resulted in a highly publicized trial — in which the union members are being charged with extortion — but Tuesday’s testimony revealed just how terrifying the ordeal was, especially for Lakshmi.
According to Deadline, one of the show’s producers, Ellie Carbajal, told the court:
“[The men] were furious.”
She then detailed that at one point, one union member’s faces was less than a foot away from Lakshmi’s through the car window. During that time, he allegedly told the other men:
“That’s the pretty one. We want to smash her face in.”
Erica Ross, a former “Top Chef” producer, echoed that testimony. She told the court that Lakshmi was “visibly terrified.”
But Carbajal said the threats and frightening behavior didn’t end with Lakshmi; the men also targeted her.
According to Deadline, Carbajal reportedly barely managing to restrain her tears when she spoke, detailing the men’s language and intimidating behavior.
She told the courtroom:
“They got in my face. I was scared. I couldn’t believe they were doing this. They were grown men.”
She was able to record some of the incident on camera. In it, some of the men can be heard calling her a “c**t” multiple times, and a “f**king towelhead.”
In addition to Carbajal and Lakshmi’s horrifying experience, a former location manager, Derek Cunningham, told the court that after that day, he “slept with a knife and a hatchet.” He told the court:
“I didn’t receive any quote-unquote ‘death threats.'”
However, he said that he’s been afraid for his life since “the whole scene, generally, from June 5, honestly, to right now.”
Lakshmi is set to testify on Friday, but one of the men has already been punished.
The men’s union supervisor, Mark Harrington, pleaded guilty to extortion and is currently serving his sentence of six months of home confinement, according to Deadline, which will be followed by two years of probation and payment of $34,000 in fines and restitution.
The rest of the men involved have entered a plea of not guilty.