On September 17, rumors began to spread around Hyde Park that the Medici on 57th, a dining mainstay for students and Hyde Park locals, had fired its longtime head baker Gracie Gamero, leading some community members and UChicago students to call for a boycott of the restaurant.
After fliers posted around Hyde Park called for a boycott of Medici, claims about the circumstances of Gamero’s employment circulated on social media. One post to the UChicago Mutual Aid Facebook group claimed that “the new general manager fired Gracie, their pastry chef of 35 years, without any reason as far as I can tell, and without giving her any kind of retirement/severance.” The post further alleged that the manager “had the gall to call her and ask her for her recipes for the pastries without offering her any compensation for them.”
The owner and general manager of the Medici both told The Maroon that Gamero was not fired, but she was furloughed due to concerns for her health while COVID-19 cases in the area remain high.
Kirsten Esterly, who retired as general manager of the Medici in August, said that Gamero did not support the boycott in a post to the closed Hyde Park Classics Facebook group. “While I’m very disappointed in the manner Gracie left the Medici, I can say that she was planning on retiring in the near future and that she has asked that I post this on her behalf since she is not on Facebook,” Esterly said.
Despite multiple attempts, The Maroon could not reach Esterly for comment.
Medici owner Kathy Morsbach told The Maroon in an email that Gamero “was furloughed because of concerns about her health which make her a high-risk for COVID-19. It was for this reason that my management staff and I felt that it was safer for her to be home until the incidence of COVID in the community declined.”
60637, the ZIP code the Medici resides in, reported 944 confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 21,797 tests, as per the Illinois Department of Public Health. 60615, another ZIP code heavily served by the Medici, reported 648 confirmed cases out of 17,079 tests.
Morsbach also responded to rumors that the Medici had been sold following the hiring of new management after Esterly retired. “The ownership of the restaurant remains with the Morsbach family, as it has for over 50 years,” Morsbach said.
“Since the decision was made, we have maintained constant and open communication with Gracie and her family to monitor the evolution of pandemic circumstances and her return to work,” Medici general manager Pablo Manriquez said in an email.
The Maroon was unable to reach Gamero for comment.