This week, stars and production staff from Top Chef are in a Boston courtroom recounting the alleged threats and racial slurs they were subjected to by four members of Teamsters Union Local 25 during a shoot for the show.
The scary situation allegedly unfolded outside of a Milton, Massachusetts restaurant back in 2014, amid protests by the local Teamsters who wanted to be hired as drivers for the nonunion show.
Here’s everything you need to know about the ongoing extortion trial – which kicked off Tuesday – surrounding those events.
Teamsters surrounded Padma Lakshmi’s car and threatened her life
Though host Lakshmi, herself, has not yet testified in the case, producers and staff have taken the stand and claimed that during one June 2014 incident, Teamsters “swarmed” and “surrounded” her vehicle during the restaurant shoot.
Supervising producer Ellie Carbajal told the jury that one of the four men (Robert Cafarelli, John Fidler, Daniel Remond and Michael Ross) said to the others – with his face just inches from Lakshmi’s car window – “That’s the pretty one. We want to smash her face in.”
The men used racial slurs toward a producer
In a video shown to the court, Carbajal recorded the protesters while they hurled slurs at her, calling her a “f—ing towel head” and a “c—.”
“At least I’m not a scab like you,” one of the men said while she recorded.
During her testimony, Carbajal said the men left her “scared,” according to Page Six. “I couldn’t believe they were doing this. They were grown men,” she said.
According to the indictment, the Teamsters “chest-bumped and stomach-bumped crew members” outside of the same restaurant, in addition to blocking vehicles, reported ABC News.
Later, nine vehicles belonging to the production crew were found with their tires slashed, the indictment alleged.
The Boston mayor is embroiled in the controversy
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who is currently ramping up his first campaign for re-election, has been drawn into the controversy because of the actions of his former tourism and entertainment chief, Ken Brissette.
According to Mass Live, Brissette allegedly told two Boston restaurants to expect union picketers if they allowed Top Chef to film on-site.
In a separate indictment, Brissette has been charged with withholding city permits for a music festival that was using non-union workers, the Boston Globe reported.
The men are facing 20 years in prison
According to the Globe, the trial is expected to last about two weeks, and – if convicted – each accused man is facing up to 20 years in prison.
A fifth man has already been found guilty
In December, Mark Harrington – a former secretary-treasurer for the Local 25 – pleaded guilty to the same extortion charges. He is currently serving six months of home confinement, and two years of probation, according to Deadline. In addition, he will pay a $10,000 fine and a restitution of $24,000.