A union representing chefs has demanded that Michelin-starred restaurants are stripped of their award if staff face bullying or harassment.
Unichef has asked union members to sign a petition to urge the awarding authorities to take away Michelin stars and other accolades from chefs who are found guilty of abusing colleagues.
Bullying and harassment
“The awarding of accreditations and/or sponsorship in a company’s name can no longer be deemed acceptable where the suffering and abuse of employees is taken so lightly,” said Brian McElderry, the union’s executive director.
“We also call for the Michelin and AA guides to consider rescinding stars and rosettes awarded to establishments that have serious abuse allegations proven against them.”
In a statement, the organisers of the petition said: “This appalling behaviour of systemic abuse, glorified by some so-called celebrity chefs and many others in the profession is vile and degrading and has no place in a modern working environment.
“They are fully and legally responsible for abusive behaviour in their premises, no matter how many stars or rosettes they have. It is now the time for global brands such as Michelin to call out chefs who portray a healthy image to the public but are systemic abusers and run their ‘tribal’ kitchens with all the management techniques of a gang of street thugs.
“People within hospitality are well aware of all the issues but are reluctant to criticise, but now we believe that all sponsorship and accolades awarded in a brand’s name should be rescinded upon proven evidence of abuse and that companies like Michelin and the AA should ‘call out’ abuse in their name.”
The petition comes after accusations were reported that Scottish chef Tom Kitchin, of Michelin-starred Kitchin in Edinburgh, had been manhandling staff and led a culture of harassment.
One former chef had been forced to seek therapy after his superior made him catch a hot iron tray on his forearms and he was burned. He had seen the head chef pin another colleague up against a wall, and another senior chef would “be running round with a pot of freshly boiled water, flicking it at people if they weren’t sweeping fast enough”.
Other former staff members have reported being burnt deliberately and incidents of sexual harassment such as being watched while changing into uniform.
In 2019, a report by the Centre for London revealed that poor working conditions and pay made chef retention difficult.
It estimated that about 20,000 chefs across the UK left their roles every year, often because of low reward, a lack of flexible working opportunities and frequent sexism in kitchen environments.
As lockdown restrictions have eased, many hospitality employers are experiencing severe recruitment difficulties. Analysis by Indeed Flex found that hospitality wages had risen 14% in some locations in a bid to attract temporary workers.