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Thirteen kitchen staff accuse Michelin-starred chef of mistreatment

First reported this month, further details have come to light regarding allegations of mistreatment by staff working for Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin.

Several staff members, thirteen in total, said that they had been subjected to humiliating behaviour and abuse. One person told how he was pinned up against a wall after he failed to complete a task to Kitchin’s satisfaction.

Kitchin has denied humiliating the staff and any allegations of physical abuse, which the staff say have taken place over 11 years from 2008 – 2019.

Complaints include statements from a junior chef who was allegedly thrown against a door in the Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin in 2012.

Another chef stated that in 2010 he had been hit in the chest and pinned to the wall by Kitchin because he had failed to smooth the surface of a tub of mascarpone.

Kitchin, said the chef, had ‘grabbed my chef jacket and knocked me off my feet.’ He was pinned up against the wall with no idea of what was going on. The chef admitted that mascarpone should be smoothed off so that there is less surface area to spoil. However, he knew that he would finish it all before the end of the evening.

Yet another chef told how he was poked in the kidneys when Kitchin felt he did not move fast enough. Kitchin used a ‘single-knuckle jab’ when he was displeased.

In 2009 Kitchin refused to allow a colleague who had suffered a burn injury to get medical attention until the dinner service had ended.

The abuse and humiliation continued with trainee chefs with a 19-year-old trainee stating that in 2018 during a full day long unpaid trial shift he had seen Kitchin pin a chef against the wall by his throat because he had made a mistake.

The trainee said that Kitchin never once referred to him by name, instead he called him ‘it’ and ‘him’ which was humiliating. The trainee was told to remain silent at all times.

Another trainee who wore a hairnet was told to get a haircut. Kitchin ripped off his hairnet and sprayed him with the washing up hose.

A spokesperson for the Kitchin Group commented that many things had changed in kitchens over the past ten years. The Group is committed to ‘continuing that progress.’

When queried about the allegations, Kitchin responded by saying that his ‘hard-earned and well-merited reputation meant that he had high standards. He was also being firm but fair.

Kitchin stated that any genuine complaints would be investigated by a fully independent, external HR consultancy who would not hesitate to ‘take appropriate action.’

Unichef, the chef’s union, began at the beginning of this month campaigning for any Michelin stars found to use bullying and abuse in the kitchen to be stripped from restaurants.

Recently Aberdeen based craft beer giant Brewdog faced similar allegations over the way they had treated their staff. They have since stated that they are committed to improving the culture and their treatment of staff.

A report in 2019 made by the Centre for London showed that the number one reason for poor chef retention was bad and unacceptable working conditions.

Kitchin, who is often thought of as a ‘fiery Scottish chef’ issued a statement saying that he would ‘remedy’ what has happened. However, many of the staff along with other critics think that this will not go far enough to make amends.

Asma Khan, who runs the Darjeeling Express asked if this statement was an apology or did she miss that? There is, she said, a practical solution – do not physically attack your colleagues – it really is that simple.

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