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Industry fury at kitchen violence

01 January 2000
Industry fury at kitchen violence

Tough new rules to stamp out kitchen violence are being demanded following a TV programme showing footage secretly filmed in two of the country's top kitchens.

Last week's The Big Story on ITV planted the cameras in the kitchens of L'Escargot restaurant in London's Soho and the two-Michelin-starred L'Ortolan in Shinfield, Berkshire.

The hidden cameras captured examples of verbal and physical abuse dished out to a kitchen porter by Gary Hollihead, head chef of L'Escargot, and a junior French chef reduced to tears by L'Ortolan's sous chef, Nigel Marriage.

"I didn't come over from France to be hit," the young chef whispers to a colleague after a bout of Mr Marriage's bullying.

Following the programme, Caterer was inundated with phone calls and letters, almost all of which condemned the chefs' behaviour.

Typical of the letters was one from Kit Chapman from the Castle in Taunton, Somerset, who demanded the introduction of a strict code of conduct with a "proper set of disciplinary procedures".

John Burton-Race, chef-patron of L'Ortolan, told Caterer this week he "very much regretted" that the behaviour filmed in his kitchen had occurred.

"Although the programme omitted to show this, I did speak to the individuals concerned immediately following that particular evening's service to emphasise this behaviour is unacceptable," he said.

"I have also since addressed all my staff and made it clear that conduct of this sort will not be tolerated."

He added that the young chef seen being bullied was still employed at the restaurant, and would be working with Mr Marriage at a cooking demonstration at the Sunday Times Festival of Food and Wine at Olympia, which runs from today until Sunday.

During the television programme, Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons explained how as a young chef he had had his nose, cheek and jaw broken when a colleague threw a heavy saucepan at him.

"Violence is a criminal offence and people should speak out against it," Mr Blanc declared, though he admitted he, too, had been aggressive in the past.

The programme quoted a survey carried out by Caterer last year, which revealed that 18% of staff involved in food preparation had been physically abused at work.

1. Next week, Chef talks to John Burton-Race and Marco Pierre White on the subject of kitchen violence.

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