Elizabeth Haigh, Asma Khan and more in call for hospitality ‘#MeToo movement'

30 April 2019 by
Elizabeth Haigh, Asma Khan and more in call for hospitality ‘#MeToo movement'

Chefs including Elizabeth Haigh, Asma Khan and others have spoken out about the abuse and sexual harassment faced by female chefs in kitchens, calling for a "#MeToo movement" to take the toxicity out of life behind the pass.

Haigh, whose cooking earned a Michelin star at Pidgin in east London before she left to pursue a range of residencies under Kaizen House, presented a range of examples of individual abuse and systemic issues in kitchens for BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘My Name Is…. Elizabeth'.

She also shared her own experiences, including an incident in which she received hot oil burns on her legs after a chef, unhappy with her work, threw a pan onto the stove in front of her.

Speaking on the programme, Haigh said: "I have noticed I've had different treatment to other chefs who have been male. There have been places where inappropriate things have been said to me. I've been sexually harassed, touched inappropriately, spoken to inappropriately."

Others to speak on the programme included chefs Neil Rankin and Daniel Clifford, as well as those who work to combat abuse in kitchens from the outside such as Hospitality Speaks founder Victoria Stewart.

Contributors also discussed Dan Doherty, the BBC chef who left the Royal Oak gastropub in London's Marylebone last year after several women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.

Haigh added: "We need to be talking about this issue in order to be moving forward from it… instead of being a #MeToo moment, it should be a #MeToo movement."

She added: "One of the classic stories that I've heard about from a chef here in Mayfair is that every day she was slapped by the head chef. This was a greeting only for her. And he left marks on her back, but this was his assertion of his power over her.

"There's so many of these horror stories that we hear, and women get sacked when they accuse someone of having sexually abused them, or inappropriately touching them, or watching them while they changed or showered. Really unacceptable behaviour, but how is it then that the women get sacked? Or are made to feel so horrible that they leave?"

Neil Rankin, Haigh's former boss when she worked as joint-head chef at his Smokehouse restaurant, said that chefs should take advantage of the state of the industry's staffing crisis to change or escape toxic working environments.

He added: "There's so much opportunity for people to move around because there's so many jobs available and people want them… They should not feel scared at the moment to kick up a bit of fuss about things. I certainly would have zero qualms about hiring somebody who had mad a complaint and I'd actually like them a little bit more because of it I think."

Union launches campaign against sexual harassment in hospitality >>

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