AWT stirs up row over migrant worker skills

18 May 2006
AWT stirs up row over migrant worker skills

Antony Worrall Thompson's condemnation of eastern European workers last week has been slammed by industry leaders as "arrogant" and "absolute nonsense".

The celebrity chef lashed out at eastern Europeans, blaming their lack of English and hospitality skills for dragging down service standards in the UK.

The BBC presenter also suggested scrapping the minimum wage in favour of tips to encourage better levels of service.

Hungarian-born food critic Egon Ronay called Worrall Thompson's comments "very arrogant".

"I have always viewed eastern and central European workers as being very hard-working," he said. "I think it's a shame, as Worrall Thompson is an excellent cook. This is just a publicity stunt."

Ronay also slammed Worrall Thompson's suggestion to banish the minimum wage as "crazy".

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said Worrall Thompson's comments "simply did not ring true".

"From our evidence, eastern European employees are very hard-working," he said.

Chris Bodker, chief executive of London group Image Restaurants, branded the comments "absolute nonsense".

"Service in this country could be a whole lot better, but I would not say that slipping standards are as a result of increasing foreign workers," he said.

But Worrall Thompson hit back at his critics, claiming his comments, in Square Meal magazine, had been taken out of context. "All I meant was that staff need to speak good English in order to do the job properly," he told Caterer.

Worrall Thompson's remarks followed a similar warning from restaurant critic Jay Rayner at the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Chef Conference. Rayner criticised British restaurant service as being "marked by amateurism, incompetence and hostility".

By Louise Durack

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