Stephen Terry, chef-proprietor of award-winning restaurant the Hardwick in Abergavenny, has denied claims of sexual discrimination made by a trainee pastry chef.
Chloe Maisey, 19, from Merthyr Tydfil, who resigned from the Hardwick after three months' employment, has made 21 allegations of sexual discrimination by the all-male staff.
The young chef told a Cardiff employment tribunal she was ogled every day as she changed into her chef's uniform at the restaurant which has no female changing rooms. She claims she was "groped" when a male staff member slapped her bottom, and she was "scared and upset" after being shut in the freezer.
But fellow chef Lorne Hargreaves told the hearing: "It was in the middle of July and everyone was moaning it was too hot. I picked her up and put her on the frozen bread. It was a spontaneous, funny thing to do. Everybody is treated the same in the kitchen. It is like a family environment, it is like brother-sister banter."
However, Terry, who was awarded the Independent Restaurateur of the Year award at the Cateys in 2012 for his destination restaurant with rooms, told the tribunal that some of the incidents never happened and dismissed the others as "banter".
"Doing service is very stressful and there is a little bit of banter. You are in an environment where people mess about on occasions, but the guys are not malicious in any way. It is not that she was singled out because of her sex."
Terry denied being involved in any of the banter himself. "I am above that," he told the tribunal.
The tribunal heard how the vegetarian teenager was tricked into eating beef stock by a colleague who told her it was chocolate sauce.
Terry did not deny the incident happened, but he told the tribunal in Cardiff: "I am a restaurateur, I take vegetarians very seriously. She did not tell me she felt violated and she did not seem distressed."
He added that he was "shocked to the core" when Miss Maisey's mother rang him to complain about her daughter's treatment at the restaurant.
He said: "When I took the phone call I was completely shocked at what I was listening to and the three issues Chloe's mum raised with me.
"One of the allegations was that one of the chefs had threatened to kill her - and that nearly knocked me off my feet.
"It was a 12-minute phone conversation and I was blown away by it.
"I immediately went to speak to Mr Hargreaves and I took him outside and he said: ‘Chef, that is not what happened' and put it all into context."
"Chloe had jokingly told him: ‘I could karate kick you in the f***ing head' and he told her: "Look at the size of me Chloe, I could kill you.
"It was a joke. Speaking to the guys, and having all it all put into context, I didn't think there was anything to answer."
William Rees, representing Miss Maisey, told Terry he had failed to investigate the allegations formally and took the word of his male employees after one conversation.
But Terry said he trusted his senior chefs who had worked for him over a number of years.
Terry said: "I was shocked to the core by the allegations made by Chloe's mum and I told her she needed to put them in writing, but nothing ever came detailing the allegations in more detail.
"I am an educated man - I have seen a lot and I talked to everyone there and took a view on it."
Miss Maisey's mother Pauline Maisey told the tribunal that Terry did not deal adequately with her complaints about her daughter's colleagues and dismissed some of the incidents as "banter".
She told the hearing how her daughter phoned her after a shift last August and was "distraught".
She said: "She was distraught and it took me a long time to calm her down. She was hysterical and I was concerned for her welfare."
Her father John Maisey said: "We were proud of her and her grandparents were proud of her. She went into it buoyant, but soon became subdued."
The tribunal in Cardiff continues.