Sharon Anderson, a pastry chef from Letterkenny, Ireland, alleges that her work at three Michelin-starred Fat Duck has left her with repetitive strain injury. The restaurant, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year, is famed for its bizarre, eccentric dishes.
Anderson’s work included extremely dexterous tasks such as wrapping and packing tiny sweets using tweezers and casting chocolate playing cards. The playing cards apparently had to be removed from the mould at exactly the right time and the mould weighed 2kg when completed. Anderson had to make 180 cards in just a few hours.
Other duties included making about 550 whisky wine gums per day and applying small pinches to hundreds of tiny mushroom logs.
Anderson is suing The Fat Duck Group for £200,000, claiming negligence. Her legal team say that the work was too “fast, arduous and repetitive” for her, and that “She was essentially on what was effectively a production line”.
Blumenthal’s company, however, is denying any liability. Their response has been that the work was to be expected for a pastry chef in a fine dining restaurant. They also claim she was transferred to lighter duties after she complained about making chocolate patisserie.
Anderson’s typical day has been described as follows. From 7 to 11 am, she wrapped and bagged about 400 sweets. From 11.30 to 4 pm she cast roughly 180 chocolate playing cards. Then, from 4 to 6 pm, she handmade about 550 whisky wine gums.
When the restaurant temporarily relocated to Melbourne while the original site was renovated, Anderson went with it. She claims that work there was even harder, with timings even more precise due to the higher temperatures.
Her lawyers have said that the resulting repetitive strain injury has led to difficulty with basic daily tasks such as driving and, most importantly, cooking. Her argument is that the restaurant did not give her the necessary breaks or support for such fine technical work.
The dispute has been adjourned until May 2022.
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Image credit: Instagram/thehestonblumenthalteam