Michelin starred chef Tom Kitchin is reported to be at the centre of bullying claims.
Allegations were initially made via an anonymous Instagram account, but claims have since been reported to both the Guardian and the Times newspapers, as well as having been reported by the BBC. Former workers have shared stories which include allegations of violence, bullying and sexual harassment at Kitchin’s premises.
One story recalled a woman being burned after handing in her notice. The post reads: ‘The head pastry chef decided to heat a tray in the oven for 20mins, take it out with a pair of tongs when it was dangerously hot, and press it up against her arm from behind whilst he grabbed her. He then said “there’s something to remember us by”… the rest of us worked on in fear of losing our jobs. Tom Kitchin never batted an eyelid while this sh*t went on.’
Since gaining publicity, the Instagram account – which only publishes stories from unnamed sources – has prompted the suspension of two team members at Tom Kitchin’s restaurants. The Kitchin Group say all claims will be ‘fully and independently’ investigated. Managing director Peter Southcott added: 'We will not hesitate to take whatever action may be necessary.'
The BBC published Kitchin’s own response, with the chef saying his venues could be ‘high-pressure, frenetic and challenging’ where ‘emotions often run high’ - but added that he would ‘remedy’ the scenarios where the team had ‘fallen short’.
He said: ‘The exacting standards of our food and service must be matched by the standards of behaviour in our kitchens and wider operations.’
‘In the last few years, the feedback from our team members underlines the significant strides we've taken to improve what had often been a traditional culture in our kitchens, but we have more to do.’
Critics have said the statement doesn’t go far enough to make amends. Respected chef Asma Khan (who runs the Darjeeling Express in London) responded to say, ‘Is this the apology? Or did I miss it? There is a practical solution - If the heat of the kitchen is too much - get out of the kitchen. Do not physically attack your colleagues. It is so simple.’
The 44-year-old runs a clutch of restaurants in Edinburgh – including The Kitchin, which has retained its Michelin star for fourteen consecutive years. Many have called for the chef to be stripped of the accolade, while there have been additional claims that Kitchin and his wife each kept £700 worth of staff gratuities every month.
Our guide to every three Michelin star restaurant in the UK