Chef Joel Robuchon under fire for treating staff ‘like dogs’

February 11, 2015 4:21 pm

Joel Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world,
has become embroiled in a legal row after a cook at his newest
restaurant filed a complaint for harassment, alleging that he suffered
“tyranny” in the kitchen.
Franck Yoke, a chef at La Grande
Maison, filed a legal complaint on Friday, claiming that the difficult
working conditions forced him to quit after two days.
Mr Robuchon
hit back by filing a complaint for defamation, saying the claims about
La Grande Maison hotel and restaurant in Bordeaux, which opened in
December, were unfounded and sullied his name.

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The legal action follows an investigation published last week by Francetv Info
in which kitchen staff including Mr Yoke complained of 15-hour shifts
without a break, verbal abuse and being forced to drink salt water.

“We didn’t have the right to take lunch, only a few five-minute breaks,” Mr Yoke told the website.
He
said he had suffered frequent verbal abuse from the restaurant’s head
chef, Tomonori Danzaki, described as Mr Robuchon’s “eyes and hands”.
Mr Yoke added: “He treated us like dogs, morons, less than nothing.”
He
recounted how on one occasion he had over-salted some cooking water,
which Mr Danzaki then “forced” him to drink. Another employee confirmed
his account.
Mr Robuchon, 69, has 28 Michelin stars to his name shared among a dozen restaurants across the world.
La
Grande Maison is yet to claim a star, but the managers at the
establishment, where a meal costs about euros 200 (NZ$306), are
desperate to clinch one.
Another employee said that 15 chefs had
quit since the restaurant opened. John Paul Unzueta, La Grande Maison’s
manager, said the number stood at nine and they had been unprepared for
the high-pressure environment. “We have these young people who, after
seeing some television shows, think they can become a three-starred
chef. But the reality is completely different,” he said.
Mr
Robuchon said he had discovered “with consternation” what he dismissed
as “mendacious claims” by a former employee whom he had “never met”.
Mr
Robuchon said the allegations “seriously and unjustly” damaged his
reputation despite the fact that they were aimed at Mr Danzaki.
The
legal row came after a group of leading chefs, including the head of
the Elysee Palace, in November called for peers to “lift the lid on the
law of silence” over a culture of violence in the kitchens of France’s
top restaurants.

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