Isolation of chefs in kitchens can trigger violence and abuse, study finds | Chiefs

The physical isolation of chefs working in starred kitchens can lead to violent behavior and a feeling that “the rules don’t apply”, according to a study based on interviews with dozens of top chefs.

Working long hours away from the paying public in often windowless and cramped kitchens creates a parallel moral universe in which abuse and violence are the norm, the study of 47 restaurant chefs in Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States North America by scholars from Cardiff University found.

This follows a series of allegations of misconduct in some UK kitchens, including at an Edinburgh restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, which resulted in the suspension of two staff. His company launched an independent investigation after historic allegations of bullying and physical assault last July.

A spokesperson for Kitchin said it has since fully implemented the recommendations of the investigation with “a group-wide external training programme, improving and reinforcing our philosophy, policies and procedures to ensure best practices”.

Other chefs from different restaurants also posted anonymous complaints on social media about abusive behavior, in what was known as the hospitality industry’s #MeToo moment.

This coincides with the release of Boiling Point, a film starring Stephen Graham about the high stress, aggression and threat of violence associated with working in a high profile kitchen.

“People think what they see on TV is exaggerated, but what is happening is often more serious and has major implications for the mental health and well-being of these talented young people,” said Dr. Rebecca Scott, one of the study’s authors.

Previous attempts to explain the misbehavior of chefs have focused on militaristic kitchen cultures, hyper-masculine values, and the brutality of physical, stressful, fast-paced work. But this one – in collaboration with a sociology professor, David Courpasson, at the French culinary hub in Lyon – concludes that anyone who wants to end harassment, violence and intimidation should consider exchanging confined kitchens which generate “the perceived ability to act in a generally uninhibited environment”. way” for open work environments.

Some chefs told researchers they would not misbehave or suffer abuse directed at them outside the kitchen, but found it “acceptable and normal” once through the swinging doors. One chef, Anton, who worked in a restaurant with both an open and closed kitchen, described ‘shouting’, ‘punching’ and ‘throwing things’ in the closed downstairs kitchen but upstairs “they put on a show…they can’t throw things away”.

Another chef told researchers that being isolated in the kitchen meant “there’s a kind of escape with stuff… physical abuse, you know… Being out of sight definitely allows abuse to happen and you you get out of it with no real consequences. ”

Dr Robin Burrow, a lecturer in organizational behavior and management at Cardiff University, said isolation can “be experienced as a kind of freedom from control to do things that would not normally be possible”.

Using a phrase taken from criminology, the study describes kitchen layouts as creating a “geography of deviance”.

The majority of the chefs interviewed worked in “backstage” environments, in the less popular parts of the building. Many had little or no natural light and worked between 12 and 20 hours a day.

One chef said: “Isolation creates a backdrop, a stage where you can play. So there is a very strong correlation between bad behavior and isolation.

Another admitted to following a junior chef to a room away from the main kitchen and ‘beating him to death’ for persistent lateness.

“It’s like the army,” he says. “I mean what happens behind those doors, behind those doors is what happens.”

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