Former kitchen staff of chef Joël Robuchon's Bordeaux restaurant La Grande Maison are firing off allegations of severe mistreatment. According to FranceTV Info (translated), cooks claim that they were forced to work from 9 a.m. until midnight daily at the restaurant — which just opened in December — with only a handful of five minute breaks and "no right to lunch." Former cook Franck Yoke tells the website that the head chef Tomonori Danzaki is a "sadist" who wants to "humiliate" employees.
The head chef Tomonori Danzaki is a "sadist" who wants to "humiliate" employees.
Danzaki apparently sits in the middle of the room, hurling insults at the cooks, calling them names like "dogs, morons, less-than-nothing," and telling them that they are "not good at doing shit." Once, Yoke accidentally over-salted the cooking water, so Danzaki allegedly forced him to drink it all. Yoke left his job at the restaurant after just two days because of the way he was treated. Le Matin notes (translated) that Yoke is not alone: Apparently half the staff have already quit due to working conditions, and the restaurant has only been open for a couple of months. FranceTV Info (translated) writes that often young cooks do not speak up about their treatment in high-end French restaurants out of fear of being "permanently blacklisted."
Unfortunately, mistreatment and violence are common problems in kitchens in France. In November, a number of prestigious French chefs participated in a panel in Paris calling for an end to the psychological, physical, and verbal violence "frequently endured by young and apprentice cooks." The chefs shared stories of having to endure "insults, slaps, and even punches" as apprentices in well-respected French kitchens. FranceTV Info, which broke the story, reached out to Robuchon but he declined to comment.