French chef Joël Robuchon is fighting back against allegations that employees of his restaurant La Grande Maison were subject to harassment. Franck Yoke, a former cook at the restaurant — who only worked there for two days before quitting — came forward last week claiming that employees were forced to work from 9 a.m. until midnight daily with only a handful of five minute breaks. Yoke noted that head chef Tomonori Danzaki was a "sadist" and that the chef once made him drink the cooking water he accidentally over salted. According to the AFP, Robuchon has filed a lawsuit against Yoke for defamation.
The chef sent a statement to the news agency that slams the "mendacious allegations," adding that while the complaints are aimed at Danzaki, the allegations "very seriously and unjustly" damage Robuchon's reputation. Robuchon adds that he never met Yoke because he was not at the Bordeaux restaurant during Yoke's tenure there.
Regardless, Yoke may not be alone: Apparently half of the staff have already quit due to the difficult conditions even though the restaurant only opened in December. The allegations of mistreatment surfaced just months after 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."