After being publicly shamed for paying staff less than minimum wage, the acclaimed chef behind one of London’s top fine-dining restaurants has vowed to make employees whole.
After the Guardian revealed that Michel Roux Jr. was paying kitchen staff at his two-Michelin-star restaurant Le Gavroche as little as $7 per hour across 15-hour work days, the chef emerged last week to apologize, saying he takes responsibility but that “in no way was it done intentionally.”
Le Gavroche, which is located in the high-dollar Mayfair district, serves pricey French food such as an appetizer of lobster mousse with caviar that clocks in at £63 (approximately $78); a tasting menu runs £212 per person ($263). The Guardian’s investigation found that cooks were working as many as 68 hours a week for well under the minimum wage of £7.20 (approximately $9.13).
Now, Roux has begun the process of paying back current and former employees that were shorted on wages, sending letters asking them to “confirm any shortfall that may be due.” A restaurant spokesperson says, “Of the people he has been in contact with in the kitchen team, he will settle with everybody who feels they have a legitimate claim and he will honour it.” The total backpay owed could total in the tens of thousands of pounds, per the Guardian.
Though Roux claimed he was unaware that staff were being underpaid, he also issued a standard sorry-not-sorry apology, saying, “The benefits of working at Le Gavroche and for the Roux family are incredible. But they are intangible. You can’t put a worth on it.”
Roux’s website now displays a message reading, “You may have read a recent report in the national press that Le Gavroche was underpaying some junior staff members. I would like to reassure you that the welfare of our staff is of primary importance, and that all our staff are receiving the correct salary. The hospitality industry needs a lot of hard work to create a fabulous dining experience for guests, and the fact that Le Gavroche is a great place to work is, we hope, apparent to everyone who dines with us.”