Restaurant kitchens have a reputation for not being the most gentle of workplaces. Not only is the work itself difficult, but some chefs still think macho, militaristic kitchen culture—which can at worst become outright abuse—is acceptable. Exhibit A: A chef at Calcot & Spa in the Cotswolds, England, says he was burned by scalding hot butter poured down his pants by another chef at the luxury spa and restaurant.
The Mirror reports chef Nathan Davies shared photos of the burns on his Instagram—warning: they are embedded in the Mirror story and they are not pretty—along with a caption that urged other workers in kitchens to speak out if they witness abuse. The unnamed perpetrator of the butter “prank” has been disciplined and fired by Calcot; the restaurant’s executive chef, Richard Davies, apparently wasn’t present when the incident occurred and tweeted that he is “appalled by the horrific act.” He also“categorically denies” that there is a bullying or abusive culture at the restaurant.
It’s distressing to know this kind of behavior happens in kitchens, which lest we forget are workplaces, however different from offices or factories they may be. No one should have to put up with belittling and “pranks” at work, especially those that can cause real harm. Years ago when my younger brother and I both waited tables at the same restaurant, some cooks thought it would be funny to mess with my brother: They offered him a soufflé dessert they said had fallen in the oven, but which in fact contained ultra-spicy harissa paste in the center. He took one bite and choked it down, sputtering at the unexpected spice. He was fine—he told me his stomach hurt for a day or two—and thankfully the joke wasn’t anything more sinister. Good on the restaurant for immediately firing the chef who burned his colleague, and let this serve as a yet another example that abusive kitchen culture is not to be tolerated.