Pastry chef sues Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant for £ 200,000

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Sharon Anderson, 30, suffers from constant pain in her wrist which she says was caused by performing repetitive and delicate tasks

Pastry chef is suing Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant for £ 200,000 in damages, claiming she was left with repetitive strain injuries after producing thousands of chocolate playing cards and whiskey wine gum .

Sharon Anderson, 30, suffers from constant pain in her wrist which she says was caused by performing repetitive and delicate tasks in the kitchen at the three Michelin star restaurant in Bray, Berkshire.

His job was to squeeze 400 candies a day into small bags using tweezers, race against the clock to make chocolate playing cards before the chocolate hardened too hard, and administer hundreds of small pinches of the chocolate. fingertips to mushroom logs.

Last week, her lawyers told a judge that the “quick, strenuous and repetitive” tasks meant she worked efficiently in a workshop as she made the concoctions imagined for the celebrity chef’s kitchen.

“She was basically on what was actually a production line,” her lawyer Joel Kendall told Judge Victoria McCloud of the High Court in London, where Ms Anderson seeks damages for the end of her promising career as a chef. .

The Fat Duck Ltd denies any responsibility for Ms Anderson’s injury, saying the work she was doing was routine for a pastry chef in a “fine dining restaurant” and that she was given enough breaks.

Restaurant Bray opened in 1994 and achieved three Michelin stars in a record three years, earning himself the name of an eccentric genius by serving dishes such as ‘scrambled egg and bacon ice cream’ by Mr. Blumenthal.

The virtuoso cook and his protégés have become famous for their culinary experimentation, and the restaurant has a laboratory nearby, where the team concocts their pioneering creations.

Sharon Anderson's attorneys told a judge that the tasks

Sharon Anderson’s attorneys told a judge that the “quick, arduous and repetitive” tasks meant she worked efficiently in a workshop as she made the concoctions imagined for the celebrity chef’s kitchen.

His job was to put 400 candies a day in small bags using tweezers, racing against the clock to make chocolate playing cards before the chocolate hardened too much.  Pictured: One of Fat Duck's creations, the Queen of Hearts, a jam pie, with chocolate playing cards

His job was to put 400 candies a day in small bags using tweezers, racing against the clock to make chocolate playing cards before the chocolate hardened too much. Pictured: One of Fat Duck’s creations, the Queen of Hearts, a jam pie, with chocolate playing cards

Ms Anderson's job included making whiskey wine gums between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., she says, and she would produce around 550 by hand.

Ms Anderson’s job included making whiskey wine gums between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., she says, and she would produce around 550 by hand.

Restaurant Bray opened in 1994 and achieved three Michelin stars in a record time of three years, earning himself the name of an eccentric genius by serving dishes such as the

Restaurant Bray opened in 1994 and earned three Michelin stars in a record three years, earning himself the name of an eccentric genius by serving dishes such as M’s “scrambled egg and bacon ice cream”. Blumenthal (photo).

Ms Anderson, from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Ireland, started as a restaurant kitchen attendant in June 2014 and says her injury was caused by being forced to do work “too fast, hard and repetitive for her “.

What is repetitive strain injury?

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a general term used to describe pain experienced in muscles, nerves, and tendons caused by repetitive motion and overuse.

It is also known as work-related upper extremity disorder or non-specific upper extremity pain.

The disease mainly affects parts of the upper body, such as the forearms and elbows, wrists and hands, neck and shoulders.

Symptoms of RSI can range from mild to severe and usually develop gradually. They include pain, soreness or tenderness, stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness

At first, you may only notice symptoms when you perform a particular repetitive action.

But without treatment, symptoms of RSI can eventually become constant and cause longer periods of pain. You may also have swelling in the affected area, which can last for several months.

RSI is linked to the overuse of muscles and tendons in the upper body.

Some things are thought to increase your risk for RSI, including repetitive activities, doing high-intensity activity for a long time without rest, poor posture, or activities that involve working in an uncomfortable position.

She completed an initial six-month period from June to December 2014, during which she performed food preparation tasks involving manual dexterity and under time pressure, she says.

His role was to wrap individually wrapped candies in cellophane bags from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., before moving on to creating chocolate playing cards from around 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ms. Anderson must have placed each candy in her own cellophane bag using tweezers and believes she “wrapped and wrapped” about 400 separate candies each day.

Chocolate playing cards were made in metal and plastic molds, while each mold could make 12 cards and weigh over a kilo.

Ms Anderson would hold the mold in her left hand with her palm facing up – and her wrist extended – while pouring chocolate with her other hand.

The finished mold weighed around two kilograms, it is claimed, and Ms. Anderson was aiming to produce around 180 cards per day.

On top of that, she had to “unmold and cut” the cards with a paring knife to “perfect them and scrape off excess chocolate.”

“The process had to be carried out under time pressure as it had to be finished before the chocolate set in each mold,” his lawyers say in court documents.

Her kitchen crew then moved on to making whiskey chewing gum between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., she says, and she produced around 550 by hand.

Ms Anderson followed the restaurant when it moved to Melbourne, Australia in January 2015, while Bray’s premises were being renovated.

As of February 2015, her work followed a similar pattern to life in Bray, she says, even though she was under pressure to deal with even more mold, due to the waste caused by the cards melting more. quickly in the warmer climate.

In June 2015, she started complaining of pain in her forearm and her physiotherapist told her that her pain was caused by her “long hours and repetitive work”.

She temporarily stopped working due to the pain, but three months later returned to work at the renovated Bray restaurant, before hanging up her apron for good in November 2015.

The Fat Duck opened in Bray in 1994 and earned three Michelin stars in a three-year record

The Fat Duck opened in Bray in 1994 and earned three Michelin stars in a three-year record

His role during his final phase at Fat Duck again involved such tasks as “hand-passing whiskey wine gums” and wrapping petit fours candy.

But she also spent a week making mushroom logs, forcing him to “pinch the folds in 500 sugar leaves a week with her fingers,” she says.

She now suffers from “significant wrist pain” even after performing normal manual tasks, according to court documents.

The injury means she has recurring problems with everyday tasks such as lifting heavy objects, driving, and cooking.

Ms. Anderson’s lawyers say the restaurant did not provide sufficient rest or support and “forced her to work under time pressure throughout the day.”

But the Fat Duck denies all the allegations and points out that Ms Anderson was transferred to lighter duties after complaining about making chocolate pastries.

The work she performed presented no known risk of triggering “upper limb disorder,” defense lawyers insist, and the techniques she practiced are standard in the world of haute cuisine.

Her workload was not oppressive and Ms. Anderson received all the support and assistance she needed, they say.

In court, restaurant lawyer John Williams claimed there was a glaring lack of medical evidence on Ms Anderson’s side.

He said his request was a “unique case – given the professional background of a pastry chef undertaking these kinds of tasks alleging upper limb disorder.”

After a brief hearing, Justice McCloud adjourned the dispute, leading a case management conference for May 2022 before the trial of her compensation claim.


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