Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin has launched an investigation into himself after employees accused him of abuse and taking thousands of pounds from staff tips.
The leading chef has been accused of abuse by thirteen former kitchen staff, including a chef who claims that he was pinned against a wall after he failed to smooth the surface of a tub of mascarpone.
It has also been alleged that Mr Kitchin paid himself and his wife up to £700 a month each from tips earned by front of house employees at the Edinburgh gastropub Scran & Scallie.
Responding to the accusations in a statement shared to his Twitter account, Mr Kitchin announced he had appointed an “independent, external HR consultancy to investigate any complaints and, where they have merit, will not hesitate to take appropriate action”.
The claims against him span 11 years, from 2008 to 2019, with one junior chef telling The Times that he was thrown against a door by Mr Kitchin in his Michelin-starred Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin in 2012.
‘He grabbed my jacket and knocked me off my feet’
A second told the paper that Mr Kitchin had “grabbed my chef jacket and knocked me off my feet” and pinned him up against a wall after he failed to smooth the surface of a tub of mascarpone in 2010.
It has also been claimed by a third chef that in 2009 Mr Kitchin refused to let a colleague who had been burnt at work seek medical help until after the dinner service had finished.
David Sunderland, now a head chef in Glasgow, has also alleged that he had been “poked in the kidneys” when not moving fast enough, and that Mr Kitchin had kicked, thrown and undermined him.
Through his lawyers, Mr Kitchin has denied all allegations of physical abuse and humiliation of staff.
In a statement released on Friday, Mr Kitchin said it had been a “very challenging time over the past few weeks”.
“Top kitchens the world over can be high-pressure, frenetic and challenging environments, where emotions often run high,” he wrote.
“However, the exacting standards of our food and service really must be matched by the standards of behaviour in our kitchens and wider operations.
“In the last few years, the feedback from our team members underlines the steps we’ve taken to improve what had often been a traditional culture in our kitchens, but we still have more to do.”
Mr Kitchin added that his company had “never pretended we are perfect” and pledged that “where further improvements need to be made, we will address these head on”.
Kitchin Group accused of allocating tips to directors
In addition to accusations of abusing staff, documents leaked to The Times by a whistleblower appeared to show that the Kitchin Group’s directors were regularly allocated tip payments that servers believed they would receive.
One “furious” former waitress claimed that staff were “absolutely worked to the bone” and that the tips “never added up”.
Addressing this, Mr Kitchin said credit card tips and service charges have “historically” been “shared between all front of house and kitchen team members, including those directors who work in the venues alongside their colleagues to create the guest experience”.
The whistleblower claimed that at the Scran & Scallie, “around 20 per cent of the tips received would be shared out to directors including Tom and Michaela Kitchin themselves”. It has also been alleged that one director was allocated a monthly payment of up to £2,000 between 2015 and 2020.
In his statement, Mr Kitchin added: “Directors have never participated in any share of cash tips. Going forward, all credit card and cash tips will be shared entirely between the operational front of house teams and kitchen teams.”