The Great Hall
Violence or Abuse in the Hospitality Industry The Great Hall: Violence or Abuse in the Hospitality Industry
By Ron Cardy on Thursday, February 25, 1999 - 09:58 am: Edit

My son is currently doing a Licensed retail management and Hospitality degree at Stafford University (UK). He wrote an article (readers letters) in a recent issue of Hotel and Catering asking people out there to share with him any experiences or knowledge they have on this subject. He is basing his dissertation on this subject. I thought I would ask this question over the web on his behalf and I would therefore appreciate any response on the subject. I will forward them to him upon receipt.

By Anonymous on Tuesday, April 13, 1999 - 11:24 pm: Edit

I just recently left a job because of continual verbal abuse. The last day I worked the Chef was calling me names and swearing at me and then told me to leave. This was the second or third time he got mad and did this,but it was the first time I did leave. I feel there is no place in this industry for abuse, but too many times some feel it's the norm.

By Lisa Hays on Wednesday, April 14, 1999 - 08:16 pm: Edit

This is a very important topic and I am personally glad to see someone acknowledge this fact in the hospitality industry!! horray it's about time!! First ,yes I am A woman who has endured situations that required me to leave on the spot for fear of my life and others that I refused to take . I have been in the kitchen for 18 yrs and can honestly say few were pleasant, I won't ever go back to the working kitchen Most of the problems are the men or Boys i actually had my case with a large firm published for a masters thesis and it was so shocking to everyone but I prosecuted them and won!! Help is out there . NO NO NO it isnt the norm and thats a copout!! I now have learned to fight back and who to help me please keep the dialog and tell all not to accept the abusive behaviors of those crazy people.

By Anonymous on Friday, April 23, 1999 - 04:02 am: Edit

I have worked at several top restaurants in SF &
in at least three of them, verbal & even physical abuse was the norm. In one particular establishment the kitchen workers put in 14-16 hours a day for a daily pittance & were expected to work in almost total silence as well as endure constant meanspirited verbal abuse from the chef/owner. In another very well-known restaurant it was common knowledge that the extremely abusive chef was taking cocaine on a nightly basis. Still is, in fact.
The fact of the matter is that if you want to keep your job then you accept what is going on & keep your mouth shut. If you can't take the heat...
It's a great pity, but that's just how it is.

By Gerard Jones (Gerard) on Sunday, May 09, 1999 - 03:24 pm: Edit

Well I worked for 2 lesbians who put male jerks to shame for abuse, on the other hand I screamed a few out the door that I would have liked to throw out the window instead...alas they ran too fast.
On the other other hand I've been yelled out of a couple of kitchens myself.
Its a tough biz, so what else is new?
We all yell at each other in my kitchen, it prevents pressure buildup and its probably not what you would think of as abuse.

Cheers, Gerard

By Stephanie A. Gelman (Sgelman) on Sunday, May 09, 1999 - 08:08 pm: Edit

I was involved in a court case where a young lady was abused in a sexual manner by the pastry chef. He singled her out and put her in situations where he was able constantly touched her without witnesses. He gave her the appearence of being favored and kept her away from the rest of the staff using fear and threats of being fired. I was used as an expert witness and asked to speak on the proper way of training pastry personal. How much touching was necessary and so on. The case never went to trial because of my deposition. The chef and the business he worked for was fined a lot of money. They don't all get away.

By Anonymous on Monday, May 17, 1999 - 09:50 pm: Edit

I witnessed many instances of verbal abuse and physical threats. I was even pushed by a sous chef who had threatened me with violence on two occasions.I witnessed a well known chef totally humiliate his protege, threaten him with violence, and then taunt him nose to nose saying "Come on, hit me you pussy!" This is the same chef that took a bite off of the cheek of a maitre'd and then threw a hot saute pan him. In the next ten years,I predict that kitchens will be moving toward a new model of kitchen management. Graduates today are older, more educated, and less likely to take abuse. Even if they do accept the abuse, I believe that they would be less likely to perpetuate the cycle by learning the behavior and then behaving the same way later.Soon, business owners, concerned about lawsuits, and savvy to the benefits of having a happy workforce, will be less likely to allow their chef's to behave like animals and to degrade themselves and others.

By Anonymous on Sunday, May 23, 1999 - 04:39 pm: Edit

Could this be La Folie

By Karen Upright on Monday, June 21, 1999 - 02:34 pm: Edit

An employee quit before I had the chance to fire her. When she came for her paycheck, she told my partner she quit because I was mean. So, have one employee who thinks I'm mean and another one telling me I should go into education because I'm a patient teacher.

One particular instance the employee who quit cited was when I yelled "STOP!" at her in front of customers and she was embarassed. (Our pastry shop has an open kitchen.) Well, what to do? She was breaking the food processor. Should I have said quietly, "Please, if it's not too much trouble for you, when you get a moment, could you stop breaking the equipment?"

I have worked in a few places that were verbally abusive. I try not to act this way. I have to wonder though, if my mentors acted this way, is it possible I am doing it too without realizing it? Or did I just have one employee who was over-sensitive and on her way out, anyway?

By Garry Wall (Grwall) on Monday, June 21, 1999 - 04:57 pm: Edit

While I strongly agree that abuse is intolerable, Karen raises an excellent point.

We live in a fast paced, high stress environment. Often there's not time for "pretty please". There's considerable difference between "STOP" and "what the f*** are you doing you stupid s***".

Firstly it is important to recognize the difference between abuse and quick commands (read direction) under stress. Abuse is intolerable; speed is of the essence.

Lastly, it seems to be axiomatic that whatever is wrong, it's someone else's fault or responsibility. I wouldn't want to say that everyone who says they have been abused is misreading and are incompetent. On the other hand, Karen's employee is the one with the problem and if "STOP" embarrasses her, tough.


By Chris Ci on Friday, July 30, 1999 - 10:40 am: Edit

I worked as a sous chef in a busy ski town resturant and a waiter spilled a tray of drinks in between my hot line and the kitchen. I asked him(not told him) to please clean the mess up as soon as possible or get someone else to do it. He nonchalantly blew it off and twenty minutes I slipped in the mess, sprained my ankle, and immediately knew I was going to not only be out of work but also miss out on the fourteen inches of fresh powder we were receiving at the time. How did I handle the cituation? I threw a scalding hot pan at him which hit him in his lazy ass. It has been five years and two resturants since the incident and to this day when someone spills something in my kitchen it gets cleaned right away. I have no regrets and have not been violent since(unless you count that night when I ran through the same kitchen naked smashing three bustubs full of china..

By Anonymous on Sunday, August 01, 1999 - 08:43 pm: Edit

I have a kitchen of all races and religions. Two
members of my staff wish to learn more, they are
being sent to work with a friend of mine in las vegas. The other staff members suddenly cry favortism and racism; at the same time show now
passion for food.

We are all created equal; what we do with ourselves is our own free will. Some of us aspire
to do better.

By Dernaucourt Luc (Chefluc) on Wednesday, August 04, 1999 - 01:45 pm: Edit

It may be a problem of stress inthe Kitchen and people react diferently when they are under stress
Reaction are mostly violant verbal and some time physical.
This involve many aspect of psy and no one must be blamed. Because it belong to the lost or inexperience of control and analyze ourself.
What I know what ever create the stress (kind of emotion) We should be able to get the stress out, Inside the kitchen it is a bit dificult but the is one way... Every one know stress can be absorbed by the creativity and the pleasure to be happy of our creation. I mean most artist do the best when they under emotion or stress, they don't even relize that it is a natural way to release...with art. So in the kitchen try to remember this; be creative happy of the plate you just dish out see the beauty you just put in it and your stress will go away the rest will be a pinch of water in the sea.
Remember before it is to late
Happy cooking and culinary regards

By ci on Thursday, August 05, 1999 - 04:37 pm: Edit

It is the kitchen's staff's job to stick together and work together as a team. If stress arises don't yell at each other, do what I do: find a member of the waitstaff and make he or she your whippin' ••••• and take out your frustrations on them. After all they make more in a night than we do so make em suffer for it!!

By Anonymous on Thursday, August 19, 1999 - 11:06 pm: Edit

I have to agree that abuse does not belong in the kitchen (or any where for that matter). I feel that an abusive kitchen is neither professional nor efficient. Chefs, owners, and managers that are abusive are also insecure with there abilities. I think their abusive behaviors stem from unreasonable expectations. I would stand behind any employee that walk out of a job that was abusive. There is no room for the old chef mannerisms.

I am looking for comments about the abusive nature of the hours we are expected to work. I put in a 20 hour day last week amidst 14-18 hour days. How are we to be the creative professionals when there is not enough off the clock time to refresh the soul.

By Dernaucourt Luc (Chefluc) on Friday, August 20, 1999 - 12:11 pm: Edit

Agreed with that Anonymous!
Basicly I do not recomend to work so many hours as to preserve self control and if you are a chef as I am please try to think about your staff and give them brake to release the stress that they may suffer.
It is a good think to have a meal before service, every body together and share good food even 20 minutes make the diferance. Brake after service is also good. There is one more source of stress in the kitchen. I just learn that via Internet:
When the temperature is to high the body start to react and try to balance the temperature; suetting etc...Then if the body can't evacuate it over heat, blood pulsation increase and peoples become agresive that why basicly cold kitchen workers are more cool :-) and in fact more creative (esthetic aspect)than in hot kitchen. So as chef we must also take care of this part of the matter and give presure to managment to correct overheated kitchen.
No one chef will be in bad position for such kind of request other wise owner is out of senses and I don't see the point to work for such kind of peoples.

By michaelb on Tuesday, October 26, 1999 - 06:56 pm: Edit

I work at a large resort casino in the Northeast. While I put in rather extensive hours, my staff can be counted on to work their eight and then go home. Some of my staff feel that I am abusive because I continually push them to their level best, regardless of circumstance. I've found that some employees rise to the occasion and some do not. I have never been abusive, verbally or physically to any of my employees. I like to think that I follow the Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated. I have however worked for abusive Chefs in the past, I never let it affect my performance and I've managed to outlast every single one of those at my current workplace. I've found the kitchen to be one the more stressful enviroments I've been in, however if you act with a sense of confidence and competence, those around you will follow suit.

By Stacie (Stacie) on Wednesday, December 08, 1999 - 04:27 am: Edit

Has anybody out there seen the UK TV program called "Ramsey's Boiling Point". It was shown on TV here (Australia) for 5 weeks.

If anybody would like to see the stresses involved with running a top class establishment this program is IT.

The amount of money Gordon Ramsey invested into his venture is incredible - close to $3,000 000 AUSD- you get to see him being very over the top in his language but in the same vein one can understand why. When your money and reputation are on the line one expects chefs to be able to do there job under the most arduous circumstance. Working for Gordon Ramsey could be called the most arduous circumstances. However, all his chefs appeared to be loyal and why wouldn't one be when one is obviously working for a master craftsman.

By ADH on Wednesday, January 05, 2000 - 03:04 pm: Edit

Unfortunately, I believe many people are blurring the line between hard and abusive work environments. I have spent many years in both kitchens and can say that there is a BIG difference. There is little escape the extreme pressure, hard work and long hours involved...but none are worth your effort if someone is threatening your person. Pushing someone to try harder has nothing to do with molesting, threatening, pushing or throwing. There are people who want to work hard, but cannot in such vile company. These behaviors are NOT tolerated ANYWHERE else; so why should we just grin and bear it?

By Judyt (Judyt) on Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 01:39 pm: Edit

I am 46 years old and have never worked in anykind of foodservice, not even fastfoods.
I work for a small family run utility. I have my own desk in a very nice airconditioned facility. The work is busy but mostly pleasant and there is no swearing in the office. So I should stay where I am right?
I just spent my vacation in a hot kitchen everyday cooking at my family reunion for 27 people and I loved it!!
I am totally blown away by what I am reading here. I never would have guessed that behind the scenes the very subject, that brings so much joy to us all, food, would be such a violent industry. You, in the industry, my hat is off to you for keeping such a secret from those of us you are cooking for!
I hope, most sincerely, that you will be able to stop the violence in your industry and in your individual kitchens and let the love and creativity win out over the violence and abuse.

By Dpconsu (Dpconsu) on Thursday, June 22, 2000 - 11:10 pm: Edit

I had to endure both types of abuse during an seemingly endless four year apprenticeship at the Amsterdam Hilton during the late sixties. The executive chefs (there were two during my time there were both great) but the abuse from the brigade's chef du parties and sous chefs was intense and calculated to stress you out as much as possible (to weed out the weaklings). There was the great barrier between the front of house staff and the kitchen crew that nothing would have cured. I have seen cooks place a 30 inch platter half under the salamander and hand the heated end to a waiter's runner(commis) just to burn him for a laugh. I have been subjected to fourteen hours of turning potatoes without a meal break or even a coffee, and scolded when I had to go pee. When I began running my own kitchens, I made sure that verbal and physical abuse was nipped in the bud. In thirty odd years in the kitchen I have only ever had one time when a cook resorted to violence with me. (he was getting into it pretty heavy with one of our waitresses who also didnt know when to shut up) I told her to leave the kitchen and told him to go take a smoke break now and I would cover his spot on the line. He went for me with a carving knife! Bad misstake! He still walks with in limp.

High stress is no excuse for violence, you do not find others in high stress jobs, like airport radar guys beating the s**t out of each other or cops shooting felons in handcuffs(very often anyway) Chefs seem to have the reputation for volitility? (did I spell that right?) and allow themselves the luxery of being that way if the management let them. So if the chef is abusive, bide your time and tongue until later, get him or her alone and tell them how you feel, listen to the reasoning if there is any, maybe is was not a good day or maybe they are always like that. As an employee you can choose, leave or make waves.
One way gets you out and the other gets you no friends and will get you gone too.

Never ever allow sexual harrasment in your kitchen either as a chef or as a member of the crew, if you see it, do something about it right away.I put a stop to flirting in the work place and I did not allow married couples or people living together (sexually) to work together either.I allways make a staff meal where both the front of house crew and the whole kitchen crew eat the same meal together prioe to service. It's hard to cuss out someone who just passed you the mashed potatoes.

By hamlet on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 - 08:37 pm: Edit

I agree with some of the comments above and totally disagree with some too. I am a head chef here in the U.K and i have been the target of racism , racial abuse , violence and verbal abuse
(see my story in chef articles) any kind of abuse
is out in a modern kitchen ,Mr G.Ramsey's attitudes are totally wrong, i am not saying to be a total wuss, but aggro is out .

By wu on Wednesday, April 04, 2001 - 12:07 am: Edit

Well this`s the life of a cook in a kitchen ,when you are a nobody,you get kick in the A**,F*** at.

By togganut on Wednesday, April 04, 2001 - 02:19 pm: Edit

when i was aprenticing i had one chef who was extremely abussive .yell all the time. he went through cooks like water. i stuck around . he was really talented and i learn a lot from him. i was young and hard headed and arrogant. his tactics worked on me, i credit a lot of what i do to him
he helped polish me as a chef. but i relize i am the exception and that is not cool. i took a lot from my time with him esp. how not to treat people, that i learned from my father.Repect people and never attack or hurt someones pride.
it works for me i have like zero turnover with cooks and my employees respect me and do better work. it doesnt mean i am easy i am very demanding i just handle professionally , i dont show my a-- in front of the whole kitchen
thanks troy

By W.DeBord on Thursday, April 05, 2001 - 08:04 am: Edit

This industry will only improve if chefs like you Troy don't don't follow in the foolish foot steps laid before them.

Treat people with the same respect you would like to be treated with.

A beaten dog remains a beaten dog, not a trained animal.


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