Esora chef fired for staff abuse, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Esora chef fired for staff abuse

(THE BUSINESS TIMES) - The Lo & Behold Group has cut ties with the chef of its one Michelin-starred restaurant Esora with immediate effect, citing his abuse of staff.

In a post on Instagram, the group said that it had terminated its relationship with chef Shigeru Koizumi "after an internal investigation into multiple accounts of mistreatment".

It added: "As a company, we are committed to providing a safe and positive work environment for all our staff and cannot accept any behaviour that jeopardises this."

It is understood that Koizumi's employment was terminated on Jan 17. If his employment pass had been immediately cancelled, he would have only 30 days to remain in Singapore, although he may return on a social visit pass.

The sacking came as a shock to the industry, as did the manner in which it was executed. Several restaurateurs told BT that it was highly unusual for a chef or any staff to be terminated in such a public manner, as such issues are managed internally.

However, group founder Wee Teng Wen later clarified that the decision to do so was made after careful consideration.

He said, "We deliberated long and hard before putting out the post. Ultimately, we did it to take a stand against the darker side of our industry that is known to get swept under the rug, and to prevent speculation on the reasons for the termination."

Allegations of abuse have dogged Koizumi before, and had been one of the factors that led to the closure of Esora in 2019, slightly over a year after it opened as a high-end omakase restaurant. It was Lo & Behold's first Japanese fine dining restaurant. It was said then that Koizumi was leaving Singapore for a much-needed break. The restaurant did not reopen as planned due to Covid-19, but reopened in 2021 and earned its first Michelin star as well.

It has also become profitable since, and is one of the most sought-after restaurants in town.

It is believed that several complaints about mistreatment or abuse had been made against Koizumi, although no police reports were lodged nor medical treatment sought.

"Restaurants are extremely high-pressure environments, and it's not unheard of for chefs to behave roughly when under stress," said one owner of a Japanese restaurant. "I've seen it happen in some kitchens, and if you have a chef who's a perfectionist and not able to control his emotions, such things happen. Also in Singapore, you are dealing with staff who can't always take the pressures of a fine dining kitchen." 

Esora will now be helmed by its new head chef Takeshi Araki, whose resume includes 4 years at the 3 Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant Nihonryori RyuGin.