French star chef quits restaurant after hazing of kitchen hand, Latest World News - The New Paper

French star chef quits restaurant after hazing of kitchen hand

BIARRITZ – A French star chef has abruptly quit his luxury hotel job after a kitchen hand was reportedly tied up naked and humiliated, the hotel chain said on Dec 28.

The Bayonne public prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation into charges of sexual assault and violence, prosecutor Jerome Bourrier told AFP.

Mr Aurelien Largeau, 31, who has a coveted Michelin star to his name, ran the restaurant of the prestigious Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, south-western France, until his sudden departure last week.

A spokeswoman for hotel owners Hyatt told AFP that the management had been informed of a “troubling incident”, footage of which has been shared online.

She gave no details of what was on the images but regional daily Sud Ouest reported that they showed an initiation ritual in the hotel kitchen.

A kitchen hand was tied to a chair naked for hours with an apple in his mouth and a carrot in his anus with all the chefs, including Mr Largeau – known as the kitchen brigade – looking on.

The footage has since been removed from the Internet.

The “humiliating” incident took place “under the authority, and in the presence, of chef Aurelien Largeau”, Sud Ouest said.

“This incident does not reflect the values that we defend,” the Hyatt spokeswoman said. “We have undertaken an investigation and taken the appropriate decisions.

“The safety, health and well-being of our colleagues, clients and partners are absolute priorities for us.”

The Hotel du Palais is a five-star hotel on the seafront in Biarritz, with an average price per night of over €400 (S$585).

Officials at Biarritz city hall, a principal shareholder in the Socomix company which owns the hotel building, were unavailable for comment.

“We found out about it from the press,” said Mr Patrick Destizon, an opposition town councillor and one of Socomix’s directors.

He said the hotel’s management did not mention “this episode” at a board meeting last week.

Hazing is banned under French law, but reports say the practice still occurs in French restaurants. It is sometimes defended as a test of whether junior staff can handle the pressures of the job.

A number of cooking professionals have started campaigns against violence in kitchens in recent years, including one called “Hands off my Kitchen Hand” and another “Respect your Kitchen”. – AFP