Scottish chef Tom Kitchin hits back at bullying claims and vows he is ‘hell-bent’ on being good employer
Leading Scottish chef Tom Kitchin has hit back at claims he bullied staff and vowed he is “hell-bent” on winning a good employer award.
The owner and head chef of the one Michelin star restaurant The Kitchin in Leith has admitted there were times in his career when he lost his temper with staff – but he denies being physically violent.
Ahead of the awaited 2022 Michelin star announcements this week, the 44-year-old admitted he was “always chasing culinary accolades”, but said there were moments “where the way I acted was not correct”.
Kitchin, one of the youngest ever to win a Michelin star at the age of 29, has come under fire in recent months after former staff members came forward alleging mistreatment while working under the Kitchin Group between 2008 and 2019.
Two investigations revealed claims of former employees who alleged they experienced sexual harassment, physical and mental mistreatment across four restaurants owned by 44-year-old Kitchin.
Some of these complaints also involved allegations against Kitchin, who was accused of presiding over “a climate of fear and intimidation”.
After the accusations, the Kitchin Group said it suspended two members of staff and launched an investigation. Several former chefs have contacted lawyers about possible court action.
The row fuelled repeated union criticism of the aggressive behaviour of celebrity chefs on TV shows such as Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen or Boiling Point.
A national campaign could now see restaurants have Michelin stars rescinded if they mistreat workers.
Kitchin, who opened his first restaurant in Leith in 2006, claims restaurant culture has improved in recent years and that chefs he mentored had been in touch in a “show of support”.
In an interview with the Express, the chef said: “It is a tough environment, it is full on, 110 miles an hour, especially back when we started our business.
“Nowadays it is a much different place, but don’t get me wrong, we still work extremely hard.
“I have a lot of long-serving members of staff who understand the commitment required to operate at the highest levels. If I was such an ogre, I don’t think they would stick around.
“Yes, there have been moments in the past where the way I acted was not correct. Shouting and screaming at someone over a carrot … because it’s not cut correctly.
“Do I shout and scream like that now? No, I do not and the way I was then is not acceptable in today’s modern world and I put my hand up to that.”
Kitchin closed Castle Terrace and Southside Scran and was forced to make 100 of his 250 staff redundant following lockdown.
The entrepreneur said he’s now pushing for more than award-winning dishes.
He said: “We’ve been striving to make our environments better. Our industry, and this restaurant in particular, has already changed so much in recent years, moving away from the work cultures of the past. We are not perfect, but equally we have nothing to hide.
"We’ve been through a nightmare, but it has made us look at every part of our business. I’m determined to make this the number one hospitality place to work and the best restaurant we can.
"Before, I was always chasing culinary accolades but I’m now hell-bent on winning a good employer award.”