A former chef at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck has taken legal action against the restaurant after claiming that working in its kitchen left her with chronic wrist pain.
Pastry chef Sharon Anderson claims she now suffers repetitive strain injury as a result of the “fast, arduous and repetitive” preparation work required to create Mr Blumenthal’s trademark dishes.
According to the Evening Standard, she is suing for £200,000 in damages, arguing the delicate tasks she was given caused her injury and sparked bouts of depression and anxiety that left her unable to work since leaving the restaurant in November 2015.
The paper reported that the restaurant plans to fight the negligence allegations in the High Court, denying liability and arguing Ms Anderson’s roles were common to the sort of patisserie practised in other “fine dining restaurants”.
Court papers show that the 28-year-old from Co Donegal started at the Fat Duck as a commis chef in June 2014.
She claims she had to use tweezers to individually pack 400 wrapped sweets into cellophane bags from 7am to 11am, make 180 chocolate playing cards from 11.30am to around 4pm, and create close to 550 whisky wine gums between 4pm and 6pm.
Ms Anderson said that making the chocolate cards involved holding a mould which weighed about 2kg when full in her left hand with her wrist extended.
Charles Robertshaw, her barrister, said the pain in Ms Anderson’s forearm had become “significant” by June 2015 and a physiotherapist blamed it on “long hours and repetitive work”.
The chef claims she suffers from “significant wrist pain” on a daily basis and struggles with tasks such as heavy lifting, driving and cooking.
She claims the restaurant failed to give her proper rest periods or support, and “required her to work under time pressure throughout the day”, the Standard said.
The Fat Duck denies the allegations and points out that Ms Anderson was transferred to lighter duties after she complained about making chocolate patisserie.
They also claim her workload was not oppressive and she was given adequate support. The restaurant is also arguing that Ms Anderson’s compensation claim was filed too late.
The case is due to return to court next year.