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Staff in a busy kitchen. SUR
Guilty diner syndrome

Guilty diner syndrome

The problem is rooted, apparently, in the mental isolation of the interns, responsible for the chopping and other tedious and repetitive tasks

Andrew J. Linn

Friday, 17 February 2023

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Hard on the heels of the Celebrity Chef Syndrome, characterised in millions of words by every restaurant reviewer under the sun, comes the Guilty Diner Syndrome. This condition is a direct outcome of multiple revelations about the hell that is working in the kitchen of a top restaurant. A new study by Cardiff University alleges that a culture of aggression develops as a result of kitchen hierarchies led by narrow-minded bullies whose only objective is to produce the best food at any human cost.

Indeed, the growth of bullying in such an environment has been the subject of a glut of media dramas, such as The Menu and The Bear, which portray kitchens as something akin to forced labour camps. The problem is rooted, apparently, in the mental isolation of the interns, responsible for the chopping and other tedious and repetitive tasks. One interviewee had to peel 150 fresh langoustines every day, 'ripping my hands to shreds because they're extremely sharp'.

After dinner it's off to some late-night drinking joint with colleagues, usually followed by a drug-fuelled session. Then a few hours' sleep before the early alarm call signals a new mind-bending day.

For the study, 47 kitchen workers at Michelin-starred establishments described their routine: 20-hour shifts, abuse, loneliness and tyrannical chefs like the one who would 'plop recruits into trash cans to punish them'.

One regular customer of a famous restaurant told a reviewer, 'After learning how the kitchen staff are treated at my fine dining choices, why would I pay money to the people facilitating this?'

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