Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Stoush over steak leads to sack

A stoush over steak has led to the sack. Photo / Thinkstock
A stoush over steak has led to the sack. Photo / Thinkstock

Claims of unjustifiable dismissal from a chef who was found washing and deep frying steaks have been rejected by the Employment Relations Authority.

James Allen worked at the Harbour View Hotel in Raglan from October 2008 to March 2011. Problems with his employment first surfaced in 2009 but it was not until the beginning of 2011 that his cooking procedures were called to order.

While he was working at the hotel, complaints regarding his kitchen procedures - in particular to the cooking of steak - and uncooperative working manner led to his dismissal on March 4.

Despite a well-documented complaints process leading up to his termination, Mr Allen took his case to the ERA and asked to be compensated for wages he lost due to an unjustifiable dismissal.

The first notable complaint against Mr Allen was laid on January 4 by another chef at the hotel, Michael Chubb.

In a letter to general manager Jeffrey Holloway, Mr Chubb conveyed his concerns about Mr Allen, who deep fried and microwaved steaks.

He also pointed out Mr Allen condoned deep frying and microwaving as acceptable cooking practice for steak and mentioned he often ignored instructions at work.

After a month, Mr Holloway forwarded the letter to Mr Allen and asked him to provide a response to the complaints.

In his response, Mr Allen defended his cooking methods. The letter, dated February 9 2011, stated he believed deep frying and microwaving of steaks was correct and professional.

He also accused Mr Chubb of lying and threatening to "deck" him, and wrote that the complaints showed "how desperate he [Mr Chubb] is to take over the kitchen and cause havoc."

A follow-up meeting was held on February 28 by Mr Holloway to discuss the complaints laid against Mr Allen and his continued employment.

During the meeting, the deep frying and washing of steaks by Mr Allen was discussed, as well as his inability to follow instructions from Mr Chubb.

Mr Holloway also interviewed other hotel staff members, some of whom had problems working with Mr Allen.

On March 4, a final meeting was held where Mr Allen was notified by Mr Holloway of his employment termination.

New Zealand Restaurant Association national president Mike Egan told APNZ he had never heard of anyone deep-frying, microwaving or washing steaks.

"That is not taught at any of the schools, and I don't know what he [Mr Allen] is talking about when he says it is acceptable practice."

- APNZ

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