Michelin-starred chef wins £57,000 for sacking over ‘silly’ football game at Mayfair restaurant

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A Michelin-starred chef who was unfairly sacked for letting children play a “silly” game of football in a Mayfair restaurant has been awarded £57,000 in damages.

Former National Chef of the Year Alyn Williams hosted a private party in the restaurant at the five-star Westbury hotel, when two young boys were filmed on CCTV wrestling, kicking a ball around, and jumping on furniture.

Mr Williams had set up an improvised football pitch in the fine dining establishment, using armchairs as posts and a net he had brought with him.

During the party for close friends and family in July 2019, the boys were also seen eating sugar lumps out of a bowl laid out for guests and drinking sauces straight from the bottle.

Mr Williams was suspended from his £116,000-a-year post at the restaurant, then sacked by hotel bosses for gross misconduct.

But an employment tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed, and have now awarded the chef £57,176.30 in damages.

In his original decision, Judge Pavel Klimov found Mr Williams had been “disrespectful and caused offence” to the owners with the nature of the party, which the chef himself admitted was “silly”.

He said Mr Williams had “set up in the main area of the restaurant an improvised football goals, using two restaurant’s armchairs and a small net he had brought with him.

“Two young boys started to play with a small soft ball kicking it into the improvised goals.

“Their play involved the following activities: jumping over the net; kicking and throwing the ball against the walls and the ceiling; fighting for the ball and chasing each other around the restaurant; diving onto the sofa-bench to catch the ball, which stood next to the tables laid for breakfast; taking a running jump onto the sofa-bench; wrestling with each other on the sofa-bench; doing a headstand on the sofa-bench.

“One of the boys took from the bar a small bottle of tabasco sauce and drank some sauce by dipping it from the bottle into his mouth. The other boy on 14 separate occasions took, using his hand, and ate sugar cubes from the sugar bowls on the tables laid for breakfast.

“On one of those occasions he took a sugar cube after wiping his nose and on another occasion after scratching his groin through trousers.”

The judge said the chef had been allowed to throw private parties before in the restaurant, and concluded the sacking was driven by the anger of hotel owner Azad Cola rather than misconduct.

The tribunal heard the hotel feared losing its Michelin star so delayed announcing the departure of its big name chef until after the Michelin Guide had been published in November 2019. The restaurant did ultimately lose the accolade.

A hearing in March to determine the payout to Mr Williams heard he worked as a consultant to an airline following his sacking in October 2019, was hired for £5,000 to cook at the World Economic Forum in Davos in February last year, and also provided recipes to Box Fresh.

Mr Williams argued he would have been furloughed with the rest of the staff at the Westbury during the pandemic if still employed, as well as receiving a customary Christmas bonus.

In October last year, he started work as a £96,000-a-year private chef to a wealthy family, but was dismissed when the family contracted Covid-19 and he refused orders to attend their home to continue his work.

In March this year, the chef launched his own premium home delivery business.

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