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Heat forces Holywood chefs out of the kitchen

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Chefs at a Holywood restaurant were forced out of their own kitchen today as temperatures inside became unbearable.

While Armagh provisionally set a new outside record of 31.4°C, the kitchen at Alexander’s & Co was said to reach a sweltering 38°C.

An update on the restaurant’s Facebook page said the “extreme heat” gave them no choice but to close their evening kitchen.

“Our staff’s safety is our priority and our kitchen probe is showing about 38°C already,” it said while anticipating normal service can resume from 12 on Friday.

“Massive apologies to anyone who was booked in with us this evening and we are terribly sorry for the inconvenience. We have phoned everyone individually or left a message if we couldn't get through.

“Thank you for everyone's understanding”.

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Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, owner and Head Chef Gemma Austin explained why she had no problem with the old saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’.

"We just had to make a decision early so that we could let our customers know in advance...but obviously we had to make sure we were looking after the staff,” she said.

"It’s never an easy decision to make and we don’t want to let customers down either by closing and cancelling bookings. But at the end of the day, being a chef and being an owner it helps because I can see that side of it and how much it is a struggle.”

She said it was even possible to reach temperatures of over 50°C in a kitchen.

"It’s not safe, it’s not fair on the guys and I would never expect people to work in conditions I wouldn’t work in.”

Preparing for any further heatwaves, Gemma said the restaurant has ordered a commercial air conditioning unit.

"Obviously it depends on the kitchen, we have a small kitchen and it’s quite an old building which maybe isn’t as well ventilated as much as the modern ones are."

Laughing at the strange turn of events, she said: “As if Covid wasn’t enough, now we’ve heatwaves and we can’t stand that either.

"Typical, but as long as the staff are OK that’s the main thing”.

Customers were quick to praise Ms Austin for her quick decision, despite the inconvenience for those that had already booked tables.

One commented: "This is awesome, and such an amazing gesture to the welfare of your staff. Can’t have been an easy decision to make but bravo.”


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