Belfast Telegraph

Irish woman suing celeb chef Heston after his delicate pastry creations leave her in agony

Former Fat Duck pastry chef Sharon Anderson
Former Fat Duck pastry chef Sharon Anderson

By Nev Ayling

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant has wowed diners for decades with gastronomic creations like snail porridge and bacon-flavoured ice cream.

But now a Co Donegal chef is suing the eaterie for more than €200,000 claiming repetitive and delicate kitchen tasks caused her chronic wrist pain.

Promising pastry chef Sharon Anderson (28) from Letterkenny says she has been left with crippling repetitive strain injury after churning out thousands of chocolate playing cards and whisky wine gums.

She says she was pushed too hard while helping to make the eccentric creations which made the restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, world famous - and won it three Michelin stars.

Her tasks included putting 400 sweets a day into small bags using tweezers, racing to make chocolate playing cards before the chocolate set too hard, and administering hundreds of tiny fingertip pinches to mushroom logs.

She is now suing The Fat Duck Ltd for alleged negligence for giving her work which was "too fast, arduous and repetitive for her".

She says her RSI has led to her becoming depressed and anxious and has been unable to work since leaving the restaurant in November 2015. But the restaurant is denying all fault. It says the type of work she did is common to the sort of patisserie practised in other "fine dining restaurants".

Documents lodged with London's High Court by Ms Anderson's lawyers state that her troubles stemmed from her time spent working at the Fat Duck, where she began as a commis chef in June 2014.

Her role included packing individually wrapped sweets into cellophane bags from 7am-11am, before she switched to creating chocolate playing cards from 11.30am.

Ms Anderson had to place each sweet into its own cellophane bag using tweezers and believes she "wrapped and packed" around 400 each day.

The chocolate playing cards were made in moulds of metal and plastic. The completed mould weighed around two kilos, it is claimed.

Her kitchen shift then switched to making whisky wine gums between 4pm-6pm, she says, and she would produce around 550 by hand.

Miss Anderson followed the restaurant when it moved to Melbourne, Australia, in January 2015, while the Bray premises were renovated. In June 2015, she began complaining of pain in her forearm, her barrister, Charles Robertshaw says in court papers.

Medics later pinpointed a torn ligament in Ms Anderson's left wrist, although most of her forearm pain has now resolved. She now suffers "significant wrist pain" even after carrying out normal manual tasks, court documents state.

Lawyers for Ms Anderson, of Glentidally, Milford, Letterkenny, say the restaurant failed to allow sufficient rest periods or support, and "required her to work under time pressure throughout the day".

But the Fat Duck is denying all the claims, saying she was transferred to lighter duties after she complained about making chocolate patisserie. The case will return to court next year.

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