Violence in the kitchen: schools have their work cut out for them

I was 16 years old. I was in a professional kitchen baccalaureate. I was on an internship in a starred restaurant, the chef broke plates in front of me, I caught a piece of ceramic in my eye. Éléonore published her testimony on social networks. This story particularly marked her.

At just 18 years old, she will obtain her professional baccalaureate in catering in a high school in Franche-Comté and still clearly remembers the facts. ” The chef was under pressure all the time. At the time of the service, it happened to him to break a plate on the stove. The first time, I was in shock. After two or three times, you get used to it “, she breathes. A trivialization of violence that takes place as soon as you learn the trade.

“In your job, you have to grit your teeth”

This restaurant, she reported it to her high school. “I went to complain when I learned that they were going to send trainees back there. They answered me: “In your job, you have to grit your teeth and have a good name on your CV so that you are well hired.” “says the young student.

After a year and a half, management finally severed the partnership with the restaurant. Prior to this, two other trainees reported similar experiences. ” At school, we are told that we are going to have fatigue, moments of stress. It is one hundredth of the reality. We are not sufficiently prepared before leaving for an internship explains Éléonore. A lack of support that affects the training of thousands of young people.

“I see no interest today in communicating on this subject or in launching initiatives for prevention” – Rafael Ferreira, director of the CFA of Poitiers

His testimony is one of hundreds posted online since the #metoo wave in the kitchen. Like the @jedisnonchef account on Instagram. Éléonore’s story was shared on whistleblower Sammy Cheret’s TikTok account @symphoniie.

Since last February, he has been denouncing the omnipresent violence in the French restaurant industry, through his hashtag #balancetonchef (see box). If the phenomenon is not isolated, the subject remains taboo in vocational training.

#Balancetonchef, prevention made in TikTok

Sammy Cheret is leading the fight against violence in the kitchen on the TikTok network. Sous-chef in a hotel of a Parisian chain, he shoots videos that average 200,000 views on his @symphoniie account. ” I said to myself: “Why not use my visibility to show what is happening behind the stove.” »

Using his hashtag #balancetonchef, he wants to lift the veil on practices in the hotel and restaurant sector. Sammy has received more than a hundred testimonials in comments and private messages. Stories that push him to want to go further: “ I want to reach the schools. You have to anticipate. Some go on internship and never come back. »

With other chefs, he plans to launch a podcast to share testimonials and exchange advice: “ We learn to manage the cooking, not the teams “, he laments

“A monstrous denial”

I don’t see any interest today in communicating on this subject or in launching initiatives to carry out prevention », Considers Rafael Ferreira, director of the training center for apprentices (CFA) in Poitiers. An opinion widely shared by learning structures.

Establishments remain discreet and often prefer not to communicate on the subject. Like the Parisian school Le Cordon Bleu and the Hotel School of Avignon who did not wish to answer our questions. In fact, the restaurant industry seems to have internalized these forms of violence.

There is monstrous denial in the professionestimates Frédéric Brugeilles, sociologist of work. There is some kind of evidence that the working conditions are harsh. You have to adapt to this environment with a hierarchical system and obedience as a condition of learning. It is the door open to abuse because there is nothing that regulates. »

Schools tend to deal with the problem after it arises. At the Poitiers CFA, if a situation of violence in the workplace is suspected, the management ensures that it contacts the Labor Inspectorate. If necessary, the service of the Ministry of Labor is empowered to prohibit the structure from hiring other apprentices.

Students can also ask mediators outside the CFA to talk about it. The latter act as intermediaries between the apprentice, the company and the establishment. ” We have no follow-up, the school is not present to accompany us. We must take the initiative alone to join the mediators », sighs Alex, a student of this CFA and victim of psychological pressure in the workplace.

Put in scene to better prevent

Some institutions choose, despite everything, to engage in prevention. This is the case of the Parisian school Ferrandi, renowned in the profession, which nevertheless remains not very talkative about its actions. Every year since 2016, the Entrees de jeu troupe has performed skits for first-year students.

Tired of being humiliated and insulted by the restaurant’s sous-chef, Jérôme wants to go and complain to the chef but the clerk dissuades him, in the name of the habits and customs in use in the restaurant business. This situation comes from the show Chaud devant. This successively evokes moral and sexual harassment, the tensions between the service and the kitchen, hazing or even the trivialization of these behaviors. Twenty interventions took place in the school last year.

Constructed with the teachers and the director of learning, the sketches were developed based on student testimonies. The show is played a first time to show the different behaviors, then a second time to discuss them. ” We had to analyze the situation and judge if it was normal or not. “recalls Camille, in second year. For two hours, the students seize the subjects on stage, without the presence of a pedagogical person in charge. ” It remains more complicated to put into practice in real life “says the student.

Leaders are mobilizing

If the omerta is difficult to break, leaders have also joined forces to put an end to it. Laurène Barjhoux is part of the Bondir.e association, which fights against violence in the kitchen by raising awareness among young apprentices. With seven other members of the association, she intervenes in establishments to discuss with students. ” Young people need to take matters into their own hands “, she says. A questioning that also concerns training establishments: “ It’s a whole system that must change, the teaching staff too », Supports the chef.

No action is taken at the national level to prevent the different forms of harassment in the learning environment, confirms the Ministry of Labor

For two hours, the volunteers present situations likely to happen in the kitchen. They use legal terms to qualify the facts, and allow young people to identify cases of violation of the law. With Bondir.e, Laurène tries to respond to requests for concrete cases expressed by apprentices. ” What is said in the room stays in the room “says the young chef.

Increasingly in demand, the association now travels throughout France. Bondir.e has already intervened in five schools, including the Jean Drouant hotel school in Paris. Here, the workshops are aimed at BTS and vocational baccalaureate students to teach them to no longer tolerate certain behaviors that were previously commonplace. A training that the deputy headmaster, Régis Debats, wishes to see developed in other schools. ” The programs are open enough for us to be able to carry out this kind of action “, he confides.

Restore the image of the profession

These initiatives are struggling to develop. To date, no action has been taken at the national level to prevent the various forms of harassment in the learning environment, confirms the Ministry of Labor, which we have requested.

However, schools have a role to play in trying to restore the image of the profession. During confinement, hotel and restaurant employees took a step back from their profession. ” Restaurants struggle to find people to work because working conditions are rotten “, decides the sociologist Frédéric Brugeilles. Employers and schools would therefore have every interest in taking these issues in hand.

This article won the 2022 edition of the AJIS Prize (Association of Social Information Journalists)

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