Founded by the BCAC 9 years ago, the primary aim of Fair Etiquette in Chefs’ Kitchens is to temper use of derogatory language and violence within the catering industry. Initially a voluntary scheme, 2015 sees Fair Etiquette finally becoming legislation – and it has the support of a growing number of influential chefs. Jeff Galvin, one of the culinary minds behind the much loved Bistrot de Luxe, is surprised that it’s taken this long for something official to be put in place; ‘there seems to be some sort of comical stereotype of an aggressive chef and that makes it OK, even if the reality is much, much worse than the stereotype’.
Ask almost any chef and they will have experience of verbal abuse – or worse – during their career. While he himself has managed to come through the other side, Jeff Galvin notes with regret the sheer number of young chefs who don’t make it through training, dropping out of the industry with broken spirits, if not broken bones. ‘You can tell by the eyes, I think; when the light has gone out in the eyes of these young boys . . . it’s desperately sad’. A spell cooking in the South of France ‘in a kitchen completely lacking any kind of humanity’ proved a turning point for him, and upon his return he began to research ways of improving the environment of his own kitchens, eventually signing up to the Fair Etiquette scheme. So far, it has been a real hit, with productivity and staff retention rates swelling in an almost unprecedented fashion.
Chris Galvin, the other chef behind Bistrot de Luxe, is in full support of his brother, although admits to finding a little irony in the situation. ‘I agree completely that this sort of legislation needs to be in place, but I can remember Jeff having a proper foul mouth when he was a boy...’ he smiled.
‘Our grandma used to hit him on the backs of the knees with a wooden spoon if she caught him cursing. I suggested we employ a similar system in our kitchen, but he pointed out that physical abuse was also banned.’ he added.