Tamarind Collection removed three members of staff from the restaurant after they complained that Michelin-starred chef Karunesh Khanna was using Knorr chicken stock in vegetarian, vegan and halal dishes without informing customers, an employment tribunal has heard.
According to official documents two assistant restaurant managers were made redundant after complaining about the chef’s use of Knorr chicken stock powder in both meat and vegetarian dishes at Tamarind Kitchen. The managers claimed that the ingredient was not disclosed to customers or referenced in allergen documents.
Responding today Fateh Dhaliwal, Tamarind Kitchen’s director, denied the site had used chicken stock powder in vegan or vegetarian meals. He also denied all other allegations made in Mr Ali’s successful employment tribunal hearing, which referred solely to alleged practices at Tamarind Kitchen.
The site’s restaurant manager, who had said he had not wanted to remove the two employees, was placed on paid leave for more than a month, according to the documents.
The employment judge heard that at least six front of house staff had complained on religious and ethical grounds after unknowingly selling dishes containing the stock powder to Muslim customers who had requested halal food. Some also expressed concerns they would end up “calling an ambulance to the restaurant for either guests or members of staff” due to the non-disclosure of allergens.
When put to the chef, he is reported to have said “guests don’t need to know what ingredients” are used. The issue was later brought up with Dhaliwa, who is said to have told staff to continue selling dishes as if they were suitable for all dietary requirements – and added that any staff who would not do so “need to be phased out”.
The tribunal found that Dhaliwa “wasn’t going to do anything to interfere with [Khanna’s] decisions and cooking” and that “having a Michelin star chef for the refurbished restaurant was very important” to him. It returned a verdict that the claimant, an assistant restaurant manager referred to as Mr M Ali, was unfairly dismissed for making a protected interest disclosure. He will now be reimbursed for notice pay, holiday pay and arrears.
The dispute followed the appointment of Khanna along with Manav Tuli in August last year, who were both hired with the task of relaunching Tamarind of Mayfair with a lighter menu with more delicate flavours following the restaurant’s £4m refurbishment. The chef’s previous experience included Belgravia’s one-Michelin-starred Amaya, where he worked for some 14 years.
At the time of his appointment, Khanna said Tamarind of Mayfair – the first Indian restaurant in the UK to win a Michelin star under Atul Kochhar – was “moving to a different level in the market”, adding that he had the chance to “take an already fantastic brand to new heights”.