Top chef gives £1k bill paid by ‘arrogant’ diners to young server they ‘treated like crap’

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A top chef states that he is giving the £1,000 paid by a wealthy group of diners to his young server as a result of the way they treated her while in the restaurant.

Lee Skeet, who trained under Gordon Ramsay, called the group out on social media on May 4 and accused them of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Slamming the party as “rich people who think they can treat people like c***,” Mr Skeet, who runs Cora in Pontcanna, shared an email on Twitter that he had sent to the head of the group, Wales Online reports.

He demanded that they “never come back to my restaurant” after saying that they had mistreated a staff member, aged 22.

Cora has been described as the “hidden 12-seat restaurant serving the best food in Cardiff”.

Sharing what he sent on Twitter, he wrote: “I wanted to firstly thank you for choosing my restaurant for your meal tonight and I understand you had the biggest bill we’ve ever had on one table here. Unfortunately, throughout the evening I was made aware that your party’s behavior was inappropriate towards Lily, who runs front of house.

“She has told me that, as a 22-year-old girl, she was talked down to, disrespected and touched unintentionally by members of your group. I have spent the last hour having conversations with her that break my heart, make me fell like a sh*t employer and a terrible dad having my own daughter.

“Please provide your bank details and I will refund your entire bill of £1,000, minus £100 that I believe you should have tipped Lily, which I will pay directly to her as you left no tip.

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“I would thank you to never come back to my restaurant. Lily means a lot more to me than money. I also think you should assess the people you surround yourself with.”

He later clarified that the “touching” he referred to involved one of the party of six “grabbing her aggressively by the arm”. He said: “At our restaurant, it’s only me in the kitchen and one front of house.

“She’s really young and she’s responsible for the whole restaurant. We had a table come in last night and the second they walked in, it was bad energy.”

Describing the party of six guests as “arrogant”, he said they had arrived half an hour late and had seven bottles of wine by the time they had their first course.

He said that while he never interacted with the guests, he could tell his staff member was “not feeling alright” from his demeanour.

He said: “It’s not like they insulted her or anything like that – she was just noticeably upset every time she came back in the kitchen.”

Giving an example of their behaviour, he said: “They had seven bottles of wine from the same case and then on the eighth bottle of wine they said ‘This is off, this wine.’ And it was literally from exactly the same case.

“And they said to her: ‘Stick your beak in there. Stick your beak in there and smell it.’ So nothing bad, but why would you even talk to someone like that?”

Such behavior is not new to the acclaimed chef, who said: “Before I had my own restaurant, I worked in quite a lot of high-end restaurants and rich, higher class, or perceived higher class, person would come in and act the same.

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Inside Cora, which has just 12 seats
Inside Cora, which has just 12 seats

“I don’t want it in my restaurant. I’d rather be empty than cater to that. I don’t work this hard to be around people I don’t like.

“I’m working class and so is my staff member. We cater to richer people, or middle class people, and I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when they treat us like we’re lower class than them.”

He said he spent an hour that evening speaking to the waitress about the experience.

“I spoke to the staff member properly afterwards and was aware how upset she was and how much it had got to her,” he said.

He added that, with a daughter of his own, “it really got to me and really upset me” and he felt like he needed to “do something to make it right.”

In the email which he shared on Twitter, he asked the guest to provide their bank details, so that he could refund the entire bill, minus £100, which he would pass onto the waitress, who pointed out they did not tip. “I would thank you to never come back to my restaurant. The waitress means a lot more to me than money,” he wrote.

But he later said he changed his mind and was giving the entire £1,000 bill to his staff member. “I don’t really want that money.

“My waitress probably deserves it for putting up with them,” he said, and added that he had not had a response from the diner.

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Followers of the chef flocked to support his decision and condemn the behaviour.

Mr Skeet trained under Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay and previously headed up the kitchen at a Michelin-starred Hedone in London before his cooking career came to a halt for four years when he was the victim of a hit and run accident.

He opened his first permanent restaurant, Cora, in Cardiff in January following a sell-out run of pop-ups and supper clubs at his flat in Cardiff Bay.

Located above Pontcanna’s Cafe Milkwood, it comprises just 12 seats and Mr Skeet hopes it will eventually secure Cardiff’s first Michelin star. His cooking from him has been met with rave reviews and Wales star Aaron Ramsey even hired the entire restaurant as a romantic Valentine’s Day gesture.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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