Chef Alyn Williams has won an unfair dismissal case against his former employers at the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. Williams’s former, eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant had dismissed him in November 2019, allegedly with no notice. Williams’ complaint of unfair dismissal was then upheld in court this month, according to the Daily Mail, with details of the case featuring an improvised football pitch, consumption of branded hot sauce, and sugar lump armageddon.
Williams said at the time of his dismissal that his complaint revolved around the fact that him using the restaurant for private entertainment on days off was not a novel event, so being dismissed for doing so without permission was moot. He also defended himself at the time by “pointing out that all food and drink at the lunch was provided by him personally, no damage or loss was suffered by the hotel and the condition of the restaurant was carefully returned to the same state as prior to the lunch.”
A judge found in his favour on this count, concluding that the Westbury’s management move to dismiss him had not been based on the use of the restaurant without permission — given his having done so multiple times previously — but on the fact that hotel owner Azad Cola was not happy. As Judge Pavel Klimov put it: “The true reason for (his) dismissal was because the management.. was either directly instructed by Mr Cola to dismiss (him) or they had understood that Mr Cola wished the claimant to be dismissed.” Klimov also referred to the disciplinary proceedings as a “side show.”
And yet, it is what Mr Cola was annoyed about that is most remarkable. Part of Williams’ entertainment involved him improvising a small football pitch in the dining room, complete with net. Or, as the tribunal heard:
Their play involved the following activities: jumping over the net; kicking and throwing the ball against the walls and the ceiling; fighting for the ball and chasing each other around the restaurant; diving onto the sofa-bench to catch the ball, which stood next to the tables laid for breakfast; taking a running jump onto the sofa-bench; wrestling with each other on the sofa-bench; doing a headstand on the sofa-bench.
One of the boys took from the bar a small bottle of tabasco sauce and drank some sauce by dipping it from the bottle into his mouth.
The other boy on 14 separate occasions took, using his hand, and ate sugar cubes from the sugar bowls on the tables laid for breakfast. On one of those occasions he took a sugar cube after wiping his nose and on another occasion after scratching his groin through trousers.
A fly on the wall of Mr Cola reviewing the CCTV would doubtless have had a good time; he might consider that much worse has happened on the banquettes of London’s dining rooms. Williams admitted at the tribunal that the football element was “silly,” but emphasised as he had at the time that no goals scored or hot sauce drank had any lasting impact on the restaurant or its reputation. Indeed, it continued to trade with Williams’ name above the door for a time, before rebranding to AW Restaurant. It is currently closed, owing to the national coronavirus lockdown in England.