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Exposing the Harsh Realities: Danish Michelin Restaurants Under Fire in TV 2 Documentary

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Up to 80-hour workweeks, demanding bosses, broken agreements, and stress – these are some of the working conditions that employees at Danish Michelin restaurants are talking about in a new TV 2 documentary.

The restaurant industry has never been known for good working conditions, but it is rare for the employees themselves to speak out and reveal how bad things are. However, in the new TV 2 documentary  ‘Den bitre smag af Michelin’  (translates to: ‘The Bitter Taste of Michelin’ -ed.), a number of current and former employees shed light on what really goes on in some of the country’s finest restaurants.

– There must be ways to maintain a certain level without exploiting people so severely in terms of their time and well-being,” says a former restaurant manager at Kokkeriet in the documentary.

Over the past year, TV 2’s documentary team has spoken to more than 70 current and former employees at Danish Michelin and fine dining restaurants.

Fifteen of them participate in the documentary, some anonymously. They have worked at restaurants such as Kokkeriet, Kiin Kiin, Barr, Restaurant 108, Geranium, and Noma, among others.

Their testimonies vary depending on where they have worked and what they have experienced. But they unanimously talk about being employed on standard contracts for 37-40 hours per week and instead being asked to work between 60-80 hours each week, without overtime pay, time off in lieu, or similar measures.

This contradicts international rules, experts explain to TV 2. According to the EU’s Working Time Directive, no employee should work more than 48 hours per week over periods of more than four months.

The same directive stipulates that there must be a minimum of 11 hours of rest between shifts. The lack of rest time is something that even employees with international experience in the industry notice after working in Denmark.

-“Overtime was something I expected. But I had a bigger issue with the amount of time between shifts. I was more or less used to something similar (regarding overtime) because I’ve been in the industry. But I wasn’t used to going from work to being at home for maybe six to seven hours and then going back to work,” says a former waiter and bartender at Barr, which is a restaurant in the Noma family.

The harsh tone of the managers and their lack of consideration for the employees is also a common theme in many of the testimonies in the documentary.

-“A chef can spend hours finding the perfect beetroot for the perfect beetroot salad. But he doesn’t give a minute’s thought to how his employees are feeling,” says an anonymous chef who has previously worked at both Michelin and fine dining restaurants.

The first episode of two aired on Wednesday evening on TV 2. The second episode will be broadcast on Wednesday, September 13th. Both episodes can also be watched on TV 2 Play.

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