A GWENT chef who runs a restaurant dubbed the best in Wales has denied that sexual discrimination took place against a female pastry chef there, describing it as "banter".
Giving evidence at a hearing today at Caradog House, Cardiff, Stephen Terry who runs the Hardwick restaurant in Abergavenny said 19-year-old Chloe Maisey, from Pontyclun, never raised any issues with him.
Miss Maisey alleges she was shut in a freezer, "groped", given an electric shock, had a mouse thrown at her and had her keys taken from her handbag, vacuum packed and taped to a wall where she could not reach them. She also alleged that one of the chefs threatened to kill her.
In October 2013 the Hardwick was named best restaurant in Wales for the second year running by the National Restaurant Awards.
Miss Maisey has brought 21 allegations relating to when she worked at the restaurant as her first job after catering college until August last year.
Her former boss Stephen Terry categorically denied Miss Maisey had been "groped" by any members of staff and said he never saw evidence she was distressed.
Miss Maisey alleges a string of upsetting pranks were played on her, such as being tricked into tasting beef sauce when she was a vegetarian after being told it was chocolate.
Mr Terry, 47, accepted this incident could have happened as he was told about it by another chef but that he never saw evidence of Miss Maisey appearing upset and said he had assumed she would have tasted food containing meat anyway.
Miss Maisey eventually resigned due to distress, she claims.
She says she ensured inappropriate comments when having to change in front of other members of staff, as a private room to change in was full of boxes.
But Lorne Hargreaves, one of the chefs at the centre of the allegations, said he had not threatened to kill Miss Maisey and only jokingly told her: "Look at the size of me, I could probably kill you" after she told him she could karate kick him in the head.
He admitted picking her up and putting her on top of bread in a freezer on a hot day but said he did not close the lid on her, and claimed Miss Maisey had been laughing along with him.
Mr Terry said the first he became aware of any allegations was the day after Miss Maisey left, when her mother phoned him.
He told the tribunal: "It was a 12 minute conversation. I was blown away by it. As soon as I got off the phone I spoke to Mr Hargreaves and [Jamie] O'Leary. I never ever shouted at Chloe. I'm there to help her develop her skills."
But he said the two members of staff he spoke to had given convincing explanations to the allegations and that nothing had been sent to him in writing from Miss Maisey.
Lorne Hargreaves, accused of taking her keys and taping them to the wall, denied the charge but said there was an element of "family interaction, brother and sister banter" between kitchen staff which Miss Maisey joined in with.