EXCLUSIVE – Trendy Notting Hill restaurant boss sparks diversity row by sharing Instagram photo of his all-white all-male team of chefs – as he’s blasted on social media for ‘totally unrepresentative’ line-up
- Critics questioned the line-up of Thomas Straker and his seven other chefs
A restaurant boss who boasts nearly four million followers on social media has been fiercely criticised after posting pictures of his team of all-white male chefs.
Critics questioned why the line-up of Thomas Straker and his seven other chefs outside his trendy restaurant did not include any women or ethnic minority kitchen staff.
Straker who is known for his colourful food and cooking videos was accused of perpetuating the idea that top restaurants were ‘a white boy’s club’.
Others claimed the line up was ‘totally unrepresentative’ of multi-cultural Britain and showed ‘no consideration for women’.
Straker who has a huge social media presence with 1.4m followers on Instagram, 2.1m on TikTok and 250,000 on YouTube posed for two pictures with his seven kitchen staff last Friday.
His Instagram snaps which were captioned ‘Chef team assembled’ attracted protests from people who questioned why the line-up included no women or non-white faces.
Critics questioned why the line-up of Thomas Straker and his seven other chefs outside his trendy restaurant did not include any women or ethnic minority kitchen staff
Straker who is known for his colourful food and cooking videos was accused of perpetuating the idea that top restaurants were ‘a white boy’s club’
Some critics claimed the pictures were particularly out of place as Straker’s restaurant is in the diverse area of Goldborne Road in Notting Hill, west London.
Baking fan Melissa Martin, known as melissamartinbakes, posted: ‘Hey, I don’t begrudge this dude for the staff he hired. You hire friends, good people you know, and impressive resumes.
‘But I think this post shows a blatant example of how much fine dining is still a white boys club. The fact that he has no people of color (sic) or women on the team is a huge extension of the bigger cultural problem we STILL have, not necessarily an individual failing.
‘Would love if he took it upon himself to look for diversity in his team, but clearly it doesn’t seem important to the values of him and his restaurant.’
Another Instagram user called tcblu commented: ‘The main issue is that in the most diverse city in the world, in the poorest part of the richest borough of the country, not only have you managed to hire any female chefs but not a single POC.
‘Golborne Road is historically a black/Moroccan/Spanish/ Portuguese community with an incredible history of culture and rebellion in the face of adversity.
‘It became home to the largest Moroccan population in England and the home of Windrush families. How incredible would it be if you searched that community for young rising stars who may not get a chance to flourish otherwise in hospitality than hiring friends?
‘Provide them with training and a safe place to grow as chefs. In turn, you’d be putting something into the very community that you’re gentrifying – intentional or not. Just something to think about.’
Some critics claimed the pictures were particularly out of place as Straker’s restaurant is in the diverse area of Goldborne Road in Notting Hill, west London
Drinks writer Becky Paskin who advocates for women in whisky and appears regularly on ITV’S Love Your Weekend, wrote on Straker’s original post: ‘Too often we say, ‘We only recruit on the basis of the best people for the job’ without any consideration the role bias plays in the selection process.
‘It’s been proven time and again that diverse teams are more creative, productive and successful. If every member looks the same and has the same background, you’ll find they’ll all think the same as well. Forming diverse teams is not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense too.’
As scores of people continued to post negative comments, Straker, known for his videos featuring different uses for butter, responded with his own comment, saying: ‘Honestly people need to calm down.
‘Firstly there is a shortage of chefs / hospitality workers. Secondly if you feel so passionately please go and gather CV’s of any chefs you think we’re missing in the team. Solutions not problems.’
But his comment served simply to stoke the flames, by attracting other complaints about him not doing enough to have a diverse workforce.
US chef Kenji Lopez-Alt, who is known for his book The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, said: ‘Get off the social media for a week or so. Do some reflection. Talk to people who care about you and who you trust. Be better.’
Another Instagram user mbbphotography accused Straker of ‘being literally a part of the problem’. He added: ‘As if in one of the most diverse cities in the world you didn’t get any other applications as from white men. Laughable.’
The picture set of a big debate and stream of comments from people with different opinions
ivana_finci posted: ‘Love your food man. Serious respect for you. But for the love of god just look at the picture of your staff. I’d get it if you are in a low diversity area, but you’re in LONDON.’
Jasminenwood added: ‘Sadly feel like this poor response will reflect the company values. Sure, it might be tricky to hire just now. That doesn’t stop you from acknowledging that an all white all male team isn’t what you strive for. This platform and big following could be used to do better.’
Rhythmvick posted: ‘One of the solutions, instead of you telling people to calm down, is to internalise that you have a responsibility as a hirer to ensure that your kitchen is even welcoming to women and POC – it’s not about representation, but about active inclusion.
‘As a former chef, you just know when a kitchen won’t have your back as a woman, so you don’t go for those jobs, and this ‘not my problem’ attitude is exactly a case in point. You’re the chef owner, *you* create the kitchen culture.’
Jeremyspandex added: ‘Embarrassing bro – instead of being defensive why don’t you actually have a look at yourself and ask why this uncanny situation has transpired? It’s not coincidence. You’re not doing enough.
‘You have lots of non male and POC people who have supported your work online, the least you can do is ask yourself how you can give back and not come across so closed minded and fragile no?’
The protests led to Straker sharing an apology today via his Instagram Story where he appeared to back down and insist that he was committed to ‘ensuring diversity’ in his businesses.
He wrote: ‘On Friday night, I put up a post of my chef team and many rightly pointed out the lack of diversity in it. I am very sorry for my initial response, where some queried whether I take this issue seriously.
‘I am absolutely committed to ensuring diversity in my restaurants, unfortunately we aren’t achieving this in my kitchens currently and this is an area I know I need to improve on, making sure it is seen as a welcoming and approachable environment for all. Tom x.’
Some Instgram users rushed to defend Straker’s posts and insisted that his chefs being all-male and white was irrelevant.
dmclellan2004 posted: ‘Jobs aren’t given out of sympathy or to tick boxes. Jobs are given on merit experience and an interview process to make sure the right individuals are hired. Stop with the positive discrimination.’
The same user added: ‘I know plenty of women and poc who are great at their jobs. Maybe none of these individuals applied for a job here? Maybe out of all the people that applied the owner picked who he thought was the best?
‘We aren’t running his business and I’m sure he wants it to be successful. He’s not going to hire people just to tick a few boxes or that look good for an Instagram pic.’
Another user ivan__tes said: ‘Honestly, people nowadays have gone completely crazy with this ‘representation’ thing. Who tf cares which race or gender those chefs are? The only requirement must be their skill level, that’s all…
‘People need to chill, for some reason I’ve never seen anyone ever complain about underrepresentation in all-black teams or all-female teams, but as soon as they see white men they’re triggered.’
Straker has been approached for comment by MailOnline.
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