Chef Phil Vickery was unfairly dismissed last July from his £60,000-a-year job as head chef at Taunton's Castle hotel, an industrial tribunal in Exeter ruled last week.
Hotel owner Kit Chapman said Vickery's standards slipped because of his growing outside activities (Caterer, 17 February, page 6). He had been angered when Vickery had continued to appear on the Ready, Steady, Cook programme presented by his girlfriend, Fern Britton, while on a three-month break to recover from stress and fatigue.
Vickery quit after an angry phone call from Chapman, but later retracted his resignation. He eventually left after a press statement announcing his departure was issued in June without, claimed Vickery, his approval.
While accepting Vickery's claims of unfair dismissal and breach of contract, the tribunal also ruled that both sides were to blame for the breakdown. It said Vickery should have made his intention to stay in his job at the Castle clearer.
The tribunal ordered him to repay the hotel £1,444 in expenses for a trip he took to Venice with Britton, which it accepted sprang from a misunderstanding rather than deception, along with a £2,915 loan.
The tribunal will go on to determine the damages due to Vickery on 7 April.
Chapman said the affair marked a sad end to a friendship that had developed during the nine years they had worked together. "What this reveals more than anything else is the enormous stresses and strains on a highly skilled and qualified chef when he is working in a busy kitchen," he said.
by Nick Irving and Angela Frewin
l A feature on television chefs will appear in Caterer, 6 April.