Chef at Michelin-starred restaurant quits following 'troubling incident' in kitchen

Aurelien Largeau has denied allegations as authorities open an investigation

French chef Aurelien Largeau has denied allegations of involvement in a hazing incident in his kitchen. @hoteldupalais / Instagram
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Renowned chef Aurelien Largeau has quit his namesake restaurant at the prestigious Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, south-west France, following what the management has called a “troubling incident”.

Largeau, 31, whose La Table d'Aurelien Largeau restaurant was first awarded a Michelin star in 2019, was reportedly involved in a hazing incident that took place in his kitchen.

In the incident, which was first reported by French newspaper Sud Quest, a kitchen hand was allegedly tied to a chair naked for hours with an apple in his mouth, while the rest of the staff, including Largeau, looked on. Sud Quest said the footage was initially shared on social media, but has since been removed.

Authorities have told AFP that they have opened a preliminary investigation into charges of sexual assault and violence.

Hazing or initiation ceremonies have been illegal in France since 1998.

Largeau has “strongly” denied the allegations that he called “defamatory and untruthful”, telling the France Bleu Pays Basque radio that he was preparing his defence with his lawyers.

A spokeswoman for Hyatt, which operates the Hotel du Palais, said the management had been informed of a “troubling incident”.

“This incident does not reflect the values that we defend,” she said. “We have undertaken an investigation and taken the appropriate decisions. The safety, health and well-being of our colleagues, clients and partners are absolute priorities for us.”

The seafront Hotel du Palais is a popular five-star holiday destination situated on Biarritz's famous Atlantic beach. A former palace, it was a gift from Napoleon III to his wife Eugenie in 1854.

In its description, the Michelin Guide says the restaurant is “on a par with this splendid setting, thanks to chef Aurelien Largeau, who rises to the challenge admirably".

On its website, La Table d'Aurelien Largeau describes its menu as serving “sophisticated and contemporary French cuisine, with exceptional panoramic view of the ocean".

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: December 29, 2023, 8:31 AM