Racism in the UK is a hot topic again following the row over footballer Raheem Sterling being racially abused by Chelsea fans last week.
Now racism in the British restaurant trade is in the news. The chef Michael Caines doesn’t like talking about race. Though he’s known for a while that he’s one of only two black chefs in the UK with a Michelin star, he’s always wanted the focus to be on his food and not the colour of his skin. But the rise of the far right across the world, and the notable lack of diversity in the catering and hospitality business, has led him to feel he has to speak up.
Of the 165 restaurants in the UK with a Michelin star, only around 12 percent had head chefs from minority ethnic backgrounds. Black and south Asian chefs lead just 6 percent of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Mr Caines said he isn’t surprised by the findings. “In our world, we had to work twice as hard, smile twice as nice, run twice as fast to cover just the same distance.”
When he worked in the acclaimed French chef Raymond Blanc’s kitchen, he was the only black person there. Mr Blanc helped Mr Caines get his first job in France, working with the late Bernard Loiseau. He was the first black chef and first English chef in Mr Loiseau’s kitchen. “I could see the conversations going on. Loiseau came in, he said: ‘Who’s that?’ and pointed to me,” Mr Caines said. When someone answered that it was the English chef, the response was: “Yeah, but he’s black.”