IN THE wake of the abrupt closure of Cameron House’s Tamburrini & Wishart restaurant, its head chef Zack Brotherton has been snapped up by Edinburgh’s Dean Banks at the Pompadour.
This week, Brotherton was confirmed as head chef at the SLTN Award-winning Pompadour and spoke up in praise of Banks’ ‘dedication to helping people in hospitality’.
The demise of Tamburrini & Wishart at Cameron House was widely reported to have come as a result of the restaurant’s failure to win a Michelin star during the Guide’s recent allocation of awards.
But the manner of the closure created a media furore, as staff claimed proper redundancy procedures were not followed. Nine of the restaurant’s 12-strong team have since lodged employment tribunal claims over their ‘unfair’ termination, while three were reportedly redeployed with the broader Cameron House operation.
When Banks first saw news of the closure – and the impact on its staff – he reached out via socials to Brotherton to ask if he could help Zack or any of his team in finding work.
Zack said: “Dean and group exec chef Dan Ashmore got in touch right away and they were so helpful. On that initial conversation, one of the first things they said was if we can help any of the team from Cameron House please let us know – we want to help where we can.
“I’m still hopeful that one of the staff will join me here – I think they would be an excellent fit and hope they will join the team. I think a lot of them have been snapped up quickly. The support from across the wider industry has been fairly overwhelming.”
Brotherton said it was a ‘huge blow’ when he heard Tamburrini & Wishart was being closed down, as he put it, out of the blue with no time for adjustment.
“When we heard the news at Cameron House it was shocking. I’ve known Paul and Martin for 10 years, and they knew half an hour before the team did. There was a lot of shock and disappointment.
“It was an amazing team at Cameron House that worked incredibly hard to achieve the restaurant that we did. My main focus was how the team was, how they were dealing with things and looking after them. I was fairly confident that I could roll with the punches and land on my feet, which obviously I have now.
“I was disappointed with how Cameron House dealt with it obviously, it would’ve been nice to shake hands and go: ‘this isn’t working any more, let’s withdraw at the end of the year’.”
Banks declared himself ‘thrilled’ to be able to step in to offer a new platform for Zack to showcase his talents: “It’s horrible when a restaurant closes – as an owner or as head chef, you feel such a responsibility to your team that seeing them fall apart when it’s over is just the worst thing.
“Like in this case – it’s in no way Zack’s fault but I know how he would have felt watching it happen. It’s so difficult and especially when it comes out of the blue and happens instantly,” said Dean.
“Dan and I really wanted to help and we felt Zack as soon as we spoke was a guy we wanted to work with – his concern was for his team. We asked Zack if we would help him or any of his team right away. Zack is a hugely valued addition to our team and we always want to add good people to our group.
He stressed: “If you can help people, do so. Please. We all need to stick together.”
Zack said he was loving life at the Pompadour after two weeks: “All the food is incredibly tasty at The Pompadour. There is beautiful produce, sourced from the best suppliers possible.
“Talking to Dean and Dan was great but when I tried the food it sealed the deal. There has been a lot of support from Dan and Dean where it’s needed. The key is learning style, how to put his touches on the food and keep it on brand. We all seem to be seeing things the same way and everything fits.”
Zack added: “It’s super important that businesses that can help out where they can support and look after the staff as well as they can. It’s quite a scary time for hospitality and we all need to stick together.
“I was already very passionate about working as progressively and as forward thinking as we can. It’s something that we spent a lot of time working on over the last few years at Cameron House and something that I definitely want to continue as long as I am in the industry.
“It is important to retain the talent that we have and allow the team the best life that we possibly can within the circumstances. Unfortunately you can never get away from the antisocial hours of the industry, that is just life.But we can definitely work around that and try our best to manage the hours of the team as well as we can.”
A spokesman for Cameron House – which reopened in May 2021 following a major fire – told BBC Scotland that it had followed legal redundancy procedures, but multiple affected staff have gone on the record challenging that claim.
Speaking from trade union Unite, lead hospitality organiser Bryan Simpson said the hotel management had ‘refused to consider reasonable alternatives to redundancy’ before ‘steamrollering’ the closure.
“This confirms to us that the company has no intention of considering any alternatives to avoid mass redundancy, in complete contradiction to well established employment law.”
In its statement, Cameron House said: “We concluded it was no longer viable for the restaurant to remain open.
“Prior to reaching a final decision, we consulted with all 12 team members and conducted a process of redundancy consultation in line with UK legislative requirements.
“We were able to offer seven of the team positions of the same level within Cameron House. Three accepted and four chose not to remain in our employment. All members who are eligible will receive redundancy payments in line with UK law.”