Yorkshire Coast chef Andrew Pern shocked over 'child employment' letter from council as his kids help him cook thousands of meals for NHS

A Michelin-star chef in Whitby who is cooking up thousands of meals for the NHS has been falsley accused of employing children - after he was pictured in his kitchen with his seven kids.

Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 2:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 2:16 pm

Chef Andrew Pern, who runs The Star Inn The Harbour, in Whitby, and Mr P's Curious Tavern in York, says he was shocked when he was sent a child employment letter.

The dad-of-seven has closed his two restaurants due to the lockdown and decided to use local produce that would otherwise go to waste to cook 2,500 meals for the NHS.

Without his handy staff at his disposal, Mr Pern employed the services of his seven helpful children.

From left, Olive Pern, 14, Andrew Pern, 50, Louis Pern, 15, William Pern, 14, Tilly Pern, 19, Ferd Pern, 7, and Margot Pern, 3. Photo: Andrew Pern/SWNS

But after they appeared on BBC’s Look North, a furious viewer called North Yorkshire County Council to 'grass' him out for supposedly employing children in his kitchen.

The council's letter said: "It has been brought to my attention that following a recent news interview with BBC Look North it appeared that there were children helping out in your commercial kitchen at The Star Inn, Harome.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to offer you some guidance relating to child employment and have enclosed an information leaflet for your perusal."

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The letter to Andrew Pern from the county council

The bewildered dad took to Twitter to vent his frustrations and called for “common sense” to be used.

Mr Pern, from Harome, North Yorks., said: “When the lockdown happened we still had an itch to do our bit, so I decided to start cooking meals for the NHS with my family.

“It’s a community effort really, our local suppliers send us food and our local taxi man drives the food to the hospitals.

“I have seven children which is quite handy for this sort of operation.

“We were on Look North speaking about what we were doing and someone must have made a complaint.

“It was a bit odd really, we were doing something charitable and everyone was loving it - for someone to go out of their way was strange.

“It’s daft and it felt a bit like a kick in the teeth, especially for my kids who have worked 40-odd hours over the last five weeks.

“I’m not too bothered about it now, but it was just unfortunate.”

The dad-of-seven has been prepping meals for South Tees Hospital in Middlesbrough as well as York District Hospital - where all seven of his children were born.

They have prepared roughly 2,500 meals so far and despite the letter have no intentions on stopping for as long as his restaurants are closed.

Some of the food that has been prepared include a three-course meal consisting of venison casserole, confit carrots and a juniper jus; followed by spinach ravioli with smoked salmon and bronze fennel; and for dessert, black cherry rhubarb upside down cheesecake with a ginger nut topping.

Mr Pern, originally from Whitby, said: “The feedback we’ve gotten has been really overwhelming - we’ve had messages come through which we didn’t expect.

“Nurses who are working God knows how much have taken the time to write to us and thank us.”

A councillor replied to the chef’s original tweet, apologising for the letter.

Cllr Joe Plant praised the family for their work to support NHS staff and said on Twitter: "Having contacted NYCC yesterday, I am now aware someone spoke to Mrs Pern yesterday afternoon to apologise.

"You will also receive a letter of an apology.

"It has been a misjudgment and I am sorry this happened to you when team Andrew are doing an amazing job."

Jane le Sage, assistant director for inclusion with children and young people's services, said: "We would like to apologise for the letter sent to Andrew Pern regarding child employment, which was not appropriate in the circumstances.

"We have a statutory duty to make sure employers are aware of the laws in place to protect children and young people in the workplace - and the council officer involved in this case was doing their job.

"We acknowledge that a letter was not an appropriate response in this case and we have been in contact with the Pern family to offer our apologies."

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