Sharon Anderson, 30, is plagued by constant wrist pain which she claims was caused by carrying out repetitive and delicate tasks

Sharon Anderson (30) suffers from constant wrist pain. She claims it is caused by repetitive, delicate tasks. 

A pastry chef is suing Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant for £200,000 in damages claiming she was left with repetitive strain injury from churning out thousands of chocolate playing cards and whisky wine gums. 

Sharon Anderson (30) suffers from constant wrist pain. She claims it is caused by repetitive, delicate tasks she performs in Bray’s Michelin-starred restaurant.

She was responsible for putting 400 treats per day in small bags with tweezers and racing against the clock to create chocolate playing cards. 

Her lawyers explained to a judge last week that she had been working in a factory as she created the recipes for celebrity chef.

Joel Kendall, her barrister, stated to Judge Victoria McCloud in London that Anderson “essentially was on what was effectively production line.” Ms Anderson has filed a claim for damages from the High Court, London.

Ms Anderson was not injured by Fat Duck Ltd. They claim that her work was normal for pastry chefs in fine dining restaurants and that she received enough breaks.

In 1994, the Bray opened and received three Michelin star nominations. It also earned a reputation for being eccentric with its unique dishes like Mr Blumenthal’s Nitro scrambled eggs and bacon ice-cream.

The virtuoso cook and his protégés have become famous for their culinary experimentation, and the restaurant has a nearby laboratory, where the team concoct their pioneering creations.

Sharon Anderson's lawyers told a judge that the 'fast, arduous and repetitive' tasks meant she was effectively working on a factory floor as she made the concoctions dreamt up for the celebrity chef's kitchen

Sharon Anderson’s lawyers told a judge that the ‘fast, arduous and repetitive’ tasks meant she was effectively working on a factory floor as she made the concoctions dreamt up for the celebrity chef’s kitchen

Her work included putting 400 sweets a day into small bags using tweezers, racing against time to make chocolate playing cards before the chocolate set too hard. Pictured: One of the creations at the Fat Duck, The Queen of Hearts, a jam tart, with chocolate playing cards

She was responsible for putting 400 sweets per day in small bags with tweezers and racing against the clock to create chocolate playing cards. Pictured is one of her creations at The Fat Duck, The Queen of Hearts. It’s a jam tart with chocolate playing card.

Ms Anderson's work included making whisky wine gums between 4-6pm, she says, and she would produce around 550 by hand

Ms. Anderson worked between 6 and 8pm to make whisky wine gums. Her hand would create approximately 550.

The Bray restaurant opened in 1994 and achieved three Michelin stars in a record three years, carving out a name for eccentric genius by serving up dishes such as Mr Blumenthal's (pictured) 'nitro scrambled egg and bacon ice cream'

Bray opened its doors in 1994. It has been awarded three Michelin star in record time.

Ms. Anderson of Letterkenny Co Donegal in Ireland started her career as a commis-chef at the restaurant. In June 2014, she claimed that her injury resulted from being forced to do repetitive, hard work.

What’s a repetitive strain injury?

The term repetitive strain injury (RSI), is a generic term that describes the discomfort felt in muscles and nerves due to overuse and repetitive movements.

This condition is also called work-related upper-limb disorder or non-specific lower limb pain.

The condition mostly affects parts of the upper body, such as the forearms and elbows, wrists and hands, neck and shoulders. 

RSI symptoms may vary from mild to severe. They usually appear gradually. They include pain, aching or tenderness, stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness 

You might not notice any symptoms at first if you are performing a repetitive activity.

RSI symptoms can be a constant and more painful condition if they are not treated. Sometimes, swelling can occur in the area affected. This may persist for several months. 

RSI can be caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons on the upper body.

Certain things are thought to increase the risk of RSI, including repetitive activities, doing a high-intensity activity for a long time without rest, poor posture or activities that involve working in an awkward position. 

From June 2014 to December 2014, her initial 6-month stint was where she performed food preparation tasks that required manual dexterity and were under time pressure.

Before she moved to chocolate playing cards, her role was to individually wrap sweets and place them in cellophane bag.

Anderson placed each sweet individually in a cellophane bag and used tweezers to do so. Anderson claims that she “wrapped” around 400 different sweets per day.

Each mould produced 12 chocolate playing cards. They weighed more than a kilogram and could be made from metal or plastic.

Ms. Anderson held the mold in her left handed, with her hand upturned and her wrist extended. She would then use her other hand to scoop out chocolate.

According to Ms. Anderson, the mould finished weighted around two kilos and she aimed at producing around 180 cards each day.

She also had to “demould” and trim the cards using a paring blade to “perfect them and remove excess chocolate.”

In court papers, her attorneys claim that the “process had to have been completed under time pressure in order to ensure it did not take too long before each chocolate was set in its moulds.”

According to her, then, the kitchen shift was switched to whisky wine gum production between 4 and 6pm. She would make approximately 550 of them by hand.

Ms Anderson was there to help the restaurant move from Melbourne in Australia, January 2015. The Bray buildings were also renovated.

She claims that her work was similar to Bray’s from February 2015. However, there was pressure on her to deal with more molds due to the cards melting quicker in warmer weather.

She began to feel pain in her forearms after complaining about it in June 2015. Her physiotherapist told her that the pain could be due to her repetitive and long-hour work.

The pain caused her to temporarily stop work, but she resumed three months later at Bray, where she worked until November 2015, when she finally gave up.

The Fat Duck opened in Bray in 1994 and achieved three Michelin stars in a record three years

Bray’s Fat Duck was opened in 1994. It has received three Michelin stars and remained open for three more years.

Again, her role in the Fat Duck’s final phase included tasks like ‘handpiping whisky wine Gums’ or wrapping Petit Fours Sweets.

She also claimed that she spent one week making mushroom logs. This required her to “pinch creases into 500 sugarsheets per week with her fingertips”.

According to court records, she is now experiencing’significant wrist pain’ after performing manual tasks.

She has had to deal with recurring issues such as driving, lifting heavy objects and cooking.

The lawyers for Ms. Anderson claim that the restaurant did not provide adequate rest or support and “required” her to work in time-pressured environments throughout the day.

The Fat Duck denies all claims. He points out that Ms Anderson was moved to lighter duty after complaining about her chocolate patisserie.

Defence lawyers claim that there was no risk to her work triggering an “upper limb disorder”. The techniques she used are also well-known in haute cuisine.

She was not overwhelmed by her workload and received all support and assistance that she needed.

John Williams, the lawyer representing John Williams at the restaurant claimed Ms Anderson was not supported by medical evidence.

According to him, her claim was unique because of the fact that she had been working as a pastry chef and had undertaken such tasks that it involved an upper limb disorder.

Following a short court hearing Judge McCloud adjourned proceedings and directed a conference to manage the case for May 2022 in preparation of her claim.