Top Bordeaux restaurateur Jean-Marie Amat has been sacked and his staff have come out on strike.

Workers at the Hôtel St James in Bouliac, Bordeaux, are picketing the main entrance in protest at the dismissal of the chef-director and former owner.

In true gréviste style they have set up braziers and are cooking merguez, the spicy sausage traditionally eaten on the picket lines.

Amat – who runs what amounts to a mini-fiefdom of the St James hotel and restaurant, the Café de L’Espérance, an épicerie and a bistro – was sacked last week by owner Jean-Claude Borgel. On Wednesday morning 48 out of 60 staff downed tools.

The strikers’ demands are straightforward – they want to know why Amat was dismissed at very short notice, leaving them without a head chef and unable to effectively run the prestigious 80-cover restaurant and 120-cover bistro.

‘We are still looking for the reason,’ head waiter Jean Guylan Dupuy told decanter.com.

Dupuy said it was unlikely Amat would be given his job back but the strikers are determined to find out why Borgel should jeopardise the running of one of the best hotels in Bordeaux. A meeting with Borgel is fixed for Monday.

‘We just want to know what he intends to do with the hotel. It is not possible to run the restaurant without M Amat,’ he said.

Borgel took over the running of the hotel and its satellite businesses in 1992, after it went bankrupt.

He told decanter.com he sacked Amat because of falling revenues and because under his tenure the restaurant had lost one of its Michelin stars. He added he and Amat had worked well together for many years but lately relations had deteriorated.

Borgel also said he did not believe the restaurants were unable to function without their chef.

‘Mr Amat told everybody that, but I am going prove the opposite,’ he said, adding he already had someone in mind to take over the position. He is convinced most of the strikers will return to work when he has explained the situation.

Amat himself is not available for comment but it is understood he is taking his case to an industrial tribunal.

Written by Adam Lechmere23 February 2002