Brigadier tastes victory in kitchen battle: Charles Oulton reports on an MoD cook's failure to meet her employer's expectations

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The Independent Online
THE WIFE of a brigadier with a soft spot for steak-and- kidney pie and scrambled eggs - strictly without milk - was yesterday celebrating victory after an industrial tribunal rejected her former Ministry of Defence cook's claim that she had been constructively dismissed.

Penny de Vere Hayes, 40, said that it was important to stand up for principles in life, although which principles were unclear after a case that centred as much on how to make a good lasagne as on contractual obligations between an employer and employee.

Grahame Davis, chairman of the tribunal in Ashford, Kent, dismissed Elaine Ward's case, remarking on the unfortunate fact that when there are two ladies in the kitchen, it is often 'a recipe for disaster'.

The disaster in this instance started almost as soon as Brigadier Guy de Vere Hayes and his family moved into Constable's Tower, at Dover Castle, Kent, in December 1992. After a series of altercations with Mrs Ward, 41, over her cooking, standards of hygiene and economy, the cook resigned, claiming that Mrs de Vere Hayes had disliked her and had obstructed her from performing her duties.

Yesterday, Brigadier de Vere Hayes - who arbitrated in the domestic dispute by fax while based in Bosnia - told the tribunal what an army family was entitled to expect from an MoD cook.

Brigadier de Vere Hayes said that some of the dishes Mrs Ward cooked were 'not of the standard I think would be acceptable. I would not even accept them as mistakes by my wife, although that sounds rather pompous to say'. He said the pastry on his steak-and-kidney pie and that on the quiche would not be cooked; he also recalled a salmon where the hollandaise sauce was curdled.

However, he also admitted that some of her dishes were very good, recalling a chicken biriani which Mrs Ward liked cooking. 'I got the impression that on the big occasions she concentrated and produced a jolly good level of cooking, but on a day-to-day level, her standards dropped . . . she didn't concentrate as much as you would expect of a professional cook.'

A case in point was her scrambled eggs, the brigadier said. 'Her scrambled eggs were a mess of white planted on a piece of toast because she used too much milk. It was swimming in water. It was carried out by a member of staff who said the brigadier is not going to like this. I didn't like it. You don't need forward planning for scrambled eggs.'

Brigadier de Vere Hayes said Mrs Ward was not an easy person to talk to when she was being criticised. 'I can see my wife had a problem, that she was intimidated by her. I find it sad that this whole thing has happened, because I don't think Mrs Ward would have dared speak to my wife in the way she did on 8 July (Mrs de Vere Hayes had challenged Mrs Ward over a lack of green vegetables with a Sunday lunch) over this unhappy business with the vegetables if I had been there.'

After the case the brigadier said he was delighted but not surprised at the verdict.

Mrs Ward said in a statement that she was disappointed, adding: 'I feel I was harshly and unfairly treated.'

(Photograph omitted)

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