The head chef at a restaurant where a student died has admitted a ‘terrible mistake’ had been made by serving chicken marinated in buttermilk to the girl, who had severe allergies, an inquest heard.
Shahida Shahid, 18, from Worsley, told a barman at the Almost Famous restaurant in The Great Northern about her allergies when she placed the order, and she was informed she could have the ‘awesome frickin’ chicken sandwich’, a jury was told.
But she collapsed within an hour and died three days later in hospital, having suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a result of a cardiac arrest.
On the fourth day of an inquest held at Manchester Crown Court, a jury heard how head chef Liam Tse told a police officer it had been a ‘terrible mistake’.
Detective Constable Robert Ashurst, who was on duty at Manchester town hall at the time, went to visit the restaurant in the Great Northern warehouse after hearing over his radio about the collapse in January 2015.
He spoke to the then assistant manager Adam McKenna, informing him one of his customers was in a critical condition, and the two went to speak in a private upstairs dining room, the court heard.
They were joined by head chef Mr Tse and a second chef Mathieu Pierre, known as Matt, who were each in charge of two distinct parts of the kitchen, the jurors were told.
The barman who had taken the order, Reiss Balfour, confirmed to the officer he had dealt with a customer who had allergies to nut, dairy and fish.
The court has heard Mr Tse advised him the customer should avoid the coleslaw and the sauce, but could have the burger.
DC Ashurst said Mr Tse had not monitored the order and when asked why not, he said: ‘I know it was really busy. There was a lot of customers in there, even when I was in there, there were quite a few left.
‘By the time Shahida was eating it was extremely busy.’
Mr Tse could not explain how the order had ‘contained the buttermilk’ but he told the DC it was a ‘terrible mistake and the order could not have been checked properly’, the officer told the inquest.
DC Ashurst, referring to his conversation with head chef Mr Tse, said: ‘That’s what he said, that it was a terrible mistake and should not have happened.’
Asked about how staff reacted, the officer continued: ‘In the police you come across a lot of people. I deal with a lot of death.
‘People are remorseful, upset, and all the staff were really upset about it. They were just so disappointed.’
The restaurant’s kitchen was divided into two, with one side handling the first 20 burger orders to come in and then the other side cooking the next 20.
The jury was told that Shahida’s order was prepared by Mr Pierre’s side of the kitchen.
Mr McKenna, when asked as a witness at the inquest if he thought Mr Pierre should have known about the allergies of the customer, replied: ‘I believe so.’
Mr McKenna added that none of the company’s process had changed since the incident so far as he was aware.
Asked why, he said: ‘The information was all there. It was agreed in a meeting we had the information available to the customers.
‘Staff know to pass that information to the customers and how to communicate that information to the kitchen.’
He said the processes at the restaurant ‘should’ve worked’.
Asked if the system of taking orders was appropriate, Mr McKenna said: ‘Discounting human error, I think if all the systems were followed, I believe yes.’