School fined for giving Muslim student choice she had to refuse

Vocational centre to compensate student after she dropped out of school rather than abide by rule requiring her to taste a dish containing pork

An equality tribunal has ordered a vocational school to compensate a former Muslim student to the tune of 75,000 kroner after pressuring her to taste the dish she had cooked in class.

The student, a young Muslim woman with a Lebanese background, was being educated as a dietician at a school in the Jutland town of Holsterbro when she was confronted in 2010 by several members of staff about having to taste the food. Doing so is in conflict with her religious beliefs and she subsequently dropped out of the school.

According to the school, they did not force the student to taste anything and will appeal the decision to the courts, referring to a 2005 guideline stating that dieticians must taste the food they serve.

“The decision was made on the assumption that we coerced the student to taste pork, but that is untrue,” school director Svend Ørgaard told Berlingske newspaper. “We only pointed out to her that it will be difficult for her to find an apprenticeship if she does not want to taste the food.”

Danish master chef Wassim Hallal, known for his participation on the TV show ‘Hell's Kitchen’, was adamant that a chef should always taste food before serving it, regardless of religious beliefs.

“I hate the taste of liver pâté, and I despise the smell of liver pâté,” Hallal told Berlingske. “But if I am making it for my guests, I taste it, and spit it out again quickly. You have to taste what you serve your guests.”

Hallal pointed out that he would never force anyone to put taste anything, but suggested instead that individuals unwilling to eat certain foods should reconsider their career choice.

The Hotel and Resturant School in Valby, which recently found itself in a similar conflict with one of its students, said that students there were permitted to take cooking classes without having to taste the food.

“Of course it can be a problem if you want to become a master chef and not taste the food for various reasons,” school director Søren Kühlwein Kristiansen told Berlingske. “We don’t pressure them to taste anything, but we try and come up with alternative methods and products for our students.”

The case has not been tried yet in the courts but Ørgaard says it raises a relevant point and looks forward to a decision and a future guideline that concisely lays out proper procedure.

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