There’s an ongoing — and productive — conversation happening in Los Angeles surrounding the culture of tipping, mandatory service charges and the imbalance in pay scales between front and back of house employees. But employee imprisonment and human trafficking? That’s a whole other OSHA level.
According to the LA Times, a suburban Los Angeles Indian restaurant is under investigation for just such a tactic. Tandoori Grill, inside the Valencia Mart Shopping Center, has a respectable 3.5 stars on nearly 150 Yelp reviews, but it’s a safe bet that none of the customers enjoying their daily lunch buffet had any idea that the steam table food was being prepared by, essentially, a slave.
The unnamed victim is an Indian national who was lured to America in hopes of earning a better life. Instead, according to the L.A. County sheriff’s department, Tandoori Grill owner Pardeep Kumar routinely beat and imprisoned the chef, forcing him to work grueling 14 hour days with no contact to the outside. His passport was confiscated, and he was forced to live in squalid conditions at Kumar’s own home.
Thankfully, the insidious plot unraveled when a former employee of Tandoori Grill returned to Mumbai and informed the chef’s brother of the abuse. The brother informed the sheriff’s department halfway around the globe, and the entire ordeal quickly came to light. Kumar is now in jail facing down a $100,000 bail, while the victim hopes to prosecute before returning to his native India.