COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Top Danish restaurant Noma on Wednesday said it was wrong to threaten interns with a global blacklist if they failed to live up to the celebrated kitchen's code of conduct, blaming a single employee for the "mistake".
"It's a clear mistake on our part," Noma spokesman Peter Kreiner said.
Aspiring chefs from around the world flock to volunteer at the Copenhagen-based restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, working without pay for up to 15 hours a day in the hope that it will further their careers.
Before arriving at Noma the interns receive an email outlining the award-winning eatery's "philosophy" - which some are finding hard to stomach.
"If your tenure ends early without consent, or you don't show up, your name will be on a blacklist that will be shared with other restaurants around the world, with whom we share a good relationship," the letter to the interns said, according to a copy sent to the daily Jyllands-Posten.
"We do not allow blogging or publication (online or otherwise) about your activities at Noma. If you do not comply with this rule, you will be expelled immediately and your name will be added" to the list, it said.
Noma claimed the letter was the result of "a mistake" by an individual employee, and said it had never blacklisted any of its staff.
"We have never threatened any of our employees with being put on a list, and we never will," Mr Kreiner said.
Earlier this year an American man said he had worked 16 to 18 hours a day during his internship at the restaurant in the Danish capital, where he slept on a couch in a room he shared with two others.
Mr Kreiner said working hours at Noma varied from one day to the next, but that those doing a work placement "generally do shorter days" than those on its payroll, who can put in 15 hours or more.
Unpaid staff make up around a third of the restaurant's workforce, and not over half as claimed in one newspaper report, he added.
The scandal is just the latest in a string of setbacks for Noma, which lost the title of the world's best restaurant in April this year after three years at the top.
In March, 63 diners were left suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea after eating at the restaurant, after which Noma was criticised by the authorities for failing to take adequate action when a kitchen worker fell sick.
Noma, which serves up unusual dishes such as "blueberry and ants" and "cauliflower and pine", charges 1,500 kroner (S$343) for a menu without drinks.