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How a three-name chef ended up in court

AN EXTRAORDINARY case is going on in the High Court at present, in which one of Britain's top chefs is being sued by a customer at his restaurant. Mr Ernest Thesaurus of Woking claims that when he went to eat at the fashionable Septentrion restaurant in Knightsbridge he was subjected to an experience that caused him lasting mental distress. What happened was that...

But perhaps an extract from the court case will explain it better. We start where Mr Thesaurus is being cross-questioned by the opposition.

Counsel: Now, Mr. Thesaurus, I gather you had booked a table for two at the Septentrion on 17 July last?

Thesaurus: Correct. For my wife and myself. It was her wedding anniversary.

Counsel: And yours too, I take it?

Thesaurus: No.

Counsel: No? You and your wife have different wedding anniversaries? That is most unusual.

Thesaurus: It is the anniversary of her marriage to her first husband. He died in an accident. She likes to remember him at least once a year.

Counsel: I am sorry.

Thesaurus: Why are you sorry?

Counsel: It must be a very melancholy anniversary.

Thesaurus: Not at all. It is a very jolly occasion. Her first husband was a most unpleasant fellow; she was glad to see the back of him. Well, we both were. So we wanted a good meal to celebrate.

Counsel: And that is why you booked at the Septentrion?

Thesaurus: Yes.

Counsel: Because you knew of the reputation of Oskar Louis Polo, the chef who runs the Septentrion?

Thesaurus: No. In spite of the reputation of Oskar Louis Polo.

Judge: If I may interrupt, Mr Crowther, did I hear you right? Is the name of this chef really Oskar Louis Polo?

Counsel: Yes, my Lord.

Judge: Is that his real name?

Counsel: I am not sure, my Lord. Judge: It does not seem likely that someone would be equipped by his parents with three names, one German, one French, one Italian.

Counsel: But such names are fashionable among chefs today. One famous one is called Marco Pierre White.

Judge: What a mish-mash of nationalities. Is that his real name?

Counsel: I would doubt it. I imagine that chefs' names today reflect their culinary habits, by taking the best from several national cultures. Marco Pierre White is an international name in the same way that a German venison casserole with choucroute and polenta might be a dish blended from different sources.

Judge: It sounds disgusting.

Counsel: It is disgusting.

Judge: I see. Carry on!

Counsel: You say, Mr Thesaurus, that you booked at the Septentrion despite the reputation of Oskar Louis Polo. Could you explain that?

Thesaurus: Certainly. I have found from experience that when you go to a restaurant run by a celebrity chef, the standard of cooking is very variable. A celebrity chef is always off doing TV programmes, or lucrative private functions, leaving his restaurant to its own devices.

Counsel: And on those occasions the cooking lapses dreadfully?

Thesaurus: On the contrary. It is when the celebrity chef is present that things go wrong. He gets slapdash, or throws tantrums, or causes a crash of morale in the kitchen. But when the famous performer is away, often the younger members of the kitchen staff try harder.

Counsel: I see.

Thesaurus: So when I rang up to book a table, I asked if Oskar Louis Polo would be there that night, and they promised he wouldn't be, as he had some state dinner to oversee in Paris. But when we turned up at the restaurant, I could sense immediately that I had been misinformed and that the great man was unfortunately present.

Counsel: How could you tell?

Thesaurus: There was a lot of shouting going on in the kitchen, and at one point Polo came out and screamed insults at one of the diners.

Counsel: Did this upset other diners?

Thesaurus: No. They gave him a round of applause. He is famous for insulting his customers. Many come simply to be insulted, or watch it happen to others.

More of this epoch-making court case tomorrow, I hope.