A bitter taste for Egon Ronay as he goes to battle with his publisher

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The Independent Online
Egon Ronay, the food critic whose name is synonymous with gastronomic excellence, has two priceless assets: his tastebuds, which he once insured for pounds 250,000, and his reputation, carefully nurtured for most of a lifetime.

The latter, he believes, is now under threat from the company that owns the best- selling restaurant guides bearing his name.

A High Court writ issued by Mr Ronay against Global Infocom Ltd alleges that the company failed to pay promptly the inspectors who tour Britain filing reports for the guides.

Several were kept waiting months for their expenses and fees, according to the writ, with some owed more than pounds 2,000.

Mr Ronay said yesterday that adverse publicity about the inspectors' plight had tarnished his reputation. "I feel that the credibility of the guides has been undermined and that it reflects poorly on me," he said.

"I have always been known for my reliability and integrity. I earn my living on the basis of my good name, and now it has been soiled. This is an unsavoury situation with a bad odour, and I wish to divorce myself from it."

The writ says that a report last month in Caterer and Hotelkeeper, the trade publication, suggested that the 1998 edition of the flagship volume, Egon Ronay's Guide to Hotels and Restaurants, was in jeopardy because inspectors were refusing to visit any more establishments.

Mr Ronay founded the guides in 1956 and ran them for nearly 30 years. In 1985, he sold them to the Automobile Association, which in turn sold them to Leading Guides Ltd, now known as Global Infocom.

In a licence agreement. Global Infocom publishes the guides under Mr Ronay's name. but the licence reverts to him if certain conditions are breached. He resigned as a consultant to the company in May.

Some of the inspectors have written to him, asking him to help them to recover money allegedly owed to them. They were recently paid their out- of-pocket expenses, he said, but as of last Friday were still awaiting their fees.

"This is all very depressing because the guide was my baby," said Mr Ronay, whose lawyers are still calculating the level of damages he is to seek. "I created it from nothing and it has become an institution."

No one was available from Global Infocom yesterday to comment on the writ.