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The Fat Duck 2009


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The BBC is now reporting that 400 customers have reported being sick!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/berkshire/7927715.stm

That's 5 days worth of bookings - sounds very worrying

Now then, I have been on this earth long enough to be a little cynical about 400 people,

suddenly and mysteriously claiming to be ill

Something does not smell right here.

Its so easy now for an unscrupulous individual to jump on the bandwagon,for perhaps

kudos or worse still,the promise of a free meal.

Stuff like this would kill most business's.

I think there's a fair few things that probably don't smell too good here David :laugh:

But yes - you do wonder. The thing is, if it were an airborne virus, surely some of the staff would have caught it as well? I don't know, I just hope they get to the bottom of it ASAP (pun not intended)

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That's exactly what I thought, David.

Even aside from that, I can't help but feel that a lot of people, both in the business and outside, were and are just DYING to take a pop at HB.

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Don't want to be cycnical (well, actually I do) but I would not be surprised if a number of diners on the nights in question have heard/read that Heston has said he's going to give those who suffered the suspected food poisoning something special if they come back and are now throwing their hats into the ring on the expectation that Heston's going to give them a special Victorian garden with deep fried insects, or virbrator-enhanced absinthe jelly as an apology... (cf HB's latest TV show, of those who haven't seen it).

Winter is a pretty normal time for gastro viruses to be kicking around, isn't it?

PS

Edinburgh

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The flipside of all the new people reporting illnesses is that sometimes people have a mild problem - or pre-existing medical conditions - or figure maybe they had too much to drink - and simply chalk up their experiences to bad luck. Since I have GI problems - that is what I do most of the time. But when my husband and I both get sick - then we know it is probably not my GI problems - but something we ate.

Of course - there will always be some people who are faking. But even if someone assumes a 50% "fake rate" (a rate which I consider unlikely in the UK - I've been there about 6 times and it always seemed to be a pretty honest country to me) - the numbers are still worrisome.

FWIW - if I were a health official - I would be in the foie gras factory tomorrow - and investigating the fresh produce sources. Maybe the cheese sources too. Perhaps I am mistaken - but isn't March too early for any produce to be obtained locally in the UK? What country does it comes from? Here in the southeast US - much of our produce (whether produced locally or in countries in central or South America) - is produced under unsanitary conditions. When you don't have porta-potties in the fields - well where do you think people go to the bathroom? And that doesn't even take into account unfenced fields which local animals use as bathrooms. I would still bet better than even money that the problem was caused by food that was bad when it arrived in the restaurant. Robyn

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I think the whole sorry episode is pretty sickening. Now 400 hundred people suddenly fallling ill, via FD?. I don't believe it for a minute. Is this the ultimate price HB has to pay for daring to be successful? Its usually the British way isn't it, anything more than mediocre simply won't do. Any excuse to jump on the f..king bad wagon, lets do it. Sure there will be people telling the truth etc but 400!!!!! I geninuely feel sorry for the bloke, all the losers and down right spiteful shits that he now has to put up with :angry:

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It's entirely possible that there are other explanations.

Thanks for the link Margaret.

I think it's real issue and one that the online food community is ideally placed to discuss when the rest of the traditional media are not.

Be glad to hear what anyone else thinks of this.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Depends. At some places (Foliage, Alimentum) I feel fine even after a heavy meal.

Some places (anything vaguely following traditional French style, foie gras etc.) leave me completely stuffed and sometimes feeling ill (and at the same time completely extatic) for a couple of hours (after which it goes away). Even with the enormous Midsummer House tasting menu, never had any problems. Part of the problem is that I continue eating even well past the point of being full whilst my partner usually stops when she is full (which makes it even harder for me because, well, you can't let an apricot tarte tatin with almond ice cream go to waste, it would be criminal! and then those damn petits-fours!)

I've only been ill once (after a 2*) and the symptoms definitely pointed to proper food poisoning (2 days later, felt ill for a week after etc.). It was worth it though.

Gluttony is fantastic.

Also very interested to see what other people's experiences have been.

And I hope the FD reopens since we intend to go in place of a May Ball (much better value for the same money).

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I was fine after the Fat Duck, but have certainly had some experiences bordering on the painful following large and elaborate meals. Especially if there's been wine matching involved.

The pacing of meals often seems to make this worse. A meal this year at Fishmore Hall in Ludlow had us asking for a break as the speed of the courses being served was far too fast and made me feel like I was going to explode. This wasn't the case with Fraiche, the Fat Duck and el Bulli, where they seemed to understand how to serve a multi-course menu a little better.

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The obvious candidate is Winter Vomiting or Norwalk Virus or norovirus, which has been widespread this year

For example a customer has the early stages, goes to the toilet and does not fully clean up, which is hard to do. Toilet handles, taps, door handles, anything they touch are all contaminated, and spread the virus to other customers, but not the staff, who use different toilets. By the time the virus hits the contaminating virus has died on the surfaces, so does not register.

Nothing the restaurant can do or could have done

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Re Margaret's message - I had previously mentioned the possibility of people getting sick from eating too much rich food. That has happened to me before once. And once was enough. So now I eat in moderation.

Also I'm not sure what Michelin stars have to do with hygiene. Michelin inspectors dine anonymously. They don't show up and say - "Hi - I'm here from Michelin and I'm here to inspect your kitchen." When I read our local restaurant health inspection reports - there seems to be absolutely no correlation between the type of the restaurant (fine dining versus fast food - etc.) or the quality of the food - and the marks a place gets in terms of its health inspection.

BTW - I have not read any articles which give the timeline over which people became ill. Was it over a period of a couple of days - or weeks - or months? The Norwalk virus is killed by cleaning with things like a chlorine disinfectant. Something that would/should be done nightly in a place like a restaurant. In a closed environment - like a cruise ship or nursing home - people who become infected can then spread it to others. But - in restaurants - people who get infected go home - and don't infect future restaurant patrons (unless they happen to be friends). So - in a restaurant setting - if it's a Norwalk virus or the like - one would expect all of the cases to occur in a relatively compressed period of time. Robyn

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Not at all. The standard incidence for gastroenteritis according to http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/154/7/666 is about 283 incidents per 1000 person years, or which 11% are norovirus related.

During an outbreak maybe 1% of the population is affected; serving something like 70 covers a night you might expect one infected but as yet symptomless person dining every 2-3 days.

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Not at all. The standard incidence for gastroenteritis according to http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/154/7/666 is about 283 incidents per 1000 person years, or which 11% are norovirus related.

During an outbreak maybe 1% of the population is affected; serving something like 70 covers a night you might expect one infected but as yet symptomless person dining every 2-3 days.

I will take your word for it - because I lack the expertise to dispute what you said.

FWIW - I got sick as a dog last night as a result of eating something. But what and where - who knows? I had lunch at a nursing home where I attended a yahrzeit (memorial) service (in the chapel) for my late mother. Then did food tastings at Whole Foods while shopping there. Then I had dinner at our golf club. Got sick about 30 minutes after getting home from dinner. Who knows what did me in? Robyn

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Has anyone read this story in Le Monde? It's in french, of course, but what it basically says is that Heston Blumenthal, like a couple of other chefs in Europe, uses quite a lot of "unusual" ingredients... The article (signed by Jean-Claude Ribaut, le Monde's food writer) also mentions a book written by a German journalist and published in Spain (No quiero volver al restaurante !), in which he explains that there's a project called INICON, funded by the European Commission, in order to promote "innovative technologies in modern gastronomy for the modernisation of cooking". Apparently, a German lab called TTZ has been and/or still is in charge of developping specific chemistry for chefs. What do you think?

"Mais moi non plus, j'ai pas faim! En v'là, une excuse!..."

(Jean-Pierre Marielle)

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Well, the author literally accuses the food industry of using Heston etc. as promoters of "cheap irrational ingredients" which "generate generous margins"...

Don't think it's Heston that got the local Chinese take-away to put MSG in the food... (mmmm, MSG...)

Although his calling Restaurant Magazine's ranking of the "best restaurants in the world" as "a simple notoriety test with no credibility" was highly amusing. It is true that the best classical chefs don't really appear high in the rankings.

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The bottom line is is the food good or not. Is it fun or not. Is the experience enjoyable or not.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Yes, any news on the status of The Fat Duck? :shock:

I have a friend who is going to France with her husband to eat marvelous food for a few weeks. They planned a detour to the UK for the sole purpose of eating at Tthe Fat Duck. Of course, they made their reservations about 7 weeks ago. They leave at the end of the week and have heard nothing from the restaurant, which under the circumstances seems a bit strange. :huh:

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Well, the author literally accuses the food industry of using Heston etc. as promoters of "cheap irrational ingredients" which "generate generous margins"...

Don't think it's Heston that got the local Chinese take-away to put MSG in the food... (mmmm, MSG...)

Although his calling Restaurant Magazine's ranking of the "best restaurants in the world" as "a simple notoriety test with no credibility" was highly amusing. It is true that the best classical chefs don't really appear high in the rankings.

you've misread the article - it makes no mention of Restaurant Magazine's awards but rather the "palmares mondial" which is apparently sponsored by the chemical industry to promote use of their products.

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