UK celebrity chef and proprietor of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, Heston Blumenthal has closed his three-Michelin-starred restaurant after he started receiving phone calls three weeks ago from unwell diners.
The symptoms described by 40 diners are sickness and diarrhoea, common to food poisoning, but none serious enough to be admitted to hospital.
National Health Inspectors from Windsor and Maidenhead have been called in and have so far found nothing linking The Fat Duck to the symptoms. Another theory doing the rounds is that diners are merely suffering from norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, a common seasonal complaint.
In a video interview Blumenthal expresses regret over the situation but he is also confident that the correct procedures have been followed, which includes the closing of the restaurant, to try and find out exactly what caused the illnesses. He told the Times Online "It's so weird – we haven't found anything. But I can't take the risk of keeping open until we have exhausted every single avenue."
Was it the snail porridge?
Whether it be a non-specific virus or the snail porridge, Blummenthal may never know, but he says that every restaurant on the planet gets the dreaded "food poisoning" call at one time or another. The important thing is to have the right cooking systems in place and methods for checking the whole food chain – from vetting suppliers to the way the food is handled all the way through to the customer.
Blumenthal hopes to reopen the restaurant this week as the closure has had a big financial hit on his establishment. The Fat Duck serves 400 covers a week with a tasting menu for £125 and an average spend of £200 per head. Compound that with a two month waiting list and you do the math.
So far patrons have been very forgiving and come out in defence of their national treasure – one woman in particular even going so far as saying "I was one of those affected and it left my friends and I weak after the initial illness. However I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience and wouldn't have missed it for the world."