35 – Bad News Week

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Oh dear. My week has just gone from bad to worse – or rather, much worse. And I can’t quite believe what has happened. You’ll remember, of course, that a few weeks ago I had purchased – for a not inconsiderable amount – the exclusive rights to all restaurants and eating establishments on the moon. Because of the promised cities which I had been told by the sales agent, Mica O’Manna, would certainly be built in the coming years. And as such I paid him – in good faith – a down payment of $100,000 to his Cayman Islands’ PayPal account. And I have been waiting since then for my Certificate of Ownership.

Well yesterday, it all unravelled. There is no Certificate of Ownership, there is no Mica O’Manna, and there is no exclusive contract to restaurants on the moon. It turns out O’Manna was just a con man. And he certainly conned me.

How did I find out? Well… and oh dear God this is painful admitting it, but I found out from Carotene Half, owner of my local rival, The Bologna Pony.

It was towards the end of a busy lunchtime shift and as the last of my customers was leaving, my front door opened and in walked Half himself. I was surprised but not overly so as I thought he had simply come to gloat about The Chronicle’s recent exposé of Jack Spratt and my pigeon problems. But I was wrong. (I wish it had just been that).

I, of course, was courteous to Half and offered him an espresso and as he settled back to drink it he started to tell me a story about how he had been approached by a latino Irishman (guess who?) last month (last month!) with a cock-and-bull story about how he could sell him exclusive rights to all restaurants on the moon. At which point, Half started laughing uncontrollably and explained that he had physically kicked O’Manna out of his restaurant and half way down the road. Such a poor con artist, he said, that it had only taken Half five minutes of Googling to discover that Mica O’Manna had a history of such attempted cons and was wanted in Brazil, Nicaragua and Costa Rica for similar nefarious acts.

By the time he had finished the story he had such a look of glee on his face that I knew he knew that I had fallen for the con. (I guess he does read my blog after all). He spent another ten minutes mischievously telling me to watch out in case O’Manna approached me, then thanked me for the coffee and pretty much danced out of the Sausage looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

I went into my kitchen and slumped down in the corner. I was still there when my sous-chef came in for the evening service.

But do you know what? What is even worse than falling for Mica O’Manna’s con, what is worse than hearing about it from Carotene Half, and actually what is worse than potentially losing a lot of money, is the fact that that damn conman went to Half first before approaching me! I wasn’t even the first chef he had tried this on. What did that say about his view of The Smoked Sausage?

I’m guessing I haven’t got a hope of getting the money back.

34 – Bad News Day

It seems that I shouldn’t have been quite so open about my relationship with Jack Spratt. But it’s too late – I am now in trouble.

It all kicked off yesterday after my blog, when Spratt himself came round to see me after service, fuming and ranting and saying I was a f****** idiot and I didn’t know what I had done. But before I could begin to defend myself, there was a heavy knocking on my door and Spratt legged it out the back. It turned out to be the Animal and Plant Health Agency (who knew?), coming to ask me questions about the pigeon Spratt was providing me. No sooner had they gone than the police turned up. And the rest is now well chronicled history.

But in case you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, here is the full story as reported yesterday but the local rag.

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The only person who will really enjoy reading this is Carotene Half. He must be pissing himself laughing, or whatever the equivalent Italian colloquialism is. I know I would be if it was him in the paper. God, what I wouldn’t do to see that.

In the meantime, as predicted by the erstwhile Chronicle, squab is indeed off the menu.

33 – TV Squab-bles

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We filmed the latest episode of Christoffel Cooks yesterday – without Ainsley Harricot, it should be said, after his latest admissions, as even the producer realised he had blown his opportunity of cooking with me – which involved me cooking game. Like most chefs, I love a good duck, a capercaillie or two, or some partridge; and I’m particularly fond of pheasant, especially pheasant roadkill as surely that is the best way to use such tragedies.

But I also love cooking pigeon and I have been serving up pigeon on my menu for many years. Roast pigeon, bbq pigeon, pigeon pie, pigeon 5 ways, pigeon wings (mmm), pigeon heart (a real delicacy) – you name it, we’ve probably pigeon’d it.

This is of course farmed pigeon – or squab to you as a diner – and we get all our birds from our local farm run by farmer Jack Spratt. Yes, I know, I didn’t believe that was his name either when I first met him but I promise you it is. He runs an amazing farm as far as I can tell, although I’ve never been there, but he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of pigeon – he must know how to breed them really well. He also seems to do it on an incredible budget as they are certainly quite cheap. Not that I’m complaining; I just accept the sacks of birds he leaves me late at night. Round the back. Where none of my other chefs go.

However, when I suggested cooking pigeon on the show, the TV company got all twitchy. Apparently, an Italian chef was recently accused of cooking wild pigeon on Italian Masterchef and nearly got into big trouble with the Italian Institute for the Protection of Animals and the Environment. And Mad4Food TV were very nervous about me falling foul of the British version. I assured them that Jack Spratt’s pigeons are all legit but then they insisted on him providing daft things like certificates of proof and allowing them to see his coops. Understandably, in my opinion, Jack didn’t let them – trade secrets and all that.

In the end we settled on – can you believe it – using pigeon from the local Waitrose. I sometimes wonder if I am selling out.


Beycope on the Moon update: I am still extremely excited about my new business opportunity where I have bought exclusive rights to owning all restaurants on the moon. However, I have to say that I am wondering where my Certificate of Ownership is? Mica O’Manna, who sold me the rights, promised me it would be with me by now. I even phoned him at his Cayman Islands office yesterday but he wasn’t around. I hope there’s no problem.

32 – Barko Pierre White

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My recent experience with Ainsley Harricot sneaking round the back of my restaurant late night has made me think that we need some extra security. And what better way than to employ a “security guard” who will never complain, always be loyal and can even chase away the local cats.

Yes, we’ve got ourselves a dog for the Sausage.

He’s a rescue dog from the local rescue centre and was apparently gifted there because some old dear couldn’t cope with him any more. But the rehomer from the centre assured me he is a perfect dog and has no “issues”. Not sure what she meant by that, although she did go into a coughing fit just after saying it so maybe she wasn’t feeling too well herself.

I’m sure he’ll be happy with us. And as I feel I ought to name him something appropriate for his environment, we have named him Barko Pierre White; Barko for short. If he’s half as scary as his namesake then we should have no problem from anyone.

He can protect us from those mad animal activists too.

30 – Unveiling the Mole

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You’ll remember that only recently I almost caught someone who was rifling through my restaurant’s bins late at night. At the time I thought it must be the mole sent by Carotene Half, owner of the so called contemporary Italian restaurant, The Bologna Pony. And I had thought I had seen Ainsley Harricot running away in the moonlight.

Well, tonight the mystery was solved.

It only happened because Mad4Food TV broadcast my Biscuit Special two days ago, the episode which had of course not yet broadcast several weeks ago and yet Carotene Half had somehow found out weeks ago that I had, er, mentioned him in the programme. Then last night, one of my occasional regulars, Black Cab Trev, came to eat at the Sausage. He only eats here when he has done one of his early morning ‘special trips’ to Felixstowe to drop something off at the port. He never tells me what he drops off and I don’t ask (and nor, I suspect,does he).

Anyhow, Trev told me that he had seen my programme “on the box” and then he knocked me out with the following: “Not only that, Mr B, but then I remembered where I had seen your co-presenter before, Ainsley whatsisname. Right in the back of my taxi only a week or so ago. Strange it was, ” he continued, “Cos it was real late at night and I wondered who would want picking up round here at that time who I didn’t already know. Right outside your restaurant too. I didn’t think much more of it at the time, but then last night I clocked him again on your TV programme.”

Well, to say you could have knocked me down with a feather, Trevor, would have been absolutely true. I couldn’t quite believe it – Ainsley Harricot was the mole after all.

I made sure of it today when we had a production meeting to discuss next months’ programmes and I asked Harricot point blank if he had been at my restaurant the other night – and he didn’t even try to deny it. Just shrugged and said he’d been looking for something he could “get me” with. Waffled on about how he was still pissed off at me after I served him the dead-live rabbit in an earlier programme. But when I pushed him for more details he wouldn’t say anything. Until I said, “Why did Half put you up to it, Harricot? What were you doing for him?” At which point, Harricot quite genuinely turned pale and stuttered something about needing to leave and literally rushed out of the room.

So although I now know who the mole was, I still don’t really know why. Or what he was after. I don’t believe for a second it was based purely on getting his revenge on me after I made him look a little bit silly on TV. There were plenty of easier ways for him to try to get his own back than coming out to the Sausage late at night and looking through my bins.

I might have to confront Half himself.