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Housefly Habits In Famous Restaurant Case

January 17, 1989

LONDON (AP) _ Dinner for two costs at least $250 at Le Gavroche, so what is the master chef doing in court, being bugged about flies messing up the food in London’s most famous restaurant?

The prosecution trotted out a 10-inch model of a fly to display in magistrates’ court on Monday, where chef Albert Roux was contesting 15 charges of violating food and hygiene regulations and five under health and safety legislation.

The charges, for which the eatery could face fines, refer to food contamination by flies and the premises being at risk of infestation by rats and mice.

Today, prosecutors dropped one charge filed under the food and hygiene regulations, saying it had been determined there was no problem with the location of the restaurant staff’s bathroom.

Le Gavroche, in London’s chichi Mayfair area, is one of just two restaurants in Britain to hold the coveted Michelin three-star rating. The other, at Bray-on-Thames, west of London, is run by Roux’s brother, Michel.

A health officer for Westminster city council has testified that he saw flies in the restaurant kitchen, attracted by dirty, open garbage bins outside, flying in through open windows and doors and holes in the pantry’s mesh screen.

Dr. Nicholas Burgess, an entomologist and witness for the prosecution, brought in the model of the fly.

He testified that the insect has ″revolting″ eating habits and can cause a list of diseases running to 45 pages. Burgess said these include salmonella, dysentery and conjunctivitis and said flies contaminate food while they eat, mate and lay eggs on it.

There was laughter in court when Burgess added that in the Jewish religion, ″one can kill flies on the Sabbath and a fly in one’s food is grounds for divorce.″

But Burgess said in answering Roux’s lawyer, Timothy Cassel: ″I don’t think any entomologist could find direct evidence of any particular disease caused by a fly.″

Cassel said council health officer Alexander Parker-Brown was ″obviously biased″ and ″eager to prosecute ... One cannot rely too heavily on the objectivity, fairness and judgement of a man who described a chipped (electric) plug as ’serious.‴

Cassel said Parker-Brown’s predecessor had praised the Le Gavroche kitchen and put it in the top category. The kitchen’s alleged deterioration coincided with the arrival of Parker-Brown, he said.

Le Gavroche, said the attorney, is a ″restaurant of which this country can feel proud.″

Cassel said it was inconceivable that in 18 months it could have gone from being a shining example to squalor and a possible candidate for closure, and then back to best again, ″all under the same management.″

Health officers have said they did not find Le Gavroche filthy enough to close, but the bad publicity over the case has been a major punishment in itself.

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