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Heston Blumenthal Is Threatening to Sue This Tiny French Bistro

The owner of The Fat Duck in Confolens, France received a letter from the celebrity chef’s legal team requesting that he change his bistro’s name.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
March 14, 2016, 12:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Andrew Kneebone

Heston Blumenthal has been a busy man of late. Working "22 hour" days to open restaurants on the other side of the world, cooking for astronauts, and taking down clean eaters can't leave many free evenings. It's a wonder he finds the time to infuse elderflower berries with the perspiration of ovulating dust mites—or whatever it is he does to unwind.

One thing the celebrity chef has managed to make room in his busy schedule for, however, is threatening to bring legal action against seemingly innocuous bistros in southern France.

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It emerged this week that Jason Annetts, chef and owner of The Fat Duck in the rural French village of Confolens, had received a cease-and-desist letter from Blumenthal's lawyers.

READ MORE: An Italian Man Is Suing His Wife for Not Cooking Enough

The problem? "The Fat Duck" is also the name of the celebrity chef's three Michelin-starred restaurant in Berkshire, England, which is known for experimental dishes such as snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream. According to Blumenthal's lawyers, owner Annetts must change the name of his joint to prevent confusion between the two.

Annetts, who moved to France from England last year and opened his Fat Duck in November, was pretty confused. Speaking to The Times, he said: "I thought [the letter] was a joke at first. This is really way over the top. What threat am I to them? I am really upset."

He added that the bistro's name was chosen in honour of his one-year-old daughter, whose first word had been "duck," telling The Daily Mail: "It's a tribute to my daughter, that's all. I wouldn't want to copy anyone else, that's unthinkable."

Annetts' offer to amend his restaurant's name to "Le Fat Duckling" has been turned down by Blumenthal's legal team, despite his argument that he cannot "afford the time or the money" to change the name outright.

READ MORE: Heston Blumenthal on Obsession and Food TV

A spokesperson for The Fat Duck defending this hardline stance, telling The Independent: "With a global following and a reputation that we have worked hard to establish, it is important for everyone, but most importantly our guests, that there is no confusion."

The Fat Duck didn't explain exactly what kind of "guest" confuses a bistro serving ten quid coq au vin with a restaurant housed in a 16th century building that charges £225 to eat shellfish while listening to crashing waves and serves dessert from a £150,000 mechanical sweet shop.