Firebrand butcher Jack O’Shea is to open his first Irish steakhouse in Brussels before the end of March — by which time he hopes to have settled his public spat with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
Tipperary-born Mr O’Shea claims he is owed over €40,000 in unpaid invoices, dating from 2006 to 2012, for meat supplied to Mr Blumenthal’s three-star Michelin restaurant, The Fat Duck, in Berkshire, England.
Mr Blumenthal refutes the claim, while Mr O’Shea says the chef still has another 21 days to honour the invoices, at which time Mr O’Shea’s solicitors will instigate court proceedings.
In 2012, Mr O’Shea was forced to close his butchers operation at Selfridges, when the high-end chain secretly filmed him selling banned foie gras in its London store. At the time, Mr O’Shea said: “I will probably lose my business over it, but I couldn’t give a damn. My conscience is clear.”
The controversy related to animal rights activists who were protesting against the sale of foie gras — a food product created by force-feeding geese until their livers become enlarged. Selfridges also cited cross-contamination as well as labelling issues.
Mr O’Shea says the foie gras scandal revealed a lot of hypocrisy, with many people happy to eat it, but not in public. “This whole experience has been part of the sickening cycle of London PR,” he said yesterday.
“I have been fighting with Mr Blumenthal ever since ‘foie gras-gate’. It has been a real lesson. I thought it would bury me, but it hasn’t.”
Since the controversy, Mr O’Shea lost most of his business, but never declared himself bankrupt. “After being thrown out of Selfridges, it has cost me €300,000 to clear all my debts. I could have walked away and paid no one.”
From 2006 until 2012, Mr O’Shea supplied his clients in London with Aberdeen Angus beef from Kepak in Watergrasshill, Co Cork. His beef is now supplied by John Tait in Whitegate, Midleton.
A spokeswoman for Heston Blumenthal said the chef did not want to comment on the dispute. She did, however, offer some background on “this quite bizarre situation”.
“We are not in any legal dispute with Mr O’Shea, we have no correspondence regarding any kind of claim or legalities from him or anyone representing him.
“Our last correspondence with him was over six months ago and, to our knowledge, all invoices were settled. We stopped using Mr O’Shea as he had parted company from Selfridges for poor hygiene. At that time, Mr O’Shea had no business that we could deal with and we sourced an alternative butcher whom we are very happy with.”
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