Film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner has died.
Winner, who divided the hospitality industry with his barbed restaurant reviews in his Winner's Dinners column for the Sunday Times, was 77.
He had been suffering from liver cancer for some time and died at his home in Kensington, London, his wife Geraldine confirmed. Last October, he said on his Twitter account: "Other than being in intensive care, hospital, an asylum, and generally ill i'm having a great time, it should happen to you."
Born in Hampstead, London, in 1935, Winner began his career as a journalist and film critic before joining Motion Pictures Ltd as a writer and editor in 1956. He made more than 30 films and was well known for his action films, especially the Death Wish series, starring Charles Bronson. In later years, he also directed a series of commercials for an insurance company featuring the catchphrase "Calm, down dear!"
In the 1990s Winner reinvented himself as a restaurant critic, writing his acerbic Winner's Dinners column for the Sunday Times for 15 years. During his tenure he famously upset many a chef-proprietor with his flamboyant and often cantankerous behaviour.
Winner was asked to leave Michel Roux Jnr's Le Gavroche for being rude to restaurant staff. "His behaviour was absolutely appalling," Roux said at the time. In addition, Antony Worrall Thompson once described Winner as a "a disgrace to his profession", while Paul Heathcote once said: "He is not good for our trade." French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli went as far as banning Winner from his gastropub, the White Horse, in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
But some restaurateurs and chefs had more positive memories. John Benson-Smith took to Twitter to say: "RIP Michael Winner. I will not forget your visit to Hazlewood ever and the fantastic review you gave us in the Times newspaper."
Two-Michelin-starred chef Michael Wignall from the Latymer at Pennyhill Park in Surrey added: "RIP Michael Winner… I had the pleasure of cooking for him at Michael's Nook. He was a charming man."
Stephen Terry, chef-proprietor of the Hardwick in Abergavenny, Wales, said on his Twitter account: "Sorry to hear of Michael Winner's passing away. Met and cooked for him a few times, at his house with Marco Pierre White] once. A great British man."
Martin Baker, area head chef for the Lindley Group, added: "RIP Mr Winner. Once upon a time I feared you more than the AA, onwards through the gates you once where a food legend, you deserve your place at god's table!"
Paying tribute to her husband, Winner's wife, Geraldine, said in a statement: "Michael was a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life.
MICHAEL WINNER IN QUOTES
"Cooking is not a speciality act. It does not require four men juggling lavatories or a set of trapeze artists."
Winner on celebrity chefs "flouncing abound on television".
"Since the plate decorators and poncified chefs took over, food has not improved at all. It has become pretentious. It has become mini-portions, whose descriptions on the menu take longer to read than the food takes to eat."
"The best thing you could say about this restaurant is that you could hear yourself talk."
"There was no one I knew there. For the 100th birthday party I was expecting royalty, movie stars and major TV people. I did see Gloria Hunniford in the corridor, bless her."
Winner unimpressed by the turnout for London's Ritz hotel's centenary bash.
"I think he's a terrible chef. I went to a restaurant of his 10 years ago and I have never been since."
Winner on Jean-Christophe Novelli
By Kerstin Kühn
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