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Fortune outrages stallholder

posted Oct 8, 2010, 5:44 PM by Chris Fortune

A top chef has been compared to Gordon Ramsay in a row over membership of a farmers' market.   New Zealand Hell's Kitchen winner, restaurateur and Marlborough Farmers Market chairman Chris Fortune is under fire from former stallholder Jamie Arbuckle.

Arbuckle, a fulltime grower, said he believed Fortune's behaviour was similar to that of Ramsay's in some of his TV shows.

"Three weeks ago he eyeballed me at a meeting, yelled at me and asked me to leave. He's a big guy and gets very aggressive and can't control his temper."

Arbuckle is angry about being denied membership of the weekly Sunday morning sale in Blenheim.

His latest application will be assessed by the committee tomorrow.

Fortune said Arbuckle had been refused permission to sell asparagus at the market for six years because his produce wasn't up to the committee's standards. Arbuckle, who claims he has been on the outer for only two years, says his produce is of a sufficient quality to be sold.

Fortune said he wanted the matter to be handled by the committee following "due process".

"We're not going to deal with it through the media, we're going to deal with it through our own regulations, which is we don't allow people to sell products of inferior quality.

"All markets have criteria and if you do not fit that then there are plenty of other options that vendors can sell through.

"If you bring any organisation into disrepute then there is a due process that must be followed - not slander, allegations and hearsay."

Fortune, who also chairs Farmers Markets New Zealand, has also been criticised by chartered accountant Patricia Clay.

Clay claimed she was told her services were no longer required after six years of volunteering.

"My jaw dropped open when he told me a firm in town would be taking over the accounts. I felt I had been kicked in the guts.

"I feel it is because I have challenged him on matters of procedure and policy. The floor should elect who they want but Mr Fortune doesn't like that - he likes to run everything his way."

Fortune said Clay had not put herself forward for nomination. The accountancy firm had - and their nomination would be assessed by the committee, also tomorrow.

At the peak of the season the market features 60 stallholders and attracts thousands of customers each week.

Fortune said he was delighted by the election of a new committee of "positive people interested in growing the market and not sideswiping it".

He has been running kitchens for 15 years, including his own restaurant and seafood cooking school, and is currently executive chef at the Heartland Hotel and Marlborough Convention Centre.

The 34-year-old won Hell's Kitchen in 2003, produces his own range of preserves and pickles, and has worked with Kiwi super-chef Peter Gordon at his London restaurant.