Wolf dressed sheep clothing. To cut a long story short, I left my job as Elton Johns chef and went to Venezuela.

You can’t pull wool over my eyes!

These were the golden years of the 80’s with a society composed of many rich and millions of poor.

The rich knew that the poor were there, but took the nonchalant attitude of “the poor are poor, we are sorry for them, but there you have it”

When I say rich I mean very rich! This was my opportunity to open a cooking school for rich housewives that had nothing better to do.

I sailed through immigration red tape by paying a back-hander of $2000 in return for Venezuelan ID, drivers license, business license and gun license, all in one neat package. Much more practical than queuing for days at the respective government departments and ending up having to pay anyway, Corruption, bring it on!

I made a deal with an important ad agency that had their offices on the first floor of a villa, leaving the huge kitchen on the ground floor unused, that I would provide meals for their boardroom in exchange for using the kitchen rent-free for my cookery school that I was to name “Centro de la nouvelle cuisine”.

I soon attracted quite a few groups of bored housewives, although I did assume that they gave the lesson notes to their maids at home.

One particular student was the wife of banking magnet, the multimillionaire José Joaquín González Gorrondona Jnr, known as JJ,

He owned the largest banking conglomerate in South America, the Banco Nacional de Descuento or the BND, as well as banks in Miami, his own private island in the Caribbean, a three story penthouse in New York’s ultra luxury Olympic Tower complete with helipad, the largest hotel casino in the Caribbean-the Concord in Aruba and a second hotel on Venezuela’s Margarita island. Of course also a stunning mansion in Caracas and a fleet of private jets.

JJ proposed financing a fine dining restaurant which was to be named Patrick. I was dispatched  on a shopping spree to New York where I was able to buy anything my heart desired for equipping the restaurant. And I did!

At this time the President of Venezuela was the all powerful and feared Carlos Andres Perez, who did a fine job of raping the countries’ coffers, as had done all of his predecessors.

For many years the countries’ currency, the Bolivar was tied to the US$ at 4.30 Bs to the $.

Then came black Friday when it was announced that the Bs would no longer be linked and overnight shot to 9.30 to the $. Many jumped out of their windows to their deaths.

JJ, having got wind of black Friday before it came about, emptied the BND of all funds, transferring billions to his Miami banks, of course at the long held 4.30 exchange rate. 

JJ’s downfall began by his having an affair with  Carlos Andres Perez’s mistress. When Carlos got wind of it, he showed up at JJ’s mansion with his full retinue. JJ answered the door dressed in a bath towel and an ugly scene ensued.

The very next day Andres Perez sent a bevy of auditors to the banks main branch and closed it down, the depositors having already lost their funds at any rate.

JJ promptly boarded his jet and fled to NY where he remained in comfortable exile, a warrant for his arrest dangling over his head, but no extradition treaty

Arrival of the “Sheikh” in sheep clothing:

A private jet arrived at the Carlota airbase, nestled among the skyscrapers in mid Caracas city . A Jordanian prince disembarked with his full harem, taking over an entire floor of Caracas’ posh Tamanaco hotel.

His full entourage later also visited my restaurant, so I got to meet the sheikh in the flesh.

During his short stay in Venezuela the sheikh  contacted  JJ in new York and expressed interest in purchasing JJ’s Hotel on Margarita island. This got him trembling with excitement as the hotel was a white Elephant that he had been trying for years to palm off.
His “wanted” status prohibited them from meeting in Caracas so they agreed to meet at JJ’s Aruba Concord hotel.

The sheikh then promptly departed for Aruba leaving a giant hotel bill unpaid.

JJ had called ahead to the hotel manager, instructing him to avail the sheikh of the best VIP accommodation and also to afford him of any casino marker should he wish to play. JJ would arrive the next morning from NY.

The sheikh  duly requested a marker for $1 million and hit the tables. He played black jack for a short while then claimed he was tired and wished to retire.

He cashed in his chips, or rather JJ’s chips, and left Aruba never to be seen again!

The “Jordanian prince” was actually a Venezuelan dressed in sheikhs clothing, with a rental jet out of Fort Lauderdale!

Whilst the million was small change for JJ, he did not take getting egg on his face very lightly at all and apparently went into somewhat of a deep depression and sulking mode.  Caveat emptor!

Friends of Elton John

Patrick Restaurant Caracas

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