"I just ran over and grabbed his hand and said, 'You're Gordon Ramsay, I can't believe you've come into my restaurant for lunch'!"
Yael Shochat was left "buzzing, absolutely buzzing" after celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay chose to eat his lunch at her Israeli restaurant, Ima Cuisine, in Auckland yesterday.
"It was so, so wonderful. I couldn't believe it, I really couldn't believe it that he chose me," she said.
After they had just finished their lunch rush, Mrs Shochat was out the back of her Fort St restaurant when a young waiter came running over.
"There he was, this young guy, looking as white as a piece of paper saying, 'I'm not having a heart attack, Gordon Ramsay's here!' and I said, 'What?' and I ran out and he was at the corner table and I grabbed his hand."
Ramsay was lovely, kind and smiling the whole time, she said. And he didn't swear.
The world-famous chef ordered Mrs Shochat's shakshuka dish which is made with homemade sausages.
"I was so glad I made those sausages [that] morning - they're all homemade, but sometimes I freeze them, I don't make them every day."
He also ordered a small caesar salad, which she said made her very nervous because she'd watched him make it many times on television.
"But he told me he liked it all, so it was all fine. It was great."
Ramsay came to her restaurant with three lawyers - some of Mrs Shochat's loyal customers - who are helping to settle a multimillion-dollar legal case out of court.
The Hell's Kitchen star will appear at upmarket store Smith & Caughey's today as an ambassador for Royal Doulton, but spent yesterday in mediation talks with Duco Events.
He is being sued by the events promoter for $2.1 million after cancelling appearances at sold-out charity events in Auckland and Wellington to raise money for Kiwi Matisse Reid. The Napier schoolgirl needs a multiple organ transplant as she cannot eat and needs expensive medical treatment.
Duco director David Higgins told the Herald last night that lawyers had advised him not to comment on the negotiations.
Court documents say Ramsay charged $100,000 to appear at the charity dinner for the Chance to Eat Trust in June 2010. But his mother had a heart attack and he cancelled a week before the fundraiser. The tour was rescheduled to that October but that was also cancelled. The Chance to Eat Trust was in line to receive $200,000, with Duco to pay itself a management fee of $250,000 plus GST.
Ramsay arrived on Sunday night and posted a Twitter picture of the sunny weather, saying: "Room with a view. Love Auckland. Glorious."
He is understood to be staying at Mollies in St Marys Bay and also dined at Euro, the restaurant owned by Masterchef judge Simon Gault.