Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has told the High Court in London he felt like "a performing monkey" as he built up his restaurant empire while father-in-law Christopher Hutcheson was "up to no good" in the office.
Now at the head of 28 restaurants and a cookery school, Ramsay is accusing his father-in-law of using a ghostwriter machine to "forge" his signature and make him personally liable for the £640,000 (€805,000)-a-year annual rental on the historic York & Albany pub near Regent's Park in London.
The chef is asking a judge to grant a declaration that the rental guarantee is not binding because his signature was used without his knowledge and authorisation when the 25-year lease was signed in 2007.
Mr Hutcheson acted as business manager for the Ramsay group of companies until the chef sacked both him and wife Tana's brother, Adam, on the grounds of "gross misconduct" in 2010.
Film director Gary Love, who owns the York & Albany, has described Ramsay's allegation as an "absurd" attempt to wriggle out of his rental commitments.
Today, in the second week of the court hearing, the chef was asked during cross-examination about emails in which he expressed his unhappiness about what was happening while Mr Hutcheson was managing the business.
Romie Tager QC, appearing for Mr Love, suggested to Ramsay: "You were complaining about him. You thought of him as treating you like a performing donkey - making you overwork away from the office while he was up to no good in the office."
Ramsay said, as Ms Ramsay listened, "Yes", then added he had in fact felt like a "performing monkey".
In order to clarify, Chancery Division judge Mr Justice Morgan, suggested to him his complaint was: "You were doing the donkey work. You were out there working day in, day out while [Mr Hutcheson] had a cushy number at the office where he was able to abstract personal funds for personal gain.
"I am not saying this is true, but this is what you are saying."
Ramsay agreed with the judge. He said the more he had dug into what had happened following Mr Hutcheson's sacking "the worse it got".