Thanks to the latest edict from famously eccentric leader Kim Jong-il, North Korea's ruling elite can now enjoy the country's first-ever Italian restaurant, which opened in December in the capital Pyongyang, according to a sympathetic newspaper published in Japan.
In a stark contrast to the diet of the vast majority of the population, which has been plagued by famine, the more affluent end of North Korean society is now able to enjoy pizza and pasta made with wheat flour, butter and cheese flown in from Italy. ‘General Kim Jong-il said that the people should also be allowed access to the world's famous dishes,' said the restaurant's manager, Kim Sang-Soon. By people, he of course means a very small portion of the populace.
The development hasn't come easily. Despite having a pizza obsession himself, Kim isn't exactly the type to spot a gap in the market and steam in there with a Starbucks-style cluster-bombing approach to franchises. True to form, the research for his restaurant goes back to the late 1990s, when he summoned a team of Italian pizza chefs to the capital to instruct army officers in the way of pizza making. Which must count among the more memorable work jollies out there.
The leader's quest to perfection even led one of the officers to ask the chefs to specify the exact distance at which olives should be spaced on a pizza. And he was right to be so pedantic: Kim apparently arrived to inspect his officers' progress himself. Clearly he wasn't very impressed, because he ended up sending chefs to Naples and Rome to learn more; which, for a bunch of North Korean cooks, must have been one hell of a work trip too.
Kim finally gave the restaurant the green light last year - after around a decade of development. Who knows, by 2019 they may even have garlic bread.
In today's bulletin:
Sir Fred Goodwin has already taken £3m advance, says Myners
Could the Post Office become the Post Bank?
Debenhams positive despite sales fall
North Korea claims slice of the action
Trust in your management style