A quip about poisoning the Premier's food proved to be a recipe for disaster for Elbow Beach chef Anthony Reynolds, who was thrown off the island on Wednesday.

Mr. Reynolds resigned from the swanky South Shore hotel after staff took offence to a 'joke' he made about putting arsenic in Premier Ewart Brown's meal at a party last Friday.

Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess, in a statement issued to the Bermuda Sun last night, said he acted swiftly after receiving complaints from the public. He said after being "fully informed" of the incident, he determined Mr. Reynolds was "undesirable by any civic evaluation or standard" and instructed his officials to "remove the man from the country forthwith."

Mr. Burgess said Mr. Reynolds's comment was "tantamount to an act of terrorism, a criminal act of a most heinous nature." He also said that after Mr. Reynolds resigned, his work permit and residence in Bermuda were "no longer valid or legally tenable."

Mr. Burgess's full statement is included at the side of this story.

As we first reported on our website on Wednesday, Immigration officials escorted Mr. Reynolds to the airport on Wednesday morning and forced him to leave the island.

The story continues to develop, but yesterday we spoke to Mr. Reynolds's friends, who want to put the record straight about what really happened at the hotel.

This newspaper, along with other media, received an e-mail on Monday from a Bermudian Elbow Beach worker who claimed Mr. Reynolds had "stimulated uproar" throughout the hotel after allegedly saying he should "put arsenic in the Premier's meal."

We were initially told the comment was made in front of several people, but we have since learnt there was only one person present, a waiter. When the waiter asked which plate was the Premier's, Mr. Reynolds quipped: "That one there with the arsenic in it."

Chefs we spoke to yesterday conceded it was a stupid thing to say, but that anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen knows all sorts of things are said in the heat of the moment. "He certainly didn't deserve to lose his job over it," one chef said.

The Premier's office denies Dr. Brown had anything to do with the deportation. Multiple sources tell us the Saudi hotel owners, who enjoy a good relationship with Dr. Brown, were so upset that they wanted Mr. Reynolds out.

Senator Wayne Caines, Dr. Brown's chief of staff, confirmed to us yesterday that he went to the hotel after he heard about what had happened, but that he did so of his own free will and not on the Premier's instructions.

All he would tell us yesterday was: "As the chief of staff of the Premier of Bermuda I went to the Elbow Beach Hotel and had a private and civilized talk with the management." Mr. Caines stressed that despite what happened, Dr. Brown and the Government maintain a good, healthy relationship with the hotel management and staff.

Hotel managers, meanwhile, refuse to comment. Donald Bowman, the director of operations, said: "It's a closed matter."

So did authorities over-react?

Mr. Reynolds is a 48-year-old from Melbourne, Australia. He has nearly 30 years' experience cooking in some of the world's finest hotels and for several world leaders, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for whom he prepared food in her own home.

He came to Bermuda in October 2005 to work as an executive chef at Elbow Beach. He is married to Betty, an Ethiopian, who we understand left the island last night to be with her husband in London.

Mr. Reynolds has won awards for his culinary skills. References on his website suggest he is very well respected. One, by a Fred Neumann, a general manager at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon, Burma, reads: "Throughout all the time that I have known Anthony, he was particularly diligent and conscientious in his duties. He is a good team player, his leadership and enthusiasm stood him well and earned him the respect of his subordinates and peers alike."

Here in Bermuda, chefs who know him say he is a likeable and outspoken character, but he should have known better than to make a comment about poisoning the leader of country's food.

One chef said: "It was a very foolish thing to say, no doubt about it, but I would assume it was a 'chef in the heat of the moment' kind of remark."

He said he has talked to a lot of other chefs and they all feel the same way - shocked.

He said: "Anyone who has watched Gordon Ramsay or who has worked in a kitchen knows how stressful it can be, but I know that in the States, you would never say anything about putting something in a leader's food - you'd be in deep trouble."

Nevertheless, he said chefs definitely feel that the authorities over-reacted. "It's a crying shame really and it makes me wonder if there was anything more behind it.

"Chefs are scratching their heads saying 'this is a bit much,'" he added.

Mr. Reynolds's friends, meanwhile, are trying to come to terms with his sudden departure.

One who we spoke to yesterday said they resented the Elbow Beach waiter for over-reacting to what was clearly a joke. "They will all have their day in hell," he said. "It's ludicrous and so sad that these people can be allowed to potentially ruin a man's 28-year career."

The Bermuda Sun understands Immigration officials went to Mr. Reynold's apartment on Wednesday morning and told him he had to leave the island. Hours later he was on the Delta flight to New York without his wife and later flew to London.

Dr. Brown issued a statement on Tuesday night, before Mr. Reynolds was effectively deported, saying he was "deeply saddened" by the incident.

"I deem this hospitality property to be one of the premier resorts in the country. I consider this an isolated situation and this incident will not diminish my support for that hotel, he said.