Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (1/11/12): Who is she, and what about that hotel and that chef??

In our continuing series of remarkable women in remarkable places at remarkable times, meet Margaretha Zelle.  
She was a bit of a free-spirit, widely known for her exoticism, her willingness to be au naturel at a time when that was a tad scandalous, and she was equally well-known for her terpsichorean talents.  

She had a bit of a complicated passport, born in the Netherlands, but living for some time in Asia, and visiting much of Europe. 

Unfortunately, she was arrested for treason at a hotel while in Paris, tried and then executed by firing squad. 

Today, at this same hotel, the current executive chef also has a complex passport.  He’s a bit of a celebrity chef who is also well travelled and has an exotic country as his home.  But he has not, so far as I know, posed au naturel, but I have no doubt that he has served Asperges au Naturel in his fine dining establishment.  

Our question for today:  What is the citizenship of the current executive chef at the hotel where Margaretha was arrested? 

It's a bit of detective work to follow the chain.  But it's of medium difficulty.  Be sure to say how long it took you to figure it out! 

For extra credit, what TV series used this famous hotel for a set?  

And for BONUS extra credit, what color dress was the lead actress wearing when she stepped out onto the balcony and first saw the Eiffel Tower? 

Search on! 


  1. Alain Ducasse - Monaco

    Sex in the City

    Sarah Jessica Parker - black/white

    10 minutes

    Cara Jensen, St. Louis Missouri

  2. Alain Ducasse holds the nationality of Monaco since 2008 (French before that).
    Sex & the City used the hotel for a set.
    The only convincing stills I can find show a black and white striped dress, but that might not be the first appearance on the balcony.

    Under 5 minutes (helped by recognising the picture of Mata Hari), mostly Wikipedia

  3. This took me 7 minutes to get all the answers including the extra credits.

    A Google search on "Margaretha Zelle" led me to the wikipedia entry on Mata Hari, which had a section on her arrest at the Hotel Plaza Athenee. This led to a wiki entry on the hotel which tells us the current chef is Alain Ducasse. Following the link to the next wiki entry, we found out that he is currently Monegasque (has Monaco citizenship).
    (This part took about 5 minutes.)

    For the extra credit, going back to the wiki entry on the hotel, there is a reference to "Sex in the City" as a TV series that used the hotel as a set.

    Then, searching Google with "sex and the city plaza athenee" took me to YouTube which had a video of Carrie Bradshaw in the described scene in a black and white dress.

  4. question: Alain Ducasse holds Monégasque citizenship. Ducasse's wikipedia page.

    extra credit: Sex and the City. Plaza Athénée's wikipedia page.

    bonus extra credit: c'mon, man...

    explanation: I recognaized mata hari, then was just follow wikipedia pages. First hers, then the hotel's, after that the hotel's site to find out about ducasse. Then ducasse's own wikipedia page. 3 minutes total time.

    bonus extra credit:
    Carrie - Ext. Balcony (17): Top: Blue/white striped Sonia Rykiel sweater; Skirt: Black/white striped Sonia Rykiel; Coat: Blue sequined; Shoe: Manolo Blahnik; Hat: Black Chanel with pearl; Purse: Crème Judith Leiber with rhinestone handle.

    After surfing around for 5 minutes found out that series' page has the fashion credits. So 7 minutes just this one.

  5. The Hotel is Plaza Athenee in paris
    The Chef is Alain Ducasse who is Monégasque but formerly French.
    Sex in the City used the hotel in their tv series.
    And Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) wore a black and white dress when she stepped on the balcony.

    The search took about 90 seconds Starting with a search for Margaretha Zelle which lead to her wikipedia page and following links through for the hotel, Ducasse, Sex in the city. After I found the tv series I searched sex in the city Plaza Athenee scene to find a video of the dress.

  6. The hotel, I believe, was the Hotel Plaza Athénée, where Mata Hari was arrested. The executive chef there is Alain Ducasse, originally of French citizenship, but now a citizen of Monaco.

    Sex and the City used the hotel in its final season (ugh!). The dress, worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, was a black and white striped number.


    The main answer took me about 5 minutes, while the extra stuff tacked on another 2-3.

  7. Search wikipedia for Margaretha Zelle
    Hit the page about Mata Hari
    Found she was arrested in the Plaza Athénée in Paris

    Google for " PLaza athenee Chef Paris"
    Hot the page

    The chef is Alain Ducasse, French (I am french also)

    Search wikipedia for Plaza athenee Paris
    Found that the TV series is "Sex and the City"

    Search Google : "plaza athenee paris sex and the city balcony scene sarah jessica parker dress"
    you see a picture from the movie, on the balcony : Black and white Dress

    Took me 6 minutes

  8. Alain Ducasse is a Citizen of Monaco.

    Carrie from Sex and The City was wearing a black and white dress.

    The search took less than five minutes. Most of the time was watching the clip to verify the Eiffel Tower detail.

  9. Alain Ducasse is currently a citizen of Monaco, although he was born a French citizen.

    Sex and the City filmed at the Plaza-Athenee hotel, where Margaretha (Mata Hari) was arrested.

    Not having seen the movie, and based on a quick search, I think Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing a green dress when she stepped onto the balcony.

  10. Alain Ducasse, executive chef at was a French citizen by birth. However, on 17 June 2008, he became a naturalized citizen of Monaco. He chose Monegasque citizenship in order to take advantage of the principality's very low tax rates. (about 2 minutes to find this)

    The last episode of Sex and the City was shot at the hotel Plaza Athénée where Alain Ducasse is the executive chef. (about 1 more minute to find this)

    Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing the following the first time she stepped out onto the balcony and saw the Eiffel Tower:
    Top: Blue/white striped Sonia Rykiel sweater; Skirt: Black/white striped Sonia Rykiel; Coat: Blue sequined; Shoe: Manolo Blahnik; Hat: Black Chanel with pearl; Purse: Crème Judith Leiber with rhinestone handle
    (took about 2 minutes to find a picture but about 20 minutes to find confirmation that it was the right scene without seeing the show - used the credits from

  11. Took about two minutes. A quick wikipedia search on Mata Hari (who I recognized) gave me the hotel Plaza Athenee's wiki page (which also gave Sex and The City as the TV series). Alain Ducasse is the chef there. A wikipedia search on him reveals that he is a French citizen by birth, but became a naturalized citizen of Monaco in 2008 to take advantage of the taxes.

    Google search of Carrie Bradshaw in Paris gave me several images of dresses from the episode filmed there. The only one that looks like it was from a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower was a black and white top with a cream and black striped skirt. The other option was a red dress with black polka dots.

  12. Citizenship: Christophe Saintagne, reports him as born in France, I assume that's still his citizenship
    TV Series: Sex and the City
    Dress Color: Black and White (Here's the scene on You Tube:

    When I saw the picture, I thought it was Mata Hari. Her wiki page gave the hotel name, a little work to get the chef name, I was only able to find where he was born, not his current citizenship. The wikipedia page for the hotel mentioned Sex and the City. Then searching for "sex and the city paris Plaza Athénée carrie eifel tower" in Google Images gave pics of the scene and Google Video gave the actual scene. I looked for video because I couldn't tell from the pics if they were actually from the scene.

    Total Time: about 20 minutes while in a boring meeting.

  13. My mistake, I neglect to check Alain Ducasse's passport and it appears he's now from Monaco (from google : "nationalite alain ducasse" and then first result)

  14. I instantly recognized the woman as Mata Hari (by name and picture) before doing any search. The information that she was born in the Netherlands further confirmed it.

    Then I searched for "Mata Hari" (without quotes) and found out about the Plaza Athénée hotel in her Wikipedia entry (first search hit). The Plaza Athénée reference is a link to its own entry, where I found about Chef Alain Ducasse.

    Ducasse's own Wikipedia entry informs us that he is a naturalized Monégasque citizen (originally French).

    For the extra credit, Plaza Athénée's Wikipedia entry also informs that the hotel was used as a setting for HBO's Sex and the City.

    For the bonus extra credit, I made a video search for "Sex and the City Plaza Athénée" (without quotes). The first search result is a YouTube video of the scene mentioned in your question. Sarah Jessica Parker's dress is black and white.

  15. Alain Ducasse is a Monégasque (Principality of Monaco)

    I found it within 1 minute. I immediately recognized Mata Hari on the picture (I live in the country where she was born; her history is part of our basic education). Wikipedia gave me the further answers.

    The hotel (Plaza Athénée) was featured in the final season of HBO's Sex and the City.

    In that scene she wears a blue/white striped sweater (Creator/Designer: Sonia Rykiel) and

  16. I knew that was Mata Hari already so that saved a bit of time. Probably two minutes or less to get to "originally French, now Monegasque" for question 1. I believe I searched "mata hari hotel paris", "hotel plaza athenee executive chef", and "alain ducasse" to get to his Wikipedia page.

    The bonus questions were a lot more work and brought my total to about ten minutes; I searched on Google for things like "TV series set in paris hotel" fruitlessly before going to the hotel's Wikipedia page and finding someone had noted Sex and the City being filmed there. I then image-searched "Carrie Bradshaw Eiffel Tower" and "Carrie Bradshaw balcony paris" without any luck before going to Youtube and finding it in the second video I tried. Black and white and tragic all over.

  17. Too easy! Google search on Margaretha Zelle brought the wikipedia article which mentioned the hotel, Googling "Plaza Athenee Executive Chef" brought Alain Ducasse, and the Wikipedia article on Alain Ducasse reveale his citizenship as Monaco. All in less than 60 seconds. Another minute turned up "Sex and the City" as the likely TV series, but no amount of money could convince me to go to youtube and actually watch enough of that garbage to come up with a dress color.

  18. I found this in 5 minutes. Searching for Margaretha Zelle brings up the Wikipedia article for Mata Hari. Within that article, it states she was arrested at the Plaza Athénée, where Alain Ducasse is the chef currently. By following the link to his article, it is stated that he was born in France, but now is a citizen of Monaco.

    Also, the same article about Plaza Athénée stated the last season of "Sex and the City" was shot here.

    By searching "Sex and the City" Plaz Athenee, there is a link to a YouTube clip of Carrie walking onto the balcony. She is wearing a black and white striped dress.

  19. The picture of Mata Hari was a great help. So after 5mn I found that the executive chef at the Plaza Athénée is Philippe Marc ( He was born in France at Besançon. So he is a french citizen.
    Confusion maybe possible with Alain Ducasse who is THE chef, not the executive chef though. :)

  20. Very easy one, under couple of mins. Followed the links on Wikipedia after searching for Margaretha Zelle, and a google search to find the video. Would have been difficult if her name wasn't disclosed.

  21. Alain Ducasse is from Monaco, but was born in France. I delved too deep and tried to find the actual chef's (Christophe Saintagne's) nationality, since Ducasse appointed him to the restaurant. Sex and the City filmed there, and the lead wore a black and white dress. This one was really easy. I've studied World War II and have some books and I knew about Mata Hari, but I had some trouble remembering her stage name even though I recognized her.

  22. OK here goes...
    Google "Margaretha Zelle"
    The first hit is the Wikipedia article Mata_Hari which reads "...arrested in her room at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris."

    "Hotel Plaza Athénée" is a link to another Wikipedia page.
    Clicked that link and read "Alain Ducasse chose the Athénée for his haute cuisine restaurant."


    "The hotel was featured in the final season of HBO's Sex and the City."

    "Alain Ducasse" is a link to another Wikipedia page.
    Clicked that link and read "Ducasse was a French citizen by birth. However, on 17 June 2008, he became a naturalized citizen of Monaco."

    Main question plus extra credit completed in 1 min 21 sec

    Google image search for "Plaza Athénée Sarah Jessica Parker"

    No good prospects found.

    Google image search for "Plaza Athénée sex and the city"

    The first hit is a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker standing on a balcony wearing a black and white striped outfit. The Eiffel Tower stands in the background (though I can't be sure that this scene was of the time she first saw the Eiffel Tower.)

    Bonus Extra credit 59 sec

    Total time: 2 min 20 sec

  23. Experience and results were much the same as most of the above, but I was somewhat puzzled by the various other references to Mata Hari being arrested not at the Plaza-Athénée but rather the Hôtel d'Elysée-Palace. This is somewhat borne out by the account in the book "Femme Fatale: Love, Lies And The Unknown Life Of Mata Hari" by Pat Shipman which is partly visible at this Google Books link:
    According to Shipman, Mata Hari had, by the time of her arrest moved out of the Plaza for the cheaper Castiglione hotel and later for the even cheaper Elysée. It's still not clear but the answer may lie in yet other accounts which claim she was arrested "outside" 25 Avenue Montaigne, which it turns out is the address of of the Plaza-Athénée. Perhaps she had being making a house call.

  24. Well, I think you all got it wrong (even you Mr Russel)… Mata Hari was not arrested at the Plaza Athénée (Avenue Montaigne) but at the Élysée Palace (Avenue des Champs-Élysée) which is now the headquarter of HSBC France bank as French Wikipedia puts it : "Six semaines après son retour de Madrid le 13 février 1917, le contre-espionnage français fit une perquisition dans sa chambre de l'hôtel Elysées Palace sur les Champs-Élysées (actuellement siège de la banque HSBC France)" another reference here: (strange enough Wikipedia in french (or italian) and Wikipedia in english disagree on that information).
    That Élysée Palace hotel is not to be mixed up with the Élysée Palace, official residence of the French "Président de la République".

    So the bottom line could be that it's good to at least understand one or two foreign languages in order to cross check your search results.

  25. Well done "passager". I agree that there certainly appear to be discrepancies in the various accounts of her arrest, but I wonder on what basis you claim "... you all got it wrong." The account you cite offers no source for the Elysées Palace being the scene of her arrest that I can see and is therefore no more reliable than other versions at the moment. Games like this are fun and in the end history may not give a fig exactly where Mata Hari was arrested, but there are other measures of good searching, like cross-checking, reliability of sources, vested interests. It's also good practice, where necessary, to flag up the possibility that a fact may be unclear or in dispute. In this respect Wikipedia is unusually good in that it allows editorial changes, flags disputes and cites evidence. In this case there are no such caveats, presumably because it's of little import to the story ... at the moment.
    It's human nature to not let facts get in the way of a good story and the Plaza Athénée has been happy to trade on the "fact" that Mata Hari was arrested there. Similarly, when the Emir of Qatar's property empire announced plans to take over and revive the Élysée Palace they were trading on her arrest and reports that her ghost still walked the corridors.
    So as well as speed etc. I would be interested to hear what benchmarks readers and researchers here would consider sufficient to cite something as a fact. In this case I suppose there must be official police reports that would name the scene of her arrest. I'd settle for that or a book or source that quotes that. But even then, not necessarily so, since we are in the world of espionage, state security in the midst of a World War.
    Facts are slippery creatures.

  26. Christophe Raoux, executive chef for the historic Grand Hotel in Paris.

    He is probably still keeping his french citizenship or could be a citizen of Monaco.

    Interestingly he is friends with Alain Ducasse

  27. Alain Ducasse is the executive chef of the Hotel Plaza Athénée and a citizen of Monaco. The hotel was used as a set in Sex and the City, who's lead wore a black and white striped dress when she stepped out on the balcony and saw the Eiffel Tower.

    About 5 minutes with Google and Wikipedia.

  28. @Michael Brunton : I was just thinking that what's important when searching is to find the right answer to the right question. And it's a common attitude to bend the facts to make them fit the data we have or to stop searching when we encounter the first result that agrees with what we think we should find (we all do that, don't we?). In that case there's a thread of facts that leads to the common result (Ducasse, Plaza Athénée…) but what if the first assumption is false? (that MH was arrested at the Plaza Athénée), this could lead to a completly different answer.

    I did some more search and it appears that _I_ was wrong. It looks like MH was indeed arrested at the Plaza Athénée. From the official police report : "La fille Zelle Marguerite, dite Mata Hari, habitant au Plaza Palace Hôtel, de religion protestante, née en Hollande le 7 août 1876, taille 1,75 m, sachant lire et écrire, est prévenue d’espionnage et de complicité d’intelligence avec l’ennemi, dans le but de favoriser ses entreprises." quoted by an historian who had access to the sources ( So, finally, everything's allright. (I tried to check that in 1917 the Plaza Palace was really the name of the Plaza Athénée, but didn't find any answer, that seems to be a very difficult search.)

    Facts are indeed slippery creatures.

  29. Hotel athenee, Paris, black and white dress.

    1 minute