Eat Here Now

God Save the Chef!

Only 300 people stand between Wesley Berger and the throne.

By Jason Cohen May 19, 2009 Published in the September 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

EVERYONE WHO DINES at Gino’s Restaurant in Sellwood gets the royal treatment. That’s because 40-year-old Wesley Berger, the chef at the traditional Italian eatery, is the great-great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria (who was the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch, ruling from 1837 to 1901). And that means he’s in line for the British throne—right behind about 300 other people.

“My family is right after all the princes and princesses and counts and countesses start petering out,” Berger says. “We’re the block that doesn’t have any kind of title.”

But a couple of generations back, his family was properly royal. Berger’s grandmother was Princess Caroline Matilda of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is now known as the House of Windsor) and his mother, Calma Cook, “grew up playing in castles” in Germany before moving to the States when she was 22. After World War I, Matilda’s father, Charles Edward, lost his British peerage, since he’d fought against the British as a member of the German Army. (He later became a prominent member of the Nazi Party.)

“It’s kind of a convoluted story for someone working in a Portland restaurant,” Berger says. “I should be more glamorous.”

Not really. After all, his chances of actually becoming king are pretty slim. The farthest down the line anyone’s ever been before ascending to the throne was George I, in 1714, who was 52nd. (Thanks to a bit of gerrymandering, Georgie boy was chosen over the Catholics ahead of him to ensure that a Protestant would reign.) And, Berger doesn’t need glamour, anyway: The bespectacled and sideburned chef, a quintessential Portlander who rides his bike to work, clearly would be more of a people’s king.

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