Ramsay, Gordon

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Ramsay, Gordon

Selected Writings

Chef and television personality

B orn Gordon James Ramsay, November 8, 1966, in Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland; son of Gordon (a physical-education teacher and musician) and Helen (a nurse) Ramsay; married Cayetana (Tana) Hutcheson (a teacher); children: Megan, twins Jack and Holly, Matilda. Education: Studied hotel and catering management at Oxford Technical College, 1983-85.

Addresses: Office—1 Catherine Pl., London SW1E 6DX, England.


A pprentice footballer with the Glasgow Rangers Football Club until 1983; held chef positions at London’s Mayfair Intercontinental Hotel, 1985, Harvey’s Restaurant, 1985-87, and Le Gavroche, 1987-89; also worked in France at Hotel Diva Isola 2000, 1989-91, Guy Savoy, 1991-93, and Le Jamin, 1993; chef and proprietor, Aubergine Restaurant, London, 1993-98; co-founder and joint proprietor, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, Ltd., 1997—; L’Oranger, 1997; London restaurants include: Gordon Ramsay, 1998—, Pétrus, 1999—, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, 2001—, The Savoy Grill, 2003—, Ban-quette, 2003—, Boxwood Café, 2004—, Maze, 2005—, and La Noisette, 2006—; opened Verre at Hilton Dubai Creek, 2001, Gordon Ramsay at The Conrad Tokyo, Japan, 2005, and Gordon Ramsay at The London, New York City, 2006; star of television series Ramsay’s Boiling Point, London Weekend Television, 1998; Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Channel 4, 2004-06; Hell’s Kitchen, ITV, 2004—, FOX Network (USA), 2005—; The F-Word, Channel 4, 2005—; Kitchen Nightmares, FOX, 2007—.

Awards: Newcomer of the Year award, 1995, Chef of the Year award, 2000, and Independent Restaurateur of the Year award, 2006, all from Caterer & Ho-telkeeper magazine; Order of the British Empire, 2006.


B rash British chef Gordon Ramsay oversees eight restaurants in London alone, plus outposts of his fine-dining empire in New York City, Tokyo, and even Dubai in the Middle East. The fiery-tempered Scottish chef has been making waves in the world of London haute cuisine since the early 1990s and parleyed his fame into several reality television shows in which he became famous for unleashing torrents of verbal wrath on hapless kitchen employees or chef-hopefuls. His most talked-about British series, Kitchen Nightmares, debuted in its U.S. version on the FOX network in September of 2007 and features restaurant makeovers of second-rate establishments. Outside the kitchen, however, Ram-say is known as exceedingly polite, and even he admitted that his personality is a “Jekyll and Hyde” one. He told Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Endelman. “I put my chef’s jacket on and it just happens!”

Born in 1966, Ramsay spent the first four years of his life in Elderslie, a town near Glasgow, Scotland. The family, which included his intermittently employed father, whose preoccupation with playing in bands in bars only fueled a drinking habit, moved to Stratford-upon-Avon, England, where they lived in public housing. His mother, Helen, had trained as a nurse, and there was also a younger brother, Ronald, whose battles with heroin addiction would occasionally turn up in newspaper reports when Ramsay gained fame in Britain. The family returned to Scotland when Ramsay’s burgeoning soccer talent led to his signing with the Glasgow Rangers Football Club, one of Scotland’s top professional teams, as an apprentice footballer. His knee gave out, however, during his first season, and he was cut from the team. He later described this as a turning point in his life. “When I got told by my manager, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ I bawled my eyes out—for hours,” he told Endelman in Entertainment Weekly. “It just got pulled away from me with no choice. Because I was that close, to be honest. I wasn’t brilliant, but I wasn’t bad as a pro player.”

Ramsay visited a career counselor, who suggested three options ideally suited for his aptitude: enlist-ing in the Royal Navy, enrolling in the police academy, or taking a hospitality-industry training course. He chose the third, and studied at Oxford Technical College between 1983 and 1985. It was a work-study course, and he signed on with a restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon for a time, but realized he was uninterested in learning the nuances of the bland fare they served, and quit both the job and school. Heading to London, he found a place in the kitchen of the Mayfair Intercontinental Hotel, but soon talked his way into a job with a famous young chef just a few years his senior, Marco Pierre White, at White’s new eatery in South London, Harvey’s. He spent two years there before moving on to Le Gavroche, another London restaurant, and then he trained at several places in France, including the Hotel Diva Isola 2000 in the Côte d’Azur.

Returning to London, Ramsay was invited by a group of Italian investors to take over a newly purchased property and run his own kitchen. The Aub-ergine Restaurant Chelsea opened in 1993 and within two years had received a coveted star in the Michelin Guide, a renowned restaurant and hotel ratings handbook published annually that critiques venues across western Europe. Aubergine earned its second Michelin star in 1997, and its success led to a second restaurant that Ramsay opened with the help of the Italians called L’Oranger. It was not as successful as Aubergine, however, and Ramsay began to dream of opening his own place as a sole proprietor.

In March of 1998, Ramsay was secretly negotiating for a leased space in London, while worrying over rumors that the Italians were about to fire him and replace him with his former mentor, White. One day, a motorbike pulled up in front of Aubergine, and its rider strode in and swiped the reservation book from the front desk. Ramsay went to the press and blamed White for the theft, which was serious enough to bring a top restaurant to quick financial ruin in an era before computerized booking systems became commonplace, but White denied the charges. Mysteriously, pages from the book would be faxed in intermittently, which helped Aubergine stay in operation. Years later, Ramsay admitted to Bill Buford in a lengthy profile that appeared in the New Yorker that he had paid someone to steal the book in order to thwart White’s chances at taking overAubergine. “You’re the first person I ever told,” he said to Buford, adding, “I still have the book in a safe at home.” He conceded it had been a risky move, but it had been personally gratifying to un-settle White and cause the Italian backers to reconsider hiring the rival. “Even now it sends a chill down my spine. Because it would have been all over if I’d been caught. But that’s the risk you take, isn’t it?”

Ramsay was fired by the investors four months later anyway, but by then he had closed on the new space. The doors of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay opened in 1998. It won two Michelin stars in the 1999 guide, but Ramsay’s attempt to earn a third one was part of the drama chronicled in a reality documentary series, Ramsay’s Boiling Point, that ran on the London Weekend Television network in 1998. He did not succeed, but the behind-the-scenes look at the madness that occurs behind the kitchen doors of a top London restaurant—along with some candid displays of Ramsay’s already-famous temper— made for captivating viewing, especially one incident in which Ramsay smacked a waiter in the head when he caught him putting a roll back in the breadbasket after it had been on the floor.

Pétrus, Ramsay’s next venue, opened its doors on St. James Street in March of 1999, and earned its first Michelin star that same year. Like his other dining rooms, there was a lengthy waiting list for a table at Pétrus, and astronomical prices. In July of 2001, the restaurant and the namesake vintage became fodder for tabloid reports and more sober accounts in London’s financial media that chronicled a minor scandal. Six Barclays Bank investment bankers ran up a $62,000 dinner tab, including a $17,000 bottle of 1947 Château Pétrus and were fired when they tried to expense the meal with the company.

Ramsay was skilled at cultivating this kind of press and turned up regularly in London newspapers for his antics, which included ejecting a famously picky London critic. Profits remained high, however, and he began opening up a slew of new eateries, including Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, the Savoy Grill, Banquette, and the Boxwood Café, all by 2004, along with his first Middle East outpost, Verre at the Hilton Dubai Creek. His television career had taken off in earnest, too, thanks to a pair of terrifically high-rated series that captivated British foodies. The first of these was Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares which ran on Channel 4 in Britain and featured his one-week turnaround of a flagging restaurant somewhere in Britain. At the Glass House in Ambleside, Cumbria, he nearly came to blows with the owner over a Caesar salad, but “Ramsay’s biggest roasting, however, was reserved for head chef Richard Collins,” noted an article on the show that appeared in Caterer & Hotelkeeper, “with his culinary novelties such as garlic popcorn, duck cakes with chilli jam and a much-derided pomegranate risotto, a dish Ramsay blasted as ‘revolting.’” He streamlined the menu, convinced the owner to take a more active role, and then hired away two of the more able members of kitchen staff for one of his London restaurants.

Ramsay gained further fame for the other series that launched in Britain in 2004, Hell’s Kitchen. This one, which ran on the ITV network, featured a talent-elimination contest for chefs in training. Viewers turned in each week to watch the imposing Ramsay—towering well over six feet, with wild blond hair and a fearsome Scottish baritone—berate the young hopefuls and weed out the weaker-willed among them. The F-Word, which premiered on Channel 4 in 2005, was his third series, and Ramsay co-hosted it along with a restaurant critic, Giles Coren. The show featured Ramsay’s cooking demonstrations, with audience members joining him in front of the cameras, and various remote reports, such as visits to a farm where he was raising pigs in preparation for holiday-feast slaughter.

The New Year’s Eve Honors issued from Bucking-ham Palace in 2005 awarded Ramsay an OBE, or Order of the British Empire. “I’m humbled and delighted to accept this honour, which is the most wonderful way to round off an extraordinary year,” a report in London’s Independent by Arifa Akbar quoted him as saying. That event-filled year included the opening of two more restaurants: Maze on Grosvenor Square in London, with a new young chef named Jason Atherton in charge, and Gordon Ramsay at The Conrad Tokyo, his first foray in Japan. His company, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, continued to open new restaurants, some even in the mid-price range, such as La Noisette on Sloane Square in 2006, which won its Michelin star a year later. In 2006 he also published his autobiography, Humble Pie, after issuing eight separate cookbooks.

Ramsay’s mini-empire of restaurants won him the Independent Restaurateur of the Year award from Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine in 2006, making him one of a small handful of chefs ever to have won three of the British-industry honors during his career; the first “Catey,” as the awards are known, came in 1995 when he was named Newcomer of the Year, followed five years later with a Chef of the Year honor. Though having said in prior interviews that he was uninterested in conquering New York City, in 2006 he opened his first venture there, Gordon Ramsay at The London. The recently renovated hotel—formerly the Rihga Royal—inked a deal with Ramsay to replicate his original London restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Not surprisingly, he began carrying out a minor press war with one of the city’s most powerful restaurant critics, Frank Bruni of the New York Times. Bruni’s critique, published in January of 2007, gave the new place a mere two stars in his paper’s rating system, deriding its “cautious menu, as reliant on default luxuries and flourishes like foie gras and black truffles as on real imagination.”

Interviewers who profile Ramsay usually note that his famous bluster seems to come forth only when television cameras are rolling, but he is known as a demanding boss. When Buford trailed him at The London, Ramsay excoriated several members of his kitchen staff, then told the writer, “Tomorrow I’m making them run round Central Park to insure that they hate me more—that’ll help them focus.” Employees elsewhere in his kitchens submit to regular substance-abuse tests and monthly weigh-ins, telling Elisa Lipsky-Karasz in W, “I hate fat chefs. The days of the chain-smoking, maniac, 250pound chef are gone.”

In September of 2007, an American version of Ramsay’s restaurant-makeover series, Kitchen Nightmares, debuted on the FOX Network. Its first victims were two establishments on Long Island, and it was compelling viewing, noted New York Times journalist Ginia Bellafante. “The subtext of Kitchen Nightmares is that ordinary middle-class business owners need brash and brilliant moguls to save them from a sad reliance on their own mediocrity,” she wrote. “It is an ugly message that Mr. Ramsay makes undeniably hypnotic.”

Ramsay lives in London with his wife, Tana Hutcheson, and their four children. Their home in the Spencer Park neighborhood of London features separate his-and-her kitchens. His interest in the health of his staff is not merely a quirk, and he has found time to run marathons regularly, even completing a few double marathons. “It’s a bit, like, ka- mikaze, you know, but chefs are that mental,” he told Lipsky-Karasz in the W interview. “I thrive on pressure. I am an adrenaline junkie.”

Selected Writings

Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Seafood, Conran Octopus (London), 1999.

Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Flavour, Conran Octopus, 2000.

A Chef for All Seasons, Quadrille (London), 2000.

Gordon Ramsay’s Just Desserts, Laurel Glen (San Diego, CA), 2001.

Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets, Quadrille, 2003.

Kitchen Heaven, Michael Joseph Ltd., 2004.

Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, John Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2005.

Humble Pie: My Autobiography, HarperCollins Entertainment (New York City), 2006.

Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from “The F Word,” Key Porter Books, 2007.


Caterer & Hotelkeeper, December 9, 2004, p. 38; July 13, 2006, p. 75.

Entertainment Weekly, June 22, 2007, p. 19.

Independent (London, England), December 31, 2005, p. 28.

New Yorker, April 2, 2007.

New York Times, January 31, 2007; September 19, 2007.

People, July 24, 2006, p. 67.

Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), January 19, 2002, p. 12.

W, August 2006, p. 149.

—Carol Brennan