Gordon James Ramsay, OBE, (born 8 November 1966) is a chef, television personality and restaurateur. He has been awarded a total of 12 Michelin Stars, and in 2007 became one of only three chefs in the United Kingdom to hold three Michelin stars at one time. Ramsay currently ranks 3rd in the world in terms of Michelin Stars behind Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.
Ramsay is known in the United Kingdom for presenting TV programmes about competitive cookery and food, such as Hell's Kitchen and The F-Word. He is best known in the United States as the host of FOX's Hell's Kitchen, which premiered in May 2005, and of Kitchen Nightmares, which premiered in September 2007, based on his successful British show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.
After his professional football career came to an end at age 19, Ramsay paid more serious attention to his culinary education. In the late 1980s, he worked as a commis chef at the Wroxton House Hotel, then ran the kitchen and 60-seat dining room at the Wickham Arms, until his relationship with the owner's wife made the situation difficult. Ramsay then moved to London, where he worked in a series of restaurants until being inspired to work for the temperamental Marco Pierre White at Harveys.
After working at Harveys for two years and ten months, Ramsay, tired of "the rages and the bullying and violence", decided that the way to further advance his career was to study French cuisine. White discouraged Ramsay from taking a job in Paris, instead encouraging him to work for Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in Mayfair. (While at Le Gavroche, he met Jean-Claude Breton, now his Maître d' at Royal Hospital Road.) After working at Le Gavroche for a year, Albert Roux invited Ramsay to work with him at Hotel Diva, a ski resort in the French Alps, as his number two. From there, Ramsay moved to Paris to work with Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon, both Michelin-starred chefs. He continued his training in France for 3 years, before giving in to the physical and mental stress of the kitchens and taking a year to work as a personal chef on the private yacht Idlewild, based in Bermuda.
Upon his return to London in 1993, Ramsay was offered the position of head chef at La Tante Claire in Chelsea. Shortly thereafter, Marco White re-entered his life, offering to set him up with a head chef position and 10% share in the Rossmore, owned by White's business partners. The restaurant was renamed Aubergine and went on to win its first Michelin star fourteen months later. In 1997, Aubergine won its second Michelin star. Despite the restaurant's success, a dispute with Ramsay's business owners and Ramsay's dream of running his own restaurant led to his leaving the partnership in 1997. In 1998, Ramsay opened his own restaurant in Chelsea, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, with the help of his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. The restaurant gained its third Michelin star in 2001, making Ramsay the first Scot to achieve that feat.
From his first restaurant, Ramsay's empire has expanded rapidly, first opening Petrus, where six bankers famously spent over £44,000 on wine during a single meal in 2001, then Argan cafe in Glasgow (which he was later forced to close) and later Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's. Restaurants at the Dubai Creek and Connaught Hotels followed, the latter branded with his protégée, Angela Hartnett's, name. Ramsay has now begun opening restaurants outside the UK, beginning with Verre in Dubai. Gordon Ramsay at Conrad Tokyo and Cerise by Gordon Ramsay both opened in Tokyo in 2005, and in November, 2006, Gordon Ramsay at the London opened in New York City, winning top newcomer in the city’s coveted Zagat guide, despite mixed reviews from professional critics.
In May 2008 Ramsay opened his first West Coast restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Situated in the former Bel-Age hotel on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, the hotel has recently been renovated and re-named the London West Hollywood. As with his New York City establishment, the restaurant will be called 'Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood'. Many episodes of Ramsay's US series Hell's Kitchen are recorded in Southern California, which has generated a great deal of notoriety for Gordon Ramsay.
In July 2006 Ramsay won the Catey award for "Independent Restaurateur of the Year", becoming only the third person to have won three Catey awards, the biggest awards of the UK hospitality industry. Ramsay's two previous Catey awards were in 1995 (Newcomer of the Year) & 2000 (Chef of the Year). The other two triple-winners are Michel Roux and Andrew and Jacquie Pern.
In September 2006, he was named as the most influential person in the UK hospitality industry in the annual Caterersearch 100 list, published by Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine. He overtook Jamie Oliver, who had been top of the list in 2005.
Also in 2006, Ramsay was nominated as a candidate for Rector at the University of St Andrews, but was beaten at the polls by Simon Pepper. Despite a publicity campaign, Ramsay never visited St Andrews and did not appear in press interviews.
Ramsay's flagship restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, has been voted London's top restaurant in food bible Harden's for the past eight years, but has controversially relinquished the spot in 2008 to Petrus, a restaurant run by his former protege Marcus Wareing.
Whereas previous ventures acted as a combined consultant/brand, in November 2006 Ramsay announced plans to create three restaurants in the United States in partnership with private equity group Blackstone Group, who are refurbishing each of the chosen hotels into five star locations at a cost of £100M per hotel. At an investment of £3m per restaurant for the 10-year lease, all the restaurants will offer the chef’s trademark modern European cuisine, and opened in 2006/2007 at:
In late 2006 Gordon Ramsay Holdings purchased three London pubs; The Narrow in Limehouse, which opened in March 2007, the Devonshire in Chiswick, which opened in October of that year and The Warrington in Maida Vale, which opened in February 2008.
Ramsay acts as a consultant to numerous catering organizations, and was recruited by Singapore Airlines as one of its "International Culinary Panel" consultants.
In May 2008 it was confirmed that Ramsay's protege of 15 years, Marcus Wareing was going solo having opened and operated Pétrus at The Berkeley Hotel on behalf of Gordon Ramsay Holdings since 2003. With the name Pétrus owned by Gordon Ramsay Holdings, industry sources suggested it was likely to transfer to another restaurant in the group with the former La Noisette site identified as the most likely.
In 2004, Ramsay appeared in two British television series. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares aired on Channel 4, and saw the chef troubleshooting failing restaurants over a one week period. This series ran its fifth season in 2007. Hell's Kitchen was a reality show, which aired on ITV1, and saw Ramsay attempt to train ten British celebrities to be chefs, as they ran a restaurant on Brick Lane which opened to the public for the two-week duration of the show.
In May 2005, the FOX network introduced Ramsay to American audiences in a U.S. version of Hell's Kitchen produced by Granada Entertainment and A. Smith & Co. The show follows a similar premise as the original British series, showcasing Ramsay's perfectionism and infamous short temper. The show proved to be popular enough with audiences in the United States that, in August 2005, shortly following the Season 1 finale, Hell's Kitchen was picked up for a second season. The show has currently wrapped up its fourth season on FOX. In addition, Ramsay had also hosted a US version of Kitchen Nightmares which premiered on FOX 19 September 2007; production for that show's second season is in progress, and is slated to begin in Fall of 2008.
His most recent series is a food-based magazine programme titled The F-Word; it launched on Channel 4 on 27 October 2005. The show is organised around several key, recurring features, notably a brigade competition, a guest cook competition, a food related investigative report and a series-long project of raising animals to be served in the finale. The guest cook (usually a celebrity) prepares a dish of their own choosing and places it in competition against a similar dish submitted by Ramsay. The dishes are judged by diners who are unaware of who cooked which dish and, if the guest wins (as they have on numerous occasions), their dish is served at Ramsay's restaurant. Each series also features a series-long project of raising animals to be used as the main course in the series finale. In the first series of The F-Word, Ramsay mockingly named the turkeys he raised: Antony, Ainsley, Jamie, Delia, Gary and Nigella – all in reference to other famous celebrity chefs. During the second series, Ramsay named the two pigs that he was raising after Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine who found the naming highly amusing. In July 2006, Channel 4 announced that it had re-signed Ramsay to an exclusive four-year deal at the network, running until July 2011. During the third series, Ramsay reared lambs that had been selected from a farm in North Wales and he named them after two Welsh celebrities, Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson. The series became one of the highest rated shows aired on Channel 4 each week.
During one episode of The F-Word, Ramsay cooked in Doncaster Prison in Marshgate for its inmates. He challenged prisoner Kieron Tarff to an onion-chopping race, which Ramsay lost. The chef was so impressed by Tarff that he offered him a job at his restaurant when he would be released in 2007.
In 2006, Ramsay took part in a television series for ITV1, following the lead-up to Soccer Aid, a celebrity charity football match, in which he played only the first half, nursing an injury picked up in training. Ramsay captained the Rest of the World XI against an England XI captained by Robbie Williams. However, his involvement was limited after he received a four-inch cut in his calf.
During his second Top Gear appearance, he stated that his current cars are a Ferrari F430 and a Range Rover Sport Supercharged, the latter replacing the Bentley Continental GT he owned before. On 14 May 2006, he appeared on Top Gear in the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car segment. Ramsay held the top spot on Top Gear's celebrity leader board, with a lap time of 1.46.38 until overtaken by Simon Cowell.
Ramsay starred in part of a National Blood Service "Give Blood" television advertisement, in which he said that he would have died from a ruptured spleen had it not have been for another person's blood donation. On 13 October 2006, he was guest host on the first episode of Have I Got News for You's 32nd series. On 27 December 2007 Ramsay appeared in the Extras Christmas special.
In January 2008, Ramsay also guest featured on Channel 4's Big Brother Celebrity Hijack as the Big Brother housemates took part in his Cookalong Live television show. Gordon spoke directly to the Big Brother House via the house plasma screens, regularly checking on the progress of the contestants.
Similarly, in June 2007, Ramsay's show was again sued, alleging fakery, this time by the former general manager (Martin Hyde) of the New York restaurant Purnima (Dillon's). The lawsuit alleged that "unknown to the viewing audience, some or all of Kitchen Nightmares are fake and the so-called "problems uncovered and solved" by Ramsay are, for the most part, created by Ramsay and his staff for the purpose of making it appear that Ramsay is improving the restaurant". However, in August 2007, the case was dismissed voluntarily and ordered into arbitration as stipulated in their contract.
Ramsay attributes his pugnacious management style to the influence of previous mentors, notably chefs Marco Pierre White and Guy Savoy, father-in-law and business partner Chris Hutcheson, and Jock Wallace, his manager while a footballer at Rangers. Ramsay's ferocious temper has contributed to his media appeal in both the United Kingdom and the United States, where his programmes are currently produced. His fierce personality ensured that he was voted television's most terrifying celebrity in a Radio Times poll consisting of 3,000 people. MSN Careers featured an article about television's worst bosses, which listed Ramsay as the only non-fictional boss. They cited his frequent loss of his temper and his harsh critiques of cooking and people; feeling that quality of life doesn't have to be sacrificed for quality of food.
Although Ramsay often mocks the French, two of his most trusted maître d's, Jean-Baptiste Requien (who works for Ramsay at Gordon Ramsay at The London NYC and Gordon Ramsay's Maze at The London NYC) and Jean-Claude Breton (Royal Hospital Road), are French. Jean-Baptiste is also a regular on many of Ramsay's television programs, including The F Word.
Having once claimed that women couldn't "cook to save their lives", in November 2007 Ramsay installed 29 year-old Clare Smyth as head chef at his three-Michelin-starred flagship restaurant on London’s Royal Hospital Road. Smyth is the second high profile appointment of a female chef by Ramsay, after Angela Hartnett.
Ramsay has been criticized for his frequent use of profanity on his programmes, first by British celebrity cook Delia Smith, then, in relation to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, by a member of the Federal Parliament of Australia. In his autobiography, Ramsay himself said he was unaware of the extent of his swearing until he watched an episode of Boiling Point. While he stated he did not have a problem with it, "Mum was appalled".
Some controversy arose during the third series of The F-Word when journalist Janet Street-Porter, contending that horse meat should be eaten more widely in Britain, attempted to serve horse steaks and quiche at Cheltenham horse races. She was prevented from doing so by police, who deemed the stunt 'highly provocative'. She subsequently served the meat from a private property, garnering the approval of most of the consumers shown in the programme. The conclusion of both Street-Porter and Ramsay was that horse meat merited a more prominent place in Britain's national diet. In the wake of the stunt, representatives of animal rights group PETA protested by dumping a tonne of horse manure outside Ramsay's restaurant at Claridge's in central London.
On 15 November 2002, Ramsay was breathalysed and arrested and charged with driving under the influence of excess alcohol in London. While he remained charged, he was informed by police that the case would be discontinued.
In 2007, Ramsay admitted arranging for a biker to steal the reservations book from the Aubergine restaurant in 1998 and blaming the theft on Marco Pierre White, because he suspected Aubergine's owners were planning to offer his job to Pierre White.
Ramsay is and has size 15 feet, requiring his shoes to be custom-made. On his show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay has stated that he is afraid of dancing, especially in front of people. On a later episode, at La Gondola, he decided to "confront his demons" and is seen dancing. Ramsay also demonstrates the moonwalk dance in the episode of Kitchen Nightmares spotlighting Mama Sherri's Soul Food Shack.
During March 2005 Ramsay teamed up with Indian chef Madhur Jaffrey to help the VSO, an international development charity group to support its Spice Up Your Life event. The charity hoped to raise £100,000 for VSO’s work in HIV and AIDS in India. The Ramsays were the first couple to become ambassadors for the women's charity Women's Aid in 2005. The couple ran the Flora Families marathon to support Women's Aid.
The Gordon Ramsay "Buy a Brick" appeal launched in September 2004 helped the Scottish Spina Bifida Association build a new Family Support Centre and Head Office in Glasgow. In November 2007 Ramsay hosted a St Andrew's Day Gala Dinner at Stirling Castle in aid of the Association.