To the sharks of the press, it was like blood in the water: Gordon Ramsay, the man who reduces other chefs to tears over their ignorance of using fresh ingredients in a simple way, was shown to be serving half the food in his London mid-price restaurants that was made across town and delivered in vans!
Mr. 16 Michelin Stars himself was making his flunkies open the plastic packets, dump the stuff on plates, and serve it alongside for six times the original cost! The heresy, and coming from such a sanctimonious chef!
The British press had a blast with that one a few weeks ago. "Ramsay serves up coq au van," crowed the salacious Sun. But when foodies probed deeper, they learned that Ramsay himself owns and operates the off-site kitchen in question. He purchased it from the owners of Le Gavroche, one of the finest restaurants in London. He bought the pre-serve dishes from his own company, which was made separate for financial reasons.
What's more, off-site preparation is not uncommon in the restaurant industry. I think the press' outrage has more to do with exposing perceived hypocrisy than any substantive complaint or industry insight. If you've ever watched Ramsay turn the air blue with his outraged profanity on his American shows Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen, you've already learned that the Scottish chef's theatrics are just that: an act.
While he may be overextending himself in building a fame-fueled food empire, his restaurants remain generally praised. As another Michelin-starred chef put it in defending Ramsay: "Certain types of food can be cooked off-site without compromising quality." Besides, the food was "fresh yesterday," Ramsay told one paper. If some dishes are prepared off-site under his supervision, apparently something is working in that arrangement, because critics and customers alike still love it and didn't know.
It's not like Ramsay is buying food that someone made in a distant factory last month and spent the past few weeks on a truck.
No, that's what the average American eats every day.
So let's not be sanctimonious ourselves. Plenty of our restaurants do this kind of thing. Most of the "cuisine" offered in America's casual restaurants, even the ones charging high prices such as Red Lobster or Outback, came out of a bag, a freezer, or off a Sysco truck. I actually use Sysco as an adjective to describe all food that is mediocre and can be prepared without skill. ("How are those jalapeno poppers, Jason?" "Pure Sysco.")
So I'm sticking up for Ramsay, and not just because I wouldn't want him to come to my house and berate me for chewing him out. He has devised a smart way to deliver high-quality food to people at an affordable price, and I praise any democratization of fresh foods, no matter the technique. If we're shocked to find that Ramsay has found a way to economize yet still maintain a high standard, frankly, I think that's worthy of praise. I want to place an order with that kitchen myself. I'll start with the humble pie.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »