Londoners are all atwitter (no, not that “Twitter“) about the latest Gordon Ramsay fiasco. Apparently, some of the eateries owned by the 42-year old controversial chef and bad-boy celebrity are serving ready-made food, cooked in what has been called “a food factory,”instead of it being prepared on site. Oh. And the kicker is that once these so-called gourmet items get to Ramsay’s restaurant and pubs, they are being marked up 500 percent or more.
Insiders report that dishes such as pork belly, coq au vin, braised pig cheeks, salmon roulade and orange and bitter chocolate tart are prepared in bulk, frozen and then transported in discrete plastic bags by unmarked vans to several of his London locations. It sounds like haute cuisine meets Lean Cuisine in those handy-dandy vacuum-sealed boil `em bags.
The one restaurant and three pubs that have been fortunate enough to receive these gastronomical goodies include Foxtrot Oscar, The Narrow, The Warrington and The Devonshire.
Food critics said this amounts to the ultimate hypocrisy, as Ramsay has always stressed the importance of freshly cooked and seasonal ingredients. In fact, in an episode of his successful British television series, Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsey was served a boil-in-the-bag lamb shank, and refused to eat it.
Ramsay’s disdain for packaged food was evidenced in an issue of Olive magazine, where he states, “My food hell is any ready meal. It’s so easy to prepare a quick meal using fresh produce … but people still resort to ready meals that all taste exactly the same”
The food factory preparing the meals in question is owned and operated by GR Logistics, the catering production arm of Ramsay’s umbrella conglomerate, GR Holdings. A spokesperson for Ramsay said the establishments receiving the ready-made meals have kitchens with limited cooking space and staff. She went on to say that the method of reheating the food ” sous vide ” is tried and tested by the world’s best chefs. “It is a Gordon Ramsay kitchen run by Gordon Ramsay chefs cooking Gordon Ramsay food,” insists the unidentified spokesperson.
Customers have been unaware of this practice until now. Diners who visit one of Ramsay’s restaurants or pubs expect their meal to be prepared to order, and not come out of a plastic bag, especially at the prices they’ve been willing to pay. For example, a fish cake sold by the supplier to Ramsay’s enterprise for about $2 (USD) sells for almost $17 in Ramsay’s pubs. Sausage rolls selling for less than $1 are marked up to around $5.
This latest expose is yet another dollop of bad news for the curmudgeonly chef, following claims that he had a seven-year affair with Sarah Symonds, a professional mistress (author of the book Having An Affair? A Handbook for the Other Woman), and the handing back of his hotel restaurants in Paris and Prague to their managements.
Ramsay has long suffered with foot-in-mouth syndrome. The poster boy for bad behavior with a colorful repertoire of four-letter words, insulted 50 percent of the British population in 2005 when he denounced the culinary efforts of housewives, by saying young British women “can’t cook to save their lives”. He also said, “When they eat, they cheat – it’s ready meals and pre-prepared meals all the way”
It looks like Ramsay has been caught red handed on this one. No matter how you cut, slice or dice it, meals prepared off site and then reheated, are not freshly prepared. Not according to my standards and obviously, not according to anyone else’s either.
As Israel Pons, a restaurant owner who was torn apart by Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares points out, “We were criticized for making up orders the day before instead of fresh on the day. Restaurants he puts his name to should follow the ethos he stands for.”
Pons had to close his restaurant a few months after Ramsay breezed in to save it from going broke.
For shame, Mr. Ramsay. Your honesty leaves something to be desired.