Keeping pace with chef Gordon Ramsay’s whirlwind schedule is akin to running a marathon, and he knows because the 15-time Michelin Star king of the kitchen keeps a nonstop schedule running his 12 British restaurants and 18 others around the world from Tokyo to Paris to Australia to L.A. -- and three opened here within a year.
And when Gordon’s had a spare second, he’s actually run 11 marathons and plans even more and tougher challenges. Extraordinary when you realize the rambunctious chef only turned to the culinary world after smashing his knee twice in soccer and squash.
In a full-circle story, Parisian chef Guy Savoy was his first mentor, and now the two have competing restaurants here at Caesars Palace. When will this insane schedule slow down? When will you stop running, I asked him over a British Sunday brunch at his new Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars?
“Ask me in five years,” he laughed. “I might be ready then to think about it.”
Does that mean there are more restaurants to open? “Not just this minute. But there’s always something on the back burner. Wolfgang Puck has seven on The Strip. I only have three so far, so there could easily be more.”
How does he keep track of them all? It seem as if he never sleeps. Every morning between 2 and 3, chefs and managers of his far-flung empire file reports to him of the night’s dining.
“I only want to know if there was a complaint or something went wrong with service or the food didn’t meet our high expectations. I deal with it right then and there,” he said. “Everything we do is about perfection -- the food we cook, the food we serve, and the way we serve it. There is no room in my restaurants for imperfections.”
That mandate has been evident on his hits “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Boiling Point,” Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hotel Hell,” which have kept him busy filming in Hollywood. “Hell’s Kitchen” has completed 10 seasons, and he jets among L.A., here and London filming and checking up on his restaurants.
His passion and his intense, fiery drive began in 1993 at age 26 at Aubergine in London. Within three years, he won two Michelin Stars. Two years later, he had his first restaurant -- in 1998 at age 31. It won three Michelin Stars, and to this day it is London’s longest-running restaurant to hold the award. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed him the Order of the British Empire in 2006.
For the past 30 months, it was a jet-set schedule of flights from London to Las Vegas as he built his three outposts here. It was unheard of for a chef to think about opening three venues in such a short time: Gordon Ramsay Steak opened at the Paris in May, and his Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace and BurGR in Planet Hollywood within days of each other last month. His immediate project here is to expand the steakhouse to meet demand; the waiting list is often several weeks.
Food & Beverage VP Jeffrey Frederick said: “Gordon Ramsay might be the only chef ambitious and talented enough to open two restaurants within days of each other without a second thought following his debut seven months earlier.”
The Scottish-born chef, who grew up in Stratford-on-Avon in a troubled home, celebrated the achievement with a “British Invasion” double-header. As our photo galleries by contributing photographer Erik Kabik show, it began with a ride from Caesars on a double-decker red London Transport bus to BurGR, then back to Pub & Grill. With red-framed telephone boxes and beer kegs, P&G feels like the real thing in London; fortunately, there’s no fog or drizzle.
At both stops, his fashion designer doyenne Allison Leach (“Mad Men”) -- we both have relatives from Bristol -- had the staffs model her creations. P&G features multimedia pieces inspired by England’s punk scene with cinched-waist corsets and tabloid newspaper headlines about Gordon’s exploits (some are real and some fictitious about his homeland and history). Studded straps and kilt-pin closures keep the dress fastened on both sides. Zip-it gloves polish the final look. Servers have zippered vests that hint of Sid Vicious.
Here’s my YouTube video of Gordon at Pub & Grill.
His Pub & Grill at Caesars, which seats 290, is manned by executive chef Jeremy Berlin and is two restaurants in one with distinct menus and uniforms. I’m in heaven with bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, English Ale onion soup, shepherd’s pie, Spotted Dog and Yorkshire ale batter fish and chips. For the new Sunday brunch, it’s prime rib roast or Scottish salmon and Yorkshire pudding. There are 24 beers on tap, plus, 63 bottled beers. Cheers!
Over at the 200-seat BurGR, where Eric Mickle is executive chef, the traditional burger is taken to a new level. One food critic said: “It’s the best on The Strip. Hands down.” The burgers are cooked over an open flame using apple and adler woods at 750 degrees, the only Strip restaurant to use that method. Vegetarians can enjoy the Chanterelle mushroom arugula and fig onion jam burger.
The Hell’s Kitchen Burger comes with asadero cheese, roasted jalapeno peppers oven roasted tomato and avocado. Add in sweet potato fries with vanilla powdered sugar and top it off with his exclusive pudding shakes. Don’t miss out on the push-up sticky toffee pudding pops.
“It took quite a while to develop three different concepts so that we could deliver distinct, unique dining experiences with variety, originality and high quality. I love Las Vegas. It’s been incredible the positive reaction the first Steak restaurant has received,” Gordon said.
Ask him for his favorite item in the restaurants, other than the Innis & Gunn (aka Innocent Gun) beer that he can’t ship in sufficient quantities to meet demand, and Gordon will point to the painting of his British bulldog Rumpole that’s on the wall near the bar at P&G.
“There’s also two cats at home. It’s not just all bark and bite. There’s a purring here, too,” he chuckled.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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