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Hail to the Chef

A Blackstone hotel property in New York City makes a bet on top UK chef Gordon Ramsay.

Installing English-chef-turned-reality-television-show-host Gordon Ramsay in your hotel’s restaurant certainly sounds like a great “value add” for a private equity real estate firm. And it will probably end up being a smart move for The Blackstone Group, which owns the London NYC, the Midtown hotel where the notoriously foul-mouthed Ramsay has made his US debut.

But the restaurant’s opening—the week before Thanksgiving, which the chef didn’t realize was that big of a holiday in the States—has been anything but smooth. Illustrated in a behind-the-scenes feature in The New Yorker, as well as plenty of lukewarm reviews, Ramsay’s quest for his second eatery with three Michelin stars has so far been a hard slog—albeit one that is being filmed for a Channel 4 documentary.

Tales from the kitchen include endless revisions to the menu; constant tours by visiting English foodies; no-shows in the intimate, 12-table dining room; and constant problems with the veteran staff, most of whom were imported from Ramsay’s other restaurants. At one point, bay scallops from Long Island Sound were mistakenly billed as sea scallops—a mistake that had unfortunately been noticed by a discriminating customer. In another incident, Ramsay had to fire his sommelier, who had not only stolen expensive wine bottles from the restaurant, but had also “trashed” one of the hotel’s unfinished rooms.

The influential dining critic for The New York Times, Frank Bruni, gave the restaurant a respectable two-out-of-four stars, still noting that Ramsay’s “strategy for taking Manhattan turns out to be a conventional one, built on familiar French ideas and techniques that have been executed with more flair, more consistency and better judgment in restaurants with less vaunted pedigrees.”

New York magazine gourmand Gael Greene was equally underwhelmed with the offerings, but at least promised to give it another shot. “After vowing he would stick to the kitchen ’till he got it right, Ramsay, a Michelin darling in the Ducasse mold, was already gone,” she wrote. “He’ll be back with his whip, no doubt, and I’ll try again.”