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  1. Wealth
April 23, 2009

Kick a man when he's down

By Spear's

Can you remember when Gordon Ramsay was feted for his culinary genius. No? Well neither it seems have most of the British media.

Can you remember the time when Gordon Ramsay was feted for his culinary genius, adored for his sweary, watchable kitchen banter, applauded by the critics, sought after by eager apprentices. No? Well neither it seems have most of the British media.

But think back and there was a time. A time before we decided swearing wasn’t funny any more, when we loved the fact that a Brit chef was cooking better French food than the French and when we’d be happy to queue for months for a table, long before the News of the World would rather stitch him up than publish his recipes.

Now of course he’s getting a good kicking because, well, he deserves it right? He’s built up a business, opened restaurants around the world, become a star of US prime time TV. He even opened pubs. And how dare he do all of that.

And it’s much easier to kick a man when he’s down, when everyone else is kicking him and you can join the fray and have a little kick yourself.

But it might be worthwhile just to ponder for a moment about the guy and consider whether he quite deserves all the abuse.

People attack him for not cooking so much these days. As if building a business with your name on it is a bad thing. I mean maybe James Dyson should just be vacuuming his home with his first machine rather than selling thousands to people across the world. Maybe Eddie Stobart should stick with the one van.

Gordon worked his way up like the rest of them. His story is a classic of its genre. I’ve seen the kitchens he worked in in Paris, walked down the alley where he used to live, in the days when under Guy Savoy he worked every hour God gave him.

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And I watched and saw some young would-be Gordons doing the same thing. Perhaps they won’t all have fathers-in-law that can help grow their dreams and turn them into worldwide businesses. But I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if they did.

So Gordon was trounced in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants on Monday. In a poll voted by people like me who put forward names of places they’ve never been to and who don’t feel like putting Ramsay there because he’s had quite enough publicity over the years.

Regardless of the fact that people across the UK still book Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road for the most important occasions in their lives.

So Gordon has some of the food served in his restaurants prepared off site in ‘food factories’. Do those who sneer at this realise how much it costs to hire space and a man in Mayfair to peel and julienne carrots? Do you suppose if you chop them in Limehouse they taste different by the time they get to Chiswick?

Pubs and restaurants have used third parties to prep veg, chicken and meat in suburban warehouses for years. It’s about business. And it only matters if it doesn’t taste good.

Gordon has retreated from some of his foreign businesses because there’s a worldwide recession, not, actually, because he’s a moron.

Businesses need to expand. The man who tells his investors that growth is so yesterday and the future lies in one man band operated small holdings won’t have any investors.

Ok, so I’m personally a little tired of the F-Word format. But if Channel Four came back to you year after year and said, ‘No, we don’t want anything new, just the same old series that gets good audiences,’ would you show them the door? Hardly.

Ramsay has within his fold some of the hardest working and most talented chefs in London today. And they’re not good by mistake. The likes of Stuart Gillies, Mark Sargeant and Angela Hartnett are great at what they do and help run good businesses because they have been trained and mentored by an organisation that invests in its staff and, not surprisingly, demands fierce loyalty in return.

But then realising all of this is a little dull, so pass me a pair of the football boots Gordon never wore because he didn’t really ever play football did he and I’ll put the boot in too while you’re at it.

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