With more fire than Daenerys Stormborn and culinary chops (and temper) fiercer than a flame-breathing dragon, Gordon Ramsay gives us a glimpse into his expanding Vegas empire.
Gordon Ramsay’s accomplishments read like a conqueror intent on world domination. Known as Flash (as in Flash Gordon) during his stint in professional football, he now keeps fit training for Ironman triathlons and ultra-marathons. The first Scottish chef to be awarded a Michelin star, he went on to collect an additional five. His growing restaurant portfolio includes 30 places across the globe, and a newly minted three-title publishing deal brings his book total to 30. He is the executive producer and star of five hit shows on Fox and recently started a solely-owned production company, Studio Gordon Ramsay. An officer of the Order of the British Empire, he gave another queen a run for her money (literally)—tying with Beyoncé for earnings on the Forbes Celebrity 100. Now he’s turned his intense focus on Vegas with his fourth restaurant here, Fish & Chips, opening on the Linq Promenade in October. Watch your back, Houses Flay, Puck, and Robuchon. House Ramsay is ready to claim the crown.
Before you opened your restaurants in Las Vegas, what kind of on-the-ground research did you do in town?
I went low-key, cap-on and started having a look at the food scene. Wolfgang was prominent, Ducasse was just on the verge of opening Mix—so there was a lot of excitement happening in the early 2000s. I did about six trips in and out and was highly impressed every time.
Your first restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak, didn’t open until 2012.
We opened New York and after, LA—it’s a very easy hop from LA to Vegas. I put it on a slow burner. It was fascinating to see and so I kept an eye on it.
How much time do you spend in Vegas?
I’m here about 12 to 14 times a year. So a lot. A hell of a lot. I like to get up into the mountains with my bike and then do a 60–70 kilometer intense hilly bike ride. That’s my little getaway—it’s just me and the mountains.
What can we expect from Fish & Chips?
A little bit of cool Britannia, a bit of nostalgia—I’ve been dying to do it. It’s a grab-and-go fish and chip shop. In the UK we call them chippies. The first treat we ever had, you know with mum and dad, was a fish supper and it was just fish and chips. We never had the money to have our own so we had to share with our siblings. That was a huge treat. I am excited in general, but I’ve never been this excited! Going down to the local chippy on the corner and picking up the fish and chips with the little extra batter bits, the scraps we call them, was a dream. To have that now on the Linq in Vegas is sort of the icing on the cake for me.
No need for the Chunnel! FROM LEFT: Diners eat beef Wellington under a Union Jack at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas; Gordon Ramsay BurGR at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino serves burgers and milkshakes—elevated.
Four years in, is there anything that surprises you about Vegas?
Well, we are in the middle of the desert, but the level of ingredients and products that gets into Vegas is extraordinary. Whether it’s Santa Barbara prawns or the most amazing shellfish from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts—everything is in abundance. So there are no excuses. The produce is a bit of a chef’s dream, which I didn’t expect. The quality of the proteins is equal to anything in New York, Paris, London, and I can confirm that because I have restaurants in them all.
Let’s talk Masterchef Season 7: The audience pulls for a contestant they like, but you are known for your exacting standards—so what’s your strategy?
Having been such a selfish individual to get to the top, I am the opposite when it comes to amateurs. I put them through a rigorous path in a way—I push them to the limits. Are you doing this for TV or are you doing this because you really want to learn the best? So I have to wear that hat because they are amateurs.
You executive produce these shows. On Masterchef, poor Nathan Barnhouse had a breakdown and fainted, so you are sympathetic but as a producer, let’s be honest, it’s TV gold.
We set out these challenges before the contestants arrive. They get better as we turn up the heat so we adjust that on a daily basis. So when we are live and the challenge is on, I am a mentor. When we are down and creating that kind of unscripted drama, I am an executive producer.
People who work with you say lovely things. Yet, on camera you are ferocious. Are you playing to the camera a wee bit?
That jacket goes on and I become a different beast because it’s about standards and I want to be remembered for that. So am I hamming it up for the camera because I think it looks good? Far from it. It’s real. So that level of passion gets misconstrued for anger. I’m live, it’s just the way I am.
Has your direct, keep-it-very-real manner ever had any repercussions you’ve regretted?
There are times I’ve felt I’ve gone too far but yeah, I’ve made amends to pull it back up and put it back on track. Yeah definitely, but I suppose that’s the guy I am. It’s all or nothing. I don’t think it’s… listen, you guys nominated Donald Trump for president! That guy thinks it’s a reality TV show. No one has told him yet that this is real. So anyway, those closest to me and those that work alongside me, not for me—because we are all a team—will give you the real insight.
“It’s about standards and I want to be remembered for that... It’s just the way I am,” says food prophet/king Gordon Ramsay, whose LV fiefdom now includes four restaurants.
Many chefs fall prey to TV “glamour” and neglect their restaurants. Yet you are maintaining high standards and opening new concepts. Why?
I started from zero and it’s so incredible. So I can’t sit back at 50. Am I ready to stop? No. I’ve found the balance in terms of family, profession, and then this sort of empire size. I have seen so many chefs fall to the wayside because they got wrapped up in the glamour of fame and adulation—it’s gone to their head and they are turning out a pile of shit behind the scenes. That would be the death of me—I couldn’t live with myself on that one.
You are becoming king of the Vegas kingdom…
Don’t say that, I will get into more shit now! I threw down a challenge for Bobby Flay to go live and do a cook-off and put all the money to charity, and honestly now I’m like, C’mon Bobby, sign the deal.
“Gordon Ramsay takes crown from Bobby Flay!”
[Laughs] No! “Takes the crown of Vegas”—I can live with that!
Failure doesn’t seem to be an option for you—have you ever failed?
I have failed. I failed at turning up for parents evening at my kids’ school. And then when I went to the next one with my youngest, Tilly, I asked the headmaster for a selfie, after which I got kicked out, and so I really f-cked that one up! The following day I received an email saying, “Can you please refrain from the next parents evening—we do not need the presence of Mr. Ramsay.”
You have reached the upper echelon of the culinary and media worlds, raise loads for charity, and are a family man. What do you want the Gordon Ramsay legacy to be?
My legacy would be just like my mum taught me: It’s important to share and keep both feet firmly on the ground. Continue with that and I think I’ll be in business a long time.
PhotograPhy courtesy of erik kabik/caesars Palace