Feuding chefs

This morning during a break from work I almost swore in surprise at my computer because of this blog entry from the Guardian: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/food/2008/07/are_top_chefs_trained_to_be_di.html

Holy crap. I thought all of Gordon Ramsay’s people were loyal little soldiers. What makes this even more interesting is that I’ve actually met Marcus Wareing.

Last fall, while on vacation in London, I really wanted to go to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. I’m a big fan of his UK Kitchen Nightmares (not the US version, that one’s horrible), and have a “I know this is bad but I can’t look away” relationship with Hell’s Kitchen. Plus, I wanted to try a Michelin starred restaurant to see what all the fuss was about.

For three weeks I tried getting a reservation at his most famous and highly rated place, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, but failed every time. I would even get up in the middle of the night to call London during the appointed time but all I ever got was a busy signal. (This experience is very similar to what I’ve heard about getting a reservation at the French Laundry.)

Fed up with failure, I decided to pick a different place instead. Rather than picking a lower rated restaurant of his, I went for what I thought of as a second best choice – Pétrus at the Berkeley Hotel, co-owned by Ramsay and run by lead protegé and executive chef, Marcus Wareing. Wareing is the other co-owner, and under his direction Pétrus has gotten two Michelin stars. (He was awarded the second star just before our trip.) We opted for a cheaper and less-crowded mid-week set lunch, which was a shorter version of their dinner tasting menu. The food was fabulous, the service was sublime, and our experience was topped off by an offer to tour the kitchen, where I found out that Wareing himself was directing at the pass.

What’s shocking about this rift is that first, up to this point no one who works for Ramsay has spoken out in this way before. Second, they were supposed to be best buddies; Ramsay was the best man at Wareing’s wedding.

This explains why Wareing wasn’t in the latest season of Hell’s Kitchen when Ramsay had a bunch of his protegés flown in to be judges at a food tasting.

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