Thursday, 4 September 2008
There was a curious absence at Monday night's London Restaurant Awards - one Gordon Ramsay in fact. Almost completely absent from shortlists and winners (most of whom, it might be noted, are decidedly at the leaner end of the pricing spectrum), apart from the notably independent Jason Atherton of Maze, who won Outstanding London chef of the year. Indeed, one could almost see the decided two-fingers at the Ramsay empire when Marcus Wareing (!!!) was invited to present an award. So what to make of this...? Is it true that Big Sweary Gordon has gone off the boil? Has he spread himself too thinly in his slightly desperate search for world omnipotence? We - the restaurant-going public - are a fickle playmate. One moment we long to spend, spend, spend on over-done food in ostentatious surroundings with wine's rarer than unicorn blood; the next we're all about the local neighbourhood gem, with its carafes of 'drinkable' table wine and its 'genuine' atmosphere. Gordon - perhaps to his credit - hasn't played along. If you're dining chez Ramsay, be prepared to spend the bucks. He's unashamedly top-end and determinedly staying so. But, is the exclusivity and luxury of the Ramsay experience diluted by the fact he clearly isn't in the kitchen any more? His New York outpost fared less than well, his TV series rumoured to be nothing more than insinuating editing... and that's part of it. The man sold out - the kitchen god revealed his decidedly clay feet, when he switched to TV. You could argue that these days, in our celebrity-driven culture, you need to milk it, and milk it hard, before you fall back down the ladder again. But also arguably there will always be a space for good food, honestly cooked. How honest is it when the chef above the door isn't in the kitchen? What do you think - Kitchen god or TVslave? Has Gordon's need for ubiquity meant the slow disintegration of a world-wide empire (echoes of the Romans, no?)?