Reality television shows can make a career, they can also be a huge distraction. Responding to a recent article in the Wall Street Journa
l, Gawker called
celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, "the Donald Trump of Food," a phrase that could be taken as a compliment or a slur depending on how you look at it. One thing is certain is that Ramsay has had a rough time of it lately. Earlier this year when describing the news that his accountants wanted to put his business into administration and that he owed more than £7 million he called it "the worst bollocking ever" and told the London Times
it was "the worst year of my life." Now in an interview with the Wall Street Journal he is similarly gloomy saying that he had "his own personal nightmare" a phrase no doubt co-opted from the many writers who've used phrases from his televisions shows "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" to make puns about Ramsay's current financial state. In the fallout from the tumbling of his financial empire Ramsay has sold his restaurants in Los Angeles and Paris back to the hotels they are in and has left Prague behind. Rasmay says he has fired around 15 percent of the staff and is using cheaper cuts of meat. The Wall Street Journal article says that Ramsay earns around £10 million in annual revenue from television, publishing and endorsement contracts (he has published many cookbooks and has lines of kitchen and dining goods) and has put around £12 million of his media earnings into his restaurant empire.
Is Ramsay just a high-profile victim of the downturn in the restaurant world? The troubles of Ramsay seem particularly intriguing since many chefs with television careers seem to be doing okay (Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse spring immediately to mind). These days part of being a top chef includes a book or two, restaurants in multiple locations and, if not your own television show, at least a gig or two as a guest judge on a cooking competition or a slot on a morning show. So what makes Ramsay different? Is it the global expanse of his network which includes restaurants all around the world? Is it the sheer size of his empire with over one thousand employees spread out? Or is it something else. I think in many ways the expectations for Ramsay's cuisine are higher than those of the other telegenic chefs? After all, Ramsay isn't just a chef, he is a Michelin-starred chef, a designation that carries certain weight and expectations. It must also be noted that Ramsay hasn't exactly made a lot of friends in the restaurant world. He's had feuds with his old mentor Marco Pierre White, another celebrity chef Mario Batali, and his former protege Marcus Wareing. His crotchetiness isn't just a television stunt, a marathon runner and former soccer player, he's deeply competitive and it may be that desire to be the best that led him to overextend himself in the first place. He also may have lacked a firm restraining hand in the form of a business partner. Ramsay owns 69 percent of his company while his father-in-law is the chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings and owns the other 31 percent.
Over at our sister blog, Daily Finance, Alex Salkever questions
Ramsay's future and if he will file for bankruptcy? I think Ramsay's actually on the path to recovery. He's focusing on what he knows, opening a new version of Petrus restaurant in the Belgravia area of London that will serve the modern French fare that got him into the spotlight in the first place. And when he expands into other areas he's now doing so through agreements where he sells off his name, menu advice and expertise. By switching some of his restaurants to being licensed establishments rather than enterprises wholly owned by his company he may have lost some control but he's gained more cash and cut his total risk. In the Wall Street Journal interview Ramsay says that he's learned a lot about business in the past year. If he can surrender his ego a bit and learn his lessons then he may be in good shape for the future. If not? Well, Hell's Kitchen just got renewed for another season in the U.S
. so he has that to fall back on.