Gordon Ramsay discusses Caesars' new chef, Atlantic City, 'Hell's Kitchen'
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Thirty-five thousand beef Wellingtons can’t be wrong.
In the 1,000 or so days since celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay opened his eponymous pub and grill at Caesars Atlantic City in April 2015, that’s how many times guests have ordered his decadent signature dish consisting of a filet mignon surrounded by mushrooms and parma ham (also known as prosciutto) and then wrapped in a puff pastry and baked.
That means that for every day Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill has been open, the kitchen cranks out an average of about 40 beef Wellingtons every night. And while it’s important for restaurants to occasionally change out certain dishes on its menus, beef Wellington at Ramsay’s joint is printed with indelible ink.
“That’s the one thing I could never take off the menu,” Ramsay says with a laugh. “If that comes off, I’m in deep trouble. I’ve been warned by emails. ‘I’m coming on the 15th of October, make sure that Wellington’s on the menu.’”
Ramsay recently made a stop at his Atlantic City dining room to introduce to his regular guests — and also for some on-the-job training — the newest chef at his restaurant.
Georgeann Leaming, a recent winner of the Food Network’s “Chopped” reality cooking competition, now leads the team in Ramsay’s Boardwalk kitchen.
Previous executive chefs at his Atlantic City eatery have been winners of Ramsay’s competitive cooking series “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox television, including La Tasha McCutchen, who opened the casino restaurant, and Meghan Gill, winner of the 2015 culinary showdown.
Ramsay, 51, is the somewhat temperamental — at least on camera — chef whose global restaurant empire now numbers 32 locations which have earned him a total of 16 Michelin stars, the international gold standard in the restaurant business.
But it wasn’t until three years ago that Ramsay decided to test the complicated waters of the eastern United States. His Atlantic City restaurant marked the first time he’d hung his name and his reputation on the eastern seaboard.
Ramsay had already established a reputation for kitchen excellence the first time he came to America in the mid-1990s.
“I first came to New York 18 years ago on a date with my wife, and we had dinner on New Year’s Eve at Daniel Boulud’s (restaurant),” Ramsay says as he reminisces about his meal in a room had already earned two Michelin stars in just a couple of years.
“I was so excited, just blown away and I wanted to open a restaurant in America,” he adds. “But before I attempted to open a restaurant here in the United States, I wanted to master my craft first.”
In 1998, two years after his experience at Daniel Boulud’s, he opened Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London’s Chelsea section. The restaurant remains open 20 years later and has earned Ramsay three Michelin stars.
He has since opened restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, Japan, South Africa, Dubai, Australia, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Ireland and Canada.
But, while he was courted by just about every casino in Atlantic City, he still kept his distance from the east coast while continuing to grow a secondary empire with several locations in Las Vegas. His first American venture was in 2006 in New York City. Several years later, he opened the first of what would eventually be several restaurants in Las Vegas.
But he still wouldn’t wander near the eastern time zone.
Restaurant patrons can be a finicky lot, he adds, which is one reason he wanted to make sure he had all of his ducks a l'orange in a row before tackling one of the most challenging audiences in the food business.
“Customers vote with their feet, and if we’re not good enough, they don’t come,” he says, much more quietly and without the loud, insulting, over-the-top dramatics he often projects in front of a TV camera.
“The (customers) don’t ring you up and say we’re not coming,” he adds. “They just don’t come back. So I keep it real, the team keeps it real, but more importantly, this means a lot to me and I take it very seriously.”
So far, they’ve been coming back to Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars.
When he’s hosting shows like “Hell’s Kitchen,” and challenging professional chefs to be at the top of their game, Ramsay often comes off as a brutal taskmaster who’s insulting the contestants instead of mentoring them. It may be a little of both, Ramsay admits.
“You know, pressure’s healthy,” he says. “If you don’t want to cook at the top, then hop back into a hotdog stand. But if you are going to go to the top, then take the rap and (remember) pressure’s healthy.”
Despite the fact that he opened his Atlantic City restaurant one year after Atlantic City saw four casinos go out of business in one year, Ramsay is convinced he made the right decision.
And if you want to see just a flicker of the sparks he often evokes on television, then go ahead and point out that Atlantic City is down and out.
But be prepared for some pushback.
“Listen, Atlantic City’s not done, let’s get that straight,” he says with emphasis. “Also, there’s something quite refreshing about the level of (culinary) talent that’s coming out of Philly. Our business has been hugely successful, Caesars (Atlantic City) has been an amazing partner, and in these tough economic climates, you need to be good, affordable and (generate) repeat business. And that’s what we established.”
Back to doing some stand-up for the first time in nearly 40 years, comedy actor Steve Martin and fellow comedian Martin Short, with special guests the Steep Canyon Rangers bluegrass band (with Martin on banjo), perform in Borgata’s Event Center Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $79, $99 and $139, available through theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499.
The Bay Atlantic Symphony presents its annual holiday show, featuring Broadway’s original “Annie,” Andrea McArdle, in Borgata’s Music Box Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35, available through theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499.
Cage Fury Fighting Championships 69, a mixed martial arts show, is in Borgata’s Event Center Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $55, $75, $95 and $175, available through theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499.
The Atlantic City Ballet dances “The Nutcracker,” at Caesars Atlantic City Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $45, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1429.
Riders on the Storm, a tribute to the Doors, is part of the Golden Nugget’s Flashback Friday series with a free show at 9 p.m. Friday in The Showroom.
“Holiday Jubilee,” Tropicana’s long-running, original and family-friendly holiday production show, will be presented on select dates and times now through Dec, 22. Tickets are $10 for children under 16 and $25 for adults, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.