Everyone knows Gordon Ramsay as that crazy loud chef from Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen. But if you’ve seen Masterchef, or one of his UK-based shows, you’ve seen his kinder side. Witness below his handling of blind contestant Christine’s poor opinion of her own apple pie to get a glance of what I mean.
Tonight Gordon is branching out into attempting to improve hotels across our nation with his new FOX show, Hotel Hell. I participated in a recent conference call with Chef Ramsay and he had loads to share. Let’s jump right in after the video!
TheTwoCents: With your other shows you were all into the kitchen stuff. What made you want to branch out into doing hotels?
Gordon Ramsay: I’ve stayed in thousands—literally thousands—and I have a small boutique hotel in London. It’s at Regent’s Park I think on the back of the ups and downs and the—I suppose the laziness that I started witnessing even coming back from a long day at work or even a holiday with the kids, I always found there was something not quite right within the hotel. And then, of course, the fortunate positions of these places, because they’re landmark addresses and big buildings, they think that they don’t really have to work as hard as they should do because of their position—so partly the stuff I’ve experienced and also—scratch beneath the surface. When you see a pristine hotel room. You can find problems anywhere.
TTC: What’s the biggest mistake you see hotels making?
GR: GordonThe biggest mistake is when they start becoming systematic in terms of they see a bedspread, and they think it’s new and it looks great. Just because it looks neat and tidy, it doesn’t mean it’s clean. The worst scenario with hotels is the fact they’re open 365 days a year. Airplanes can’t even fly that long. They need to be reassessed and repositioned and reengineered. Hotel rooms are the exact same; they take such an abuse. You think of seven nights a week, four weeks a month, 12 months a year, 365 days a year—these things are relentless, so they take their toll, but they never, ever stop and completely transform those rooms properly.
TTC: When you’re talking about balancing high standards for 365 days a year, what are things that you do to ensure that yourself and other hotel owners can do to ensure their own high standards and quality?
GR: Every day I have reports, up to 20, sometimes 30 individual reports whether it’s a coachhouse stay at the York & Albany Hotel in London—a little boutique hotel—whether it’s an early supper at … or The Narrows, or even a steak last night in Vegas. So I have mystery shoppers and mystery sleepers that on a daily basis, seven days a week I spend over $100,000 a year on paying for complimentary meals in order to get the good feedback I need on a daily basis to handle the volume of customers we deal with. We do make mistakes. There’s no two ways about that. But what I can reassure is that we can nip those mistakes in the bud. Nothing festers. Nothing gets out of control. And the bigger we become, I think the more important that we focus on that customer feedback instantly. It’s not like waiting for a food critic to come in and eat; it literally is five minutes after their experience. It’s viral. We get to deal with it. And we nail it immediately.
TTC: Going from saving a failing restaurant in KITCHEN NIGHTMARES to fixing an entire hotel is a big undertaking. Could you talk about some of the challenges you faced while increasing the scale, and how you go about identifying what those core things you should tackle are?
GR: Yes, a good question, thank you. One hotel in particular was in San Diego, and there’s a young entrepreneur that’s bought it for millions, and he got Pininfarina—as you know, they design Ferraris—and they had all this hi-tech spec furniture that just looked ridiculous. It was so far futuristic it just felt uncomfortable. But I said to him, “Look, why would you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a designer that designs Ferraris to furnish your hotel?” He said, “Well, I have a Ferrari, and I love driving them, and they’re unique.” I go, “They’re unique for you, but the furniture is impractical. You don’t sleep in your Ferrari, so why would you get a bedroom designed by a Ferrari designer?” And he couldn’t really answer the question. He had a bar, a nightclub, a restaurant, room service, banqueting, and 60 rooms. He was completely out of his depth—I mean, really out of his depth, no experience. I mean no disrespect, but it’s like people buying restaurants; sadly it’s the same with hotels. You can just go and buy a hotel. There’s no certified measures that you need to take in order to obtain a hoteliers license. So I had a bigger team, and I had some secret, undercover footage that I had as a backup if I was ever to use it—necessary in order to make sure that they were wrong and wrong and wrong every time they stepped into it.
TTC: Can you talk about some of the small touches that either make or break a hotel?
GR: Inside the wardrobe when you hang your clothes up when you’ve just been in transit and you’ve traveled in a suitcase, you want a decent hanger, a proper coat hanger. I find that so frustrating. Towels—so many towels are small and unfriendly in terms of slightly rough. Those little attention to details—the bed, the way the bed’s made. Is it made with a bit of love, attention? Is it smothered with three or four covers—looks neat, but no one sleeps with that stuff The first thing you do is pull it off. I hate when they fantasize the bedrooms, when they put too many cushions on there. You can’t sleep with all those cushions on there. Less is more, and the more relaxed and the more appealing it is, then the better the stay. I like things to look comfortable, and I hate the corporate side of things where everything has to be left in the same place seven days a week, otherwise you’re potentially fired. That kind of stuff is just so unfriendly, so cold, in hotels. It’s so stark and so unnecessary, and they’re scared to change things up because all 400 rooms must look like that because we have an identity. And it’s not really identity, it’s a cold front, and they forget the importance of that warmth.
TTC: Just on a fun note, just about having your plate so full, have you been able to watch any of the Olympics in your hometown, and if so, what have been some of your favorite moments?
GR: Honestly, there’s something quite fascinating watching the beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. There’s no beach there, but they’ve made a beach. I’m pleased. The opening reception was phenomenal, and everyone’s at the big rehearsal tonight ahead of the closing ceremony on Sunday. The kids have been ecstatic. We’re over here in L.A., and so they’ve all joined their track and field clubs at UCLA summer camp. Last week it was diving, and they were all diving off the high ten-meter boards. My youngest is ten, so to watch the Olympics and then the next -day say, “I’m going to go out and dive off that ten-meter board,” it was good to see how important it is for their minds. They don’t have X Boxes and sit on computers. They get off their butt, and they go on a track and field, and they do lots of sports. So it’s been uplifting. But I’m so pleased with the response from the opening ceremony, and we started off slow with our medals, but it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. So to be third in the table as one of the smallest nations behind the U.S. and China when you think of the population difference, I think we’ve done a bloody-good job.
Indeed! Don’t miss the first half of the two-night premiere of Hotel Hell tonight on FOX at 8PM followed by an all new Hell’s Kitchen!
Anne – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief