Ramsay turns pub landlord with plan to open chain of hostelries

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Indy Lifestyle Online

His rough language should be an asset at closing time. Even so, the world of haute cuisine may be surprised to learn that Britain's most acclaimed chef is planning to become a publican.

For now, Gordon Ramsay has decided against increasing his haul of seven Michelin stars by opening any new restaurants in Britain - instead he wants to open a chain of pubs.

His business managers are drawing up plans to acquire a substantial number of country inns to organise a "dramatic" entry to the licensed trade. Although the pubs would sell beer and spirits, their primary role would be to serve food and they would sit in the Ramsay empire alongside such names as Claridge's and The Savoy Grill.

Ramsay's move into pubs is a sign of the former footballer's ambition and also shows how modern television cooks are finding new ways of making money.

Delia Smith's popular website hosts advertising from BP and Marks & Spencer; Gary Rhodes promotes the world's largest sugar refiner Tate & Lyle while Jamie Oliver has turned inventor with the Flavour Shaker, a modern version of the pestle and mortar.

Today The Independent publishes The Chef Rich List showing how 10 of the country's leading chefs have amassed a total of £237m from a combination of restaurants, broadcasting, writing, branded cookware and corporate entertainment.

Ramsay, whose company has doubled annual profits to almost £8m, tops of the list with £67m. He is followed by Oliver whose television shows, recipe books and cookware reaped £58m.

Rick Stein's interests are valued at £36m, followed by Smith and Antony Worrall Thompson, on £25m and £21m respectively.

Ramsay is not only the richest; his empire is expanding at breakneck speed. The presenter of Channel 4's The F-Word is to open restaurants in New York and Florida in October and Los Angeles early next year, and is looking at setting up shop in Amsterdam, Prague and Ireland.

Revealing the licensing push, Chris Hutcheson, chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings (and Ramsay's father-in-law), said: "What we are looking at now is a move into pubs that serve food. I don't mean gastro-pubs - I mean good food."

Ramsay believes there is no room for him to open a 10th restaurant in London and is wary of opening more anywhere else because of the cost of prime property in cities. He had to close his loss-making restaurant Amaryllis in 2004 because Glasgow's diners were reluctant to pay £70 for a meal on weekdays. "People will travel to pubs if the food is good," Mr Hutcheson said.

Joe Warwick, editor of the Restaurant trade magazine, commented: "Celebrity chefs have got incredible power over consumers and that's why all these commercial partners want to get involved with them," he said.

The food writer Joanna Blythman said: "Being a chef is a very hard job. When you get to 40, you don't want to be in the kitchen doing back-to-back shifts ... so you become a businessman."

The French chef Raymond Blanc said that leading British chefs had helped to raise the standard of restaurants here to French and Italian standards. But he doubted that the standard of cooking homes had improved as a result of their programmes and recipe books.