Rival chef: Ramsay was overstretched

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Antony Worrall Thompson has turned the heat up on Gordon Ramsay, Britain's most acclaimed chef, blaming the Scotsman's ambitious "over-expansion" for the closure of two of his restaurants in as many weeks.

"When you expand too quickly, you can't give things enough attention," said Mr Worrall Thompson, who owns one restaurant and has an interest in another. "Much as Gordon is a brilliant chef, you can't keep an eye on the quality all of the time."

Mr Ramsay, who has expanded furiously over the past three years, announced the closure of his Michelin-starred Glasgow restaurant Amaryllis, on Wednesday. It followed the closure of London's Fleur, on 2 January.

"It is never an easy decision to close a restaurant but we have been unable to adapt what we do in London to the market in Glasgow and we can no longer carry the losses," said Mr Ramsay. Fleur opened last year and Amaryllis three years ago.

The two closures have raised a number of questions about Mr Ramsay's business style, particularly the speed with which he has opened new restaurants and the practice of lending his name to venues where he is not resident chef. Ironically, Mr Ramsay loudly criticised absentee celebrity chefs such as Marco Pierre White in the mid-1990s for exactly the same practice.

Mr Ramsay still spends the vast majority of his time at his eponymously titled restaurant in Chelsea, but also has significant interests in a number of other big London names, including Pétrus, Claridge's and the Savoy Grill.

"Customers demand perfection, and when they realise you're not there, they lose interest," Mr Worrall Thompson said.

"Gordon was always going to have a problem, because once you've got a three-starred Michelin restaurant, you have to be there all the time.

"That style of cooking requires incredible attention to detail. Gordon's a perfectionist, and in that way, he's very similar to Marco Pierre White - if there's a stain on the carpet, he'll replace it, whereas I'll just clean it."

Peter Harden, co-editor of the respected Harden's London Restaurant Guide, said he hadn't been surprised by Mr Ramsay's recent closures.

"Any chef that puts his name on more than one restaurant is inviting the public to participate in a fantasy that is totally unsustainable," Mr Harden said.

Other critics, however, were keen to support Mr Ramsay. Despite the closures, the Savoy Grill and the Connaught were both awarded Michelin stars last week.

Jennifer Sharp, restaurants editor at Harpers & Queen, said the demise of Amaryllis and Fleur was not a serious problem for Mr Ramsay.

"They were brave attempts but they didn't work out," Ms Sharp said. "They misjudged the market, but a blip like this is no cause for concern. I really don't see the cracks appearing."

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