Tables turned as health inspectors tell Ramsay: 'Clean that freezer now'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

When he was turning around failing restaurants for his Channel 4 series, Gordon Ramsay was fond of stripping to the waist to clean kitchens. While tackling the dirt bare-chested, he would berate the cooks for their slovenliness.

"The kitchen is a dirty, filthy mess. I am shocked by the levels of hygiene here," he told the unfortunate staff of the Lanterna Italian restaurant in Hertfordshire.

So you might think that when local authority health inspectors called at Ramsay's kitchens they would have found them spotless. But you'd be wrong. Their inspections, obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act, are likely to embarrass the celebrity star of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares as well as some of London's other leading restaurateurs, whose reports have also been seen.

An inspector who visited Ramsay's three-star Michelin restaurant in Chelsea last March found several problems that fell foul of the 1990 Food Safety Act. The inspector demanded that the chef fix broken tiles - where scraps can accumulate - and split door seals and stop storing cleaning materials next to food. Most embarrassingly for a chef with a spotless approach, Ramsay was ordered to "thoroughly clean" the freezer. The restaurant, called Gordon Ramsay, was breaking rules on electrical safety and did not have an accident book, Kensington and Chelsea council found.

Worse was to come during an inspection by Westminster council of Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's hotel in September 2005. Although standards were generally high, the inspector - whose name is blanked from the document - found a washing-up sink so close to food preparation there was a risk of "contamination". The chefs were seen to be wiping their hands on "dirty cloths". The inspector jotted down: "More frequent hand-washing required." Other problems included the storage of butane gas next to food and stowing of wine in an electrical cupboard - the bottles were quickly removed. Soap was missing from the ladies' staff lavatory.

It is not the first time Ramsay's Claridge's operation has been ordered to improve its health and safety. During a previous inspection in 2003, it emerged last year, an environmental health officer criticised the Michelin-starred restaurant for storing raw and cooked meat in the same refrigerator. One of Ramsay's former restaurants, Amaryllis in Glasgow, was subject to six concerns over health and safety in July 2003.

Yesterday a spokesman for Ramsay's PR company, Sauce Communications, defended the chef's record on the basis that the inspectors had found only "minor" problems. She said: "These are all incredibly minor points and they praised the overall standards. The Ramsay company takes hygiene incredibly seriously. Their kitchens are completely immaculate."

The inspections - obtained during our investigation into restaurant hygiene - yielded some other surprising results, notably at the Ivy, the Theatreland restaurant. On the last environmental health visit to the celebrity haunt in summer 2004, an inspector found fruit flies behind the dishwasher and "low-level mice activity".

The restaurant, whose celebrity patrons include George Michael and Tom Cruise, made no comment.

The Independent obtained results from 10 restaurants, some of which had good reports, such as Le Gavroche and Nobu, the sushi joint that feeds Madonna.

All the restaurants were deemed fit to trade and there is no suggestion that diners at any of them would get food poisoning.

Inspectors' verdict

* GORDON RAMSAY: CLARIDGE'S Washing-up sink used at same time as close-by food preparation - possible contamination. Dirty cloths used to wipe hands. More frequent hand-washing required.

* GORDON RAMSAY:

CHELSEA

Thoroughly clean internal surfaces of upright freezerand maintain in a clean condition. Cleaning chemicals stored near food in the basement under pavement store.

* THE IVY, LONDON'S WEST END

Chopping boards were scored/worn. Handwashing was infrequent. Fruit flies under dishwasher. Very low-level mice activity.

* SIMPSONS-IN-THE-STRAND

Concern over use of blue chequered cloths to improve presentation. Spillage of food may attract pests.

* NOBU: MAYFAIR

Very clean and well-run kitchen

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