Ramsay signs £5m deal to stay with C4 after bidding war with ITV

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The Independent Online

Gordon Ramsay has signed a deal worth at least £5m to stay with Channel 4 for another four years, thwarting attempts by ITV to lure him away.

The famously abrasive chef celebrated his contract with a party for the new series of his food magazine show The F Word at a restaurant in Chelsea last night. The deal follows an attempt by ITV1 to bring Ramsay back to the channel, where he presented the first series of the reality show Hell's Kitchen.

The chef is the latest in a line of television talents to find themselves at the centre of a big cash bidding war. Both Channel 4 and ITV are reported to have offered Jonathan Ross a £15m three-year deal when his contract with the BBC expires.

While Ramsay's new deal is not as high as that, it is still a significant sum. Since joining Channel 4 in 2004, he has presented The F Word and the acclaimed Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, in which he spares no feelings as he shows cooks how to turn around the fortunes of their ailing restaurants.

A fourth series of Kitchen Nightmares is currently in production, but Ramsay will also develop new programmes with the queen of food programming, Pat Llewellyn of Optomen Television, who discovered Jamie Oliver in The Naked Chef and produced the Two Fat Ladies.

With Oliver also signed to Channel 4, the broadcaster has established a strong reputation in food-based programming with a topical edge.

"I am very excited about signing this deal for the next four years," said Ramsay. "Channel 4 are the standard bearers when it comes to food programmes, they are vibrant, committed and tenacious."

Recently, Ramsay has made cameo appearances on ITV - in its coverage of the Beckhams' World Cup party where he designed the menu, rounded-off with the England captain's favourite peanut parfait, and in Soccer Aid, where he skippered the Rest of the World side against Robbie Williams' England XI.

ITV entertainment chief Paul Jackson is believed to have been keen to bring him back to the channel, but according to Channel 4 sources, the chef felt he would have the opportunity to make a broader range of programmes if he stayed put.

In the new series of The F Word, starting on 21 June, Ramsay will persuade lazy men to cook Sunday lunch, launch a celebrity cookbook amnesty inviting viewers to send in unused recipe books, and rear pigs in his back garden.

The Glasgow-born chef, whose early career playing football for Rangers was curtailed by injury, made his first series for Channel 4, Boiling Point, in 1999. He appeared on the channel again in 2001, when he helped to turn a burger van vendor into an haute cuisine chef in Faking It.

In 2004, he made Hell's Kitchen for ITV, when he trained celebrities to become chefs. In an infamous episode, he told one contestant, Edwina Currie: "One minute you're shagging our Prime Minister and now you're shagging me from behind."

He subsequently took the format to the US, but turned down the chance to make a second series in the UK, which instead was presented by Gary Rhodes and Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Channel 4's head of features, Sue Murphy, said: "We have ambitious plans for Gordon and I'm delighted to be continuing a creative relationship with him. He is hugely talented, the best at what he does and is full of surprises."

Since setting up his first restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, in 1998, the chef has built up an empire of eight restaurants in the UK as well as eateries in New York, Tokyo and Dubai. This year he is opening establishments in Florida and Los Angeles.