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May 12, 2008 04:36 PM

Ramsey vs. Colicchio??

I know there are a lot of threads about Chef Ramsey already, but I couldn't find any that address this issue. Do you still respect him as a chef, or is it even possible to? I know that he has three Michelin stars and is thus an extemely talented chef, but every week when I watch Hell's Kitchen, my awe for his craft dwindles.

I cannot say off hand how much he has to do with the show (is he credited as an executive producer? does anyone know?), but the show is getting worse. They purposefully keep beef wellington and risotto on the menu (each season, I believe?) because they are easy for inexperienced chef's to screw up, They seem to pick up stupider and stupider people each season. Perhaps if he had a role on the show other than screaming and throwing food, it would be easier to forgive his whoring out of his craft.

I think that is the appropriate term for it because thats exactly what he is doing. I cannot recall an instance on the show where he actually cooks, and yet he is selling his name and his culinary legacy to the Fox network so that a bunch of idiots can spastically run around a kitchen, injure themselves and "forget the f*cking potatoes"

It's hard not to compare Ramsey with Tom Colicchio of Top Chef. Tom has no Michelin stars, but he has won 5 James Beard Foundation Awards and is a very well respected chef. While they run on different concepts, the two shows are basically the same: aspiring chefs compete in a variety of challenges to win a big culinary prize. I know that service is an extremely high pressure environment, and I'm sure Chef Tom would do his share of yelling if he had to expedite, but I doubt he would make such a spectacle of it. Tom has not (as far as I know) even so much as picked up a knife on Top Chef, (I can't recall-- please correct me if I'm wrong), and yet he still maintains his well respected dignity.

I know that screaming is Ramsey's shtick, but does that (aside from his tanning bed raccoon eyes) take away from his culinary talent for you?

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  1. Unlike Colicchio at least Ramsay actually does cook on his shows, "F" word, Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares (regardless of how painful the shows can be to watch). For example he broke down Halibut and made pasta this year, took over the station of the woman who couldn't cook the steaks for the "birthday girl", portioned steaks and disassembled dover sole last year, continues to cook on the "F" word and does a lot of cooking demos.

    And what's wrong with keeping technically difficult dishes on the menu even though they are behind the times? They're testing the cooks on their technical skills and consistency.

    1. You can't really use Michelin stars as a benchmark comparison between Colicchio and Ramsey. Michelin didn't start rating American restaurants until two years ago. Nor can you use James Beard Awards since they don't cover Europe.

      1. Quick note on the contestants - Ramsay has a very brief "blurb interview" in next week's TV Guide that says that's a battle he continually has with Fox - he wants people who can cook (it's a liability to his restaurants if they can't!) and Fox wants "characters".

        I just don't understand why he doesn't insist on "characters" who can cook a helluva lot better than the ones they've had on this particular show. It's a disappointment that he has dumbed it down according to Fox-TV's wishes.

        6 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit

          I think Linda hit it on the head. TC seems to take the cooking part very seriously, although their dependence on the schtick thing is annoying but not as annoying as Ramsey's shows. Fox just seems to pick up people who can boil water and make them chefs. Even with the unevenness of the chefs on TC, I definitely think, by and large, the chefs are getting better each season, except for the part about not knowing how to make mayonnaise.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            As anyone who as spent any time in any kitchen will atest there are no shortages of characters working.

            1. re: Withnail42

              OK, then perhaps "caricatures" is what he meant. When it goes beyond the pale (i.e., people who just can't seem to cook yet are contestants on a cooking show), then it's more caricature than a character.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                I just meant they should be able to find pleanty of cooking characters. More so now that this season seems so closely linked to Ramsay.

                I think as far as 'dumbing it down', I wonder if he signed a 'bad' contract. In that he came aboard before he was widely known in the US. He has said he did the show to get his name out there in the US. In doing so I wonder if perhaps he gave up some control which he would have otherwise kept.

                1. re: Withnail42

                  Ahh, got it on the "cooking characters". And I've thought the same thing about signing the contract and having lost a bit of the control - although that just doesn't sound like Ramsay to me, does it?

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    No it doesn't sound like the Gordon Ramsay we know now. But when the show first started (in the US) he was not that Gordon Ramsay. What ever one thinks of the show it has gotten people talking about him. It gave him the foothold he wanted.

          2. I would take Colocchio over Ramsey any day.

            And I have never even heard of Colicchio. :-0

            1. i've got to go with my gut on this one: given the option to either have colicchio or ramsey cook me a meal, my instinct is to go with ramsey. maybe it's just because i've never seen colicchio pick up a chef's knife to do anything in the kitchen, but my heart says ramsey.

              though everything i've seen from colicchio's wichcraft joint looks great.

              24 Replies
              1. re: beelzebozo

                Colicchio can cook. No doubt about it. He is the chef who put Gramercy Tavern on the map when it first opened, and the memory of which sustained it for a long time after he'd left its stove for Craft. But that's not his role on Top Chef.

                I have not eaten Ramsey's food, but I know, as a chef, that I would not want to work for such an abusive person. His food may be delicious, but I have no respect for him as a person.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Actually, from what I've read and been told, his off-camera personality is quite nice and happens to have one of the highest employee retention rates in the industry

                    1. re: attractivekid

                      He's known for finding young kids with promise and moving them along. The shows are just theater. But this one is very unimpressive theater. And most of the contestants don't seem to know anything. I guess if someone backs up a truck and covers your yard in money, it's hard to say no, but he should have said no to this mess.

                      I have never been to his restaurants, but I would like to. It's obvious he knows food inside and out.

                    2. re: ChefJune

                      Chef June - you should look past the TV persona. Read his book, google him. In his kitchens he is one of the better respected chefs, treats his employees very well, and has a very high employee retention rate.

                      As a chef myself, I would give anything to work with him.

                      And having read his book, used his cookbooks and followed his career, I respect him very much.

                      1. re: maisonbistro

                        And I realize that I didn't respond to the OP's "respect" query. I do respect both of them - for what they've accomplished in their industry. I do, however, dislike the TV personality path that Ramsay is taking with his American TV shows. If he were allowed to be more like he is on the British shows, I'd like the shows a lot more - he actually helps people/restaurants on those shows, even with a few F bombs dropped in on occasion. Hell's Kitchen USA has become a farce.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Comparing Ramsey's BBC shows vs his American shows almost make me feel as though Ramsey is just taking the piss at American TV. Looking at how different he is just on UK Kitchen Nightmares vs US Kitchen Nightmares. His tone on his BBC shows is far gentler and he really does have an attitude towards being helping and supportive. His language isn't completely G, but it's far less bombastic.

                          I would venture that Ramsey is either playing to the camera - or it's a response to the incredibly low quality of chefs/restaurants that he is given to work with in the US. And since he feels there's not much to work with - might as well go over the top personality wise.

                          While I'm sure Colicchio and Ramsey are both entirely capable of putting forth a solid plate of food - I'd be far more interested in tasting Ramsey's food.

                          1. re: cresyd

                            I can't see him potentially ruining his reputation here in the States just because he's responding to the low quality of cheftestants on the American show. As I said above the brief interview in next week's TV Guide has him saying he wants a higher caliber of cheftestant on the American Hell's Kitchen - it's Fox which wants the bizarro characters. So maybe he doesn't have a strong enough contract for the show that allows him to choose better cheftestants.

                            Either way - I'd be happy to eat at either of their restaurants.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              Having seen both the British and American versions of Kitchen Nightmares, I'd say that the editing of the shows is completely different, and that's why you see a different side to GR. I can barely stand to watch the US Kitchen Nightmares, and I'm a huge fan of the British version. As others have said, in the UK he is known as someone who nurtures talent, and he is obviously very inspirational. I do think he is in danger of overstretching his "brand" though - he's opened several new restaurants this year, as well as a chain of gastropubs.

                              Oh, and I have eaten in his restaurant, twice (the original one). It's fantastic, although obviously he doens't cook there any more.

                          2. re: maisonbistro

                            If he treats his staff like he treats the people on his tv show, then i do not respect him as a person. But as many say, he actually isn't like that in real life. So he just acts fake on tv...i have no respect for that either. Can't say whether i respect him as chef since i have no experience with his food, but given the acclaim he's received, he's obviously got to be pretty good.

                          3. re: ChefJune

                            "I have no respect for him as a person."

                            Me neither. Now he has a blossoming media career on the western side of the Atlantic, please feel free to keep him.

                            1. re: Harters

                              Curious as to why you don't have any respect for him, Harters. I believe you're British, so you probably have more knowledge of his restaurants in the U.K. Is it how he treats people on the shows and staff in his restaurants (based on what has been written about him, unless you have firsthand knowledge of how he treats his staff)?

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Yep, I'm British and my only view of him is from the media.

                                And, yes, it is how he treats his staff. I have no time for bullies - particularly bullies who take advantage of their position as an employer.

                                I'm also aware of his past statements that he would never get involved with the populist media and he was, in the past, very critical of other UK chefs who had done so. I have no time for hypocrites.

                                His latest publicity stunt in the UK is to suggest chefs be fined if they do not serve seasonal prodcue. Apart from the sheer stupidity of the suggestion, it is the blatant publicity seeking - his new F-Word series starts tonight. He decries importing foodstuffs for their impact on carbon emissions, yet his latest venture is a restaurant at heathrow's Terminal 5. As I said, I have no time for hypocrites.

                                And if that wasn't enough, I have a final gripe about the Ramsey empire. The company has an online reservation enquiry system. You make an enquiry. They send you an email saying someone will get in touch to confirm. Then they don't! Which means when I make my trip south to London next week, I won't be eating at a Ramsey establishment.


                                1. re: Harters

                                  Fair enough. I will have to agree with you that both examples you give are hypocritical statements. But if the British media don't call him on it (perhaps they have but I'm unaware), then shame on them.

                                  And his reservation system (or is it just asking about a reservation?) doesn't seem "customer friendly". Did you send only one inquiry? Stuff *does* happen to computer systems, and I'd give the benefit of the doubt once. Did you call at all? Or are reservations only done online? If after several inquiries you get no response - definitely not customer-centric! And that's too bad to hear.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I've just watched the programme and will now add another dislike - it's the way he badmouths other chefs generally - not just for them "doing TV" but criticism of their professional standing.

                                    You're possibly right about the reservation thing (it was asking about a reservation - their email indicating there'd be further contact to confirm). As you'll have gathered I'm not well disposed towards him but an enquiry I made on our UK board got an reply mentioning one of his pubs was near to where I was staying.

                                    I didnt follow it up after there was no contact as I'd found what I hope is a really good "find" through Top Table (UK equivalent of Open Table). I've taken the opportunity to send them a "sniffy" email - I wonder if they'll reply to that.


                                    1. re: Harters


                                      Thought you'd like to know my "snuffy" email got a prompt response apologising for a computer glitch which meant my request hadnt got as far as the pub. They were not only happy to accept my res. but to change it to another night - which now means I get two good meals where I'd only planned one. Reviews on the UK board in a couple of weeks.

                                      Other comments about Ramsey's persona remain as previous.


                                      1. re: Harters

                                        Excellent - glad to hear you got your reservations and it was a computer glitch and not the staff. Looking forward to reading your review (please post a pointer link here as I rarely, if ever, go to the UK board).

                                        But I understand your standing firm on your other comments. :-)

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          I've been reading this exchange and was fascinated by your assessment of GR. Wonder if he'll be at the restaurant when you're there next week. Look forward to reading your review, as well.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Linda & Gio

                                            Comments on the Ramsey eating experience now at


                                            1. re: Harters

                                              J, thanks for the link. Sounds like the service left something to be desired, as well as the beginning/end of the meal. This was not at one of his high-end places, I see. Have you ever eaten at one of his Michelin-starred restaurants?

                                              1. re: LindaWhit


                                                And now that I'm a retired public servant (on a much reduced pension) it's unlikely that I will. I have had two single star meals (different chefs) in recent months, though - one in London; one near home in the north west. Both very good.

                                                Unfortunately, I love my food more than my wallet permits.


                                              2. re: Harters

                                                Thank you for the link, John. That just does not sound like a very appetizing meal to me with the exception of the lamb. I'm glad you at least found some redeeming qualities....The service sounds terrible, though.

                                      2. re: Harters

                                        But he has a very good staff retention rate, and has nurtured some excellent chefs (Angela Hartnett, Jason Maze etc). When he left Aubergine to set up on his own, all of the staff went with him. Why would they do that if he was such a bullying boss?

                                        I have eaten at GR at Royal Hospital Road and had an excellent experience both times. The maitre d' there has worked for Ramsay for years and is one of the best in the business - he clearly doesn't have a problem with his boss.

                                2. re: beelzebozo

                                  wichcraft is very BAD and craft is not great either. his restaurants are mediocre, gramercy tavern (which is GREAT) got better right after he left.