Gordon Ramsay has bought the former site of Aubergine, the restaurant that launched his career as a chef-restaurateur, and where he subsequently won his first brace of Michelin stars.
The deal, which sees his company Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) acquire 11 Park Walk in Chelsea, reunites Ramsay with the restaurant where he took up his first head chef position, as part of the A-Z Restaurants group, in 1993. He was later given a 25% stake in the business.
While relatively unknown outside the industry at the time of the launch, Ramsay took on the post of head chef at Aubergine having been introduced to A-Z owners Claudio Pulze and Giuliano Lotto by Marco Pierre White. However, the appointment, in fact, came a year after the young chef won the 1992 Craft Guild of the Chefs National Chef of the Year competition.
The restaurant's popularity skyrocketed and in 1995 it won its first Michelin star, that same year he was also awarded the Newcomer Award Catey. Two years later, the restaurant was promoted to two Michelin stars.
Along with its accolades, Aubergine fast became a breeding ground for the industry's most-talented young chefs. Having met at Le Gavroche, fellow chef Marcus Wareing opened the restaurant as Ramsay's sous chef, while Angela Hartnett joined the following year. Fellow National Chef of the Year winner Mark Sargeant started working there in 1997. Front of house was run by Jean-Claude Breton, whom Ramsay had also met at Le Gavroche, and who continues as maitre d' at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay today.
But after installing Wareing as head of L'Oranger (also part of A-Z Restaurants, and co-owned by Ramsay and Wareing) in 1996, a row over contracts and the future direction of the business brought about the dismissal of Wareing and Ramsay's resignation in 1998. Half the staff that walked out of Aubergine and L'Oranger in protest joined Ramsay at his first independent restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, in Royal Hospital Road, on the former site of Pierre Koffmann's La Tante Claire.
A-Z Restaurants, which rebranded as the London Fine Dining Company in 2007, appointed William Drabble as head chef at Aubergine, after Ramsay's departure, and Drabble held a Michelin star at the property until his departure in 2009.
It is not yet known what GRH, which is run by managing director Stuart Gillies, plans to do with the restaurant or when it will launch, although the deal is understood to have been completed. At the time of the sale, 11 Park Walk was being run as a "neighbourhood Italian restaurant" by the London Fine Dining Company.
"The signing of the new site is very exciting for us as a group as we continue to explore new opportunities," Stuart Gillies, managing director of the Gordon Ramsay Group, told Caterer. "11 Park Walk is steeped in history and it's so nice to be back in there, bringing together everything we've learnt along the way."
The news comes following a series of high-profile new openings at the company, which last month launched London House in Battersea, and last year opened the Union Street Café in Borough.
It will be GRH's 13th site in the UK, and its 26th overall.