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The Caterer

Restaurateur of the Year – Independent – Gordon Ramsay

13 July 2006
Restaurateur of the Year – Independent – Gordon Ramsay

Sponsored by Brakes

Choosing the winner of Caterer‘s prestigious Restaurateur of the Year - Independent award can be a protracted, often contentious, process. This year, discussions were brief and unanimous.

One judge's challenge: "Is there anyone who doesn't think Gordon Ramsay should win?" was met with only a firm shakings of heads. "He is an outstanding candidate," agreed another judge. "The only surprise here is that he hasn't won this award before."

One of a very few industry figures to claim three Cateys - he won the Chef Award in 2000 and Newcomer of the Year in 1995 - Ramsay is now one of the most high-profile representatives of our industry.

Thanks to a string of awards, including an OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours, TV series, books and, of course, a group of highly successful restaurants to his name, the chef and restaurateur is now acclaimed both by his peers and by the world at large.

Despite Ramsay's ongoing success, judges felt that the past 12 months were particularly outstanding.

In the past year alone, Ramsay's latest restaurant venture, Maze, launched in partnership with chef Jason Atherton, has claimed a veritable host of awards including a Michelin star after only eight months.

"Gordon has shown that he can break his normal format with Maze. It has been a phenomenal success and is a stellar addition to his portfolio of restaurants," said nominator Philip Howard of London's the Square.

A judge added: "Even allowing for the size of the group, the financial performance of Gordon Ramsay Holdings speaks for itself. His success is because each restaurant is unique."

Not content with success in the UK, however, in July last year, Ramsay opened his first restaurant in Japan, at the Conrad Tokyo. This will be followed with the launch of yet another international project at the Rihga Royal Hotel in New York later this year.

Judges felt Ramsay's world performance was a vital part of his success. "In terms of world players, only Alain Ducasse is ahead and I'm sure Ramsay will surpass even him in a few years," said one.

It wasn't just Ramsay's business acumen that impressed judges, however. Key criteria for the award include: "Candidates must set standards to which others can aspire" and that they must "make a valuable contribution to the restaurant industry".

Here judges felt Ramsay had also excelled. First came the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship. Now in its fifth year, the competition is designed to encourage and reward Britain's top young chefs.

More than this, judges felt Ramsay's high-profile public persona had both boosted the perception of the industry as a glamorous place to work, and encouraged more people to consider it seriously as a career.

"He's somebody that kids who want to get into the business want to work for," commented one judge. "Forget all the swearing and the shouting, people want to be associated with him. He's a clear winner."

The shortlist

  • Pascal Aussignac, chef-patron, Club Gascon, Cellar Gascon, Le Comptoir Gascon and Le Cercle

  • Claude Bosi, chef-patron, Hibiscus, Ludlow, and the Bell, Yarpole

  • Gordon Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay Holdings

  • Kuldeep Singh, director-chef, Mela Group

Judges

  • Chris Bodker, chief executive, Image Restaurants

  • John Campbell, executive chef and head of food and beverage, the Vineyard at Stockcross

  • Robert Cook, chief executive, Malmaison brand and Hotel du Vin

  • Jonathan Downey, owner, the Match Bar Group

  • Paul Hickman, analyst, KBC Peel Hunt

  • Nigel Platts-Martin, proprietor, the Square

  • Caroline Stacey, food and drink editor, The Independent

  • Alan Yau, owner, Hakkasan Group

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