Gordon's Kitchen Nightmare

18 November 2014 | Lloyd Hughes

Casting my cynical PR eye over the news this morning, my attention was caught by one story in particular, the ‘sabotage’ of Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant opening in Mayfair.

One of the side effects of working in PR (some might call it an affliction) is the development of extreme scepticism. Gone are the days when I could open a newspaper and marvel at some chance occurrence, or take pleasure from a heart-warming story caused by happenstance. Now I immediately think: PR stunt.

And today’s Ramsay story is a classic example of something that could be a genuine account, or (more likely) could be a complete fabrication for the purpose of generating publicity.

The majority of people were probably unaware of the fact that Ramsay was even opening a restaurant. Now though, they’re not. The coverage of said sabotage, where the notoriously sweary chef has alleged that a rival attempted to ruin the restaurant’s opening night by making a hundred fake bookings, has been reported by dozens of news sites. In advertorial terms that kind of publicity would have cost an absolute fortune. In PR terms, it still would.

Despite the supposed negative overtones, it’s actually a piece of PR gold.

The suspicious (PR) part of me can’t help but think that this could have been a cunningly engineered tale.

In my head it went something like this:

“Jesus H f*@king Christ!” bellowed Ramsay, “We’ve got a f*@king empty restaurant out there on the opening f*@king night! This is a complete f*@king disaster. It’s a f*@king genuine kitchen f*@king nightmare out there! I’m going to be a complete f*@king laughing stock!”

The air turned a profanity-laced blue and the harassed sous chef cowered beside an empty pudding trolley, as the maître d’ quivered in the face of the verbal storm. Terrified waiters furtively cleaned spotless cutlery at the far-end of the kitchen, desperately avoiding looking at the monster that raged a mere twenty yards from them. The fear was palpable as the heat of Gordon’s wrath cooked surplus steaks an exquisite medium-rare. Suddenly a sleek haired figure poked their head through the serving hatch into the maelstrom of acid-tongued fury.

“Hang on a minute, Gordon”, said the calm and reserved PR guru, “I think we can look at this in a different way…”

And so the tale of ‘sabotage’ emerged.

Ramsay claims that 100 out of 140 bookings were false. Quite frankly, I don’t believe it. That level of fakery would surely arouse suspicions from the person taking the bookings. Usually you’re asked to confirm bookings closer to the time, and particularly so when it comes to the all-important opening night. A wind-up to that extent would have had to be planned with military style precision (using a hundred different telephone numbers for a start) or by somebody with a career-inspiring array of accents at their disposal.

If I ever see Alistair McGowan wandering around with a bag full of mobile phones then please accept my apologies, Gordon, for my distrust.

Personally, I believe it was a complete f*@king disaster as Ramsay would more than likely put it, but he’s turned it around nicely. Saying that the staff were “down and frustrated” brings out the sympathy in casual observers. But not in me.

Smooth work you wily old fox, Gordon. Or more likely smooth work from your wily old fox of a PR.