Gordon Ramsay would give ‘right arm’ to open a San Francisco restaurant

SFGATE food editor Steph Rodriguez spoke with the decorated chef about his hard TV persona, SF street food and feeling the burn on ‘Hot Ones’

By Steph Rodriguez

Chef Gordon Ramsay poses inside Hell’s Kitchen Las Vegas. (Caesars Entertainment)

Gordon Ramsay doesn’t mince words. He runs a restaurant; Fox runs a TV show. The globally recognized celebrity chef and restaurateur was quick to point out the difference while sitting across from me in a private dining area inside his Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe restaurant on a snow-kissed fall afternoon, just days before his 56th birthday. 

“‘Hell’s Kitchen’ is a boot camp. If you imagine, 25 chefs coming in to look for an amazing job, a great platform, a quarter of a million dollars as a prize — I run a restaurant,” he said. “When we go live with those reservations, it’s real: 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 9:45 tables are real. The menu, the inspiration, the specials, the prep — it’s all real.”

Ramsay was in town for a special dinner event, a housewarming party where Tahoe locals and city government officials were invited to celebrate the restaurant’s success since it first opened in January 2020, then on the brink of the pandemic. 

Still, it didn’t stop 12,000 reservations from pouring in when the opening was announced in December 2019. 

And if my experience at dinner service the night prior was any indication, it seemed like Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe inside Harveys casino was firing on all burners. This event was Ramsay’s first time visiting the restaurant since it opened, and Hell’s Kitchen waitstaff were busy straightening and resetting the dining area before they welcomed guests for an evening with the celebrated chef.

Chef Gordon Ramsay on an episode of “Hell’s Kitchen.” Its current season airs Thursdays on Fox. (Pete Dadds)

As far as his candid, fire-breathing persona, which made him famous across decades of television shows aired in both the U.K. and the U.S., the British chef added that it’s also very real. He pointed out, however, that viewers watch a mere 46-minute cut of what occurred in a 24-hour period while he and the cheftestants film the “Hell’s Kitchen” reality cooking competition

“I have to present the extreme. When I get down to that one team in the black jackets, and we’re down to the final six, five, four chefs — that’s when the competition starts to take on a completely new level, and it gets really exciting for me seeing that young talent,” he said. “And then, they get good. They get very good. And then, one of them gets an amazing prize. Christina Wilson’s a prime example of keeping your head down and focusing. It’s more than a TV show.”

Published with SFGate November 15, 2022. Read the full story here, where chef Ramsay talks about his favorite San Francisco foods and enduring spicy wings during his appearance on the YouTube talk show “Hot Ones.”