Destinations

Celebrity chefs and the luxury hotel market – 1 Mar 2007

When the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt opens in Ireland later this year it will have an additional selling point that only a handful of hotels can boast – a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

The Ritz-Carlton is banking that Gordon Ramsay’s celebrity profile will attract more business. “Gordon is well-known and highly regarded both in Ireland and internationally,” said Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt general manager Andrew Nasskau. “We were very selective in our negotiations to find a suitable partner and Gordon was the perfect fit.”

Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt will be the ninth hotel to have the Ramsay signature emblazoned on its menus. Ramsay’s latest venture, The London, opened in November 2006 and marked his stateside debut. The restaurant is located in New York’s The London NYC Hotel (formerly the Rihga Royal prior to its $50 million refurbishment).

Ramsay is leading the trend for ‘superchefs’ to open restaurants in hotels. Gary Rhodes fuelled it in 2004 when he opened his first overseas establishment at the Calabash hotel in Grenada, while celebrated chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Nobu Matsuhisa are increasingly adding hotels to their restaurant portfolios.

Rhodes runs W1 Brasserie at the Cumberland Hotel in London. “Having the Gary Rhodes name linked to the hotel does attract many external guests,” said the Cumberland hotel general manager Sanjay Nijhawan. “Combined with our other facilities we are able to offer guests hospitality of a world-class standard.”

However, along with the diners also come the critics. Ramsay’s The London got a well-publicised slating from The New York Times’ fearsome restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni in January.

Indeed, according to Richard Harden, co-owner of Harden’s restaurant guide, ‘superchefs’ such as Ramsay risk spending more time in the boardroom or the TV studio than they do in the kitchen.

“They are becoming businessmen-celebrities as opposed to chefs,” said Harden. “Ramsay gives the impression of putting much more energy into building his celebrity profile than working in any kitchen, and the more establishments he has under his wing, the less control he has of each one.

Anyone who thinks they are getting a special ‘Ramsay experience’ by eating in one of his restaurants is mistaken. That’s not to say they are having a bad experience, just not a very special one. It may be a win-win situation for the hotels and the chef, but the people who lose out are the diners.”

That said, for the time being at least, travel agents can cash in on the public’s obsession with all things celebrity and use it to their advantage.

“A hotel that has a restaurant run by a well-known chef or celebrity is a great selling point for an agent who is trying to clinch a deal,” said Advantage sales and marketing director Colin O’Neill. “It could be the point of difference that encourages a client to opt for one hotel over another.”

‘Superchefs’ in the hotel market

Gary Rhodes

Where you’ll find him: Rhodes Restaurant at the Calabash Hotel, Grenada; Rhodes W1 Brasserie in London’s Cumberland Hotel; Rhodes 24 in London’s Tower 42. Plus, on board P&O’s Arcadia.
Dish of the day: Homemade Kentish pork and Spitfire ale sausages served with homemade mash, caramelised onions and tomato gravy. Served at the Cumberland Hotel for £12.50.
Sample price: Seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Calabash Hotel in Grenada lead in at £1,224 per person with Kuoni. The price includes return flights and private transfers.

Gordon Ramsay

Where you’ll find him: the UK properties currently within Gordon Ramsay Holdings include Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s; Boxwood Cafe and Petrus at The Berkeley; Angela Hartnett at The Connaught; Banquette and The Savoy Grill at The Savoy; and Maze at the Marriott, Grosvenor Square. US properties comprise Gordon Ramsay at The London and The London Bar, both at The London NYC Hotel. The round-up is completed with Verre in Hilton Dubai Creek and the Conrad Tokyo.
Dish of the day: Slow-cooked pork belly, creamed puy lentils, black pudding and pan-fried foie gras with braising jus. Served at the Hilton Dubai Creek for £20.
Sample price: three nights’ bed and breakfast at the five-star Hilton Dubai Creek start at £415 per person with Gold Medal, with flights.

Nobu Matsuhisa

Where you’ll find him: London’s Metropolitan hotel on Park Lane; Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas; Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas; Belevedere Hotel in Mykonos and, as of January this year, InterContinental Hong Kong.
Dish of the day: Salmon served with a teriyaki or wasabi pepper sauce. It is on the menu at InterContinental Hong Kong for £16.50.
Sample price: Four nights’ room-only at the InterContinental Hong Kong lead in at £842 per person with Travel 2 for travel between May 1 and June 19. The price includes return flights with Air New Zealand.

Alain Ducasse

Where you’ll find him: Spoon at the Hong Kong InterContinental; Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris; Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. Plus, as of this month, the St Regis in New York. He’ll also be opening a restaurant in London’s Dorchester this September.
Dish of the day: Provence garden vegetables cooked with black truffle, Terre Bormane Taggiasche olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The dish is served at Le Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris for £50.
Sample price: Three nights’ room-only at the St Regis New York lead in at £1,225 per person, travelling with Carrier. The price includes return flights and transfers.

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