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Gordon Ramsay’s central ‘prep’ kitchen – which produces much of the food sold in the sweary chef’s three London gastropubs, and at Foxtrot Oscar SW3 – is the subject of a front page exposé in today’s fun-filled Sun. The article reveals that about half of the fare on offer at the four establishments is prepared at central kitchens, in Clapham.

In theory, of course, there’s nothing – necessarily – wrong with central preparation, but in practice it is rarely associated with the best results. The particular problem with Ramsay doing it is that it contradicts everything he says he stands for. “My food hell is any ready meal”, he recently told Olive magazine. “It's so easy to prepare a quick dish using fresh produce, such as a simple stir-fry, but people still resort to ready meals that all taste exactly the same”.

Nor is central prep something the establishments are prepared readily to admit – the Sun recounts two examples of staff incorrectly stating that shipped-in dishes had been made on the premises.

The results at the four establishments, as judged by Harden’s last survey, are certainly far from impressive. Reflecting the survey results – which put three of the establishments in the bottom categories (‘average’ and ‘poor’) for food – the current edition of Harden’s notes the “very poor standards evident at the Ramsay group’s most recent openings aimed at the mass market”.

Gordon’s current success in the bookshops, Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Pub Food, is curiously silent on the importance of sous vide – or, as it’s sometimes called, ‘boil in the bag’ – technique, and the contribution it can make to our national gastronomy.

PS See nicely-judged commentary by Charles Campion in the Evening Standard. He makes the fair point that many gastropubs – indeed, the same is true of many restaurants – ‘buy in’ to some extent.

We don’t, however, agree with his suggestion that: “Ramsay's gastropubs are no better or worse than a lot of other gastropubs”. Our broadly-based survey suggests the Ramsay establishments are actually quite a lot worse than many of the establishments which regular London diners-out regard as their natural peers.

There is no surprise in this. At any level of the market, multiple operators will always struggle to provide quality equivalent to that of the better independents. That – in nearly 20 years of Harden’s experience of surveying restaurant-goers – has shown itself to be an almost invariable rule.

Campion‘s best point, perhaps, is that nowadays Ramsay “is more of a brand like Unilever than a chef”. The problem, for the wider public, is that revelations of the nature which have emerged today make the ‘chef’ side of the persona seem ever more bogus.

PPS Gosh, this must be a big news story. Barely has the sun risen in California – or is it India, we get lost – and the Press Association is reporting an official clarification of the Gordon Ramsay position.

“Gordon Ramsay Holdings operate a kitchen facility in Wandsworth called GR Logistics (which was purchased from Albert Roux). Here Gordon Ramsay chefs prepare components of dishes devised and produced to the highest Gordon Ramsay standards.” Well they’re not going to be Marco Pierre White’s chefs, are they? And what’s this about ‘components of dishes’? Presumably if a fishcake is put on a plate with a rocket leaf, that demotes it to being just a ‘component’ of a dish, rather than a dish itself. So that’s alright then?

“These are sealed and transported daily in refrigerated vans and all menu dishes are then cooked in the individual kitchens.” Is the term ‘cooked’ being used in a rather technical sense? We suspect laymen would tend to say ‘heated up’.

“This is only for the supply of Foxtrot Oscar and the three pubs and allows each establishment to control the consistency and the quality of the food served.” Great. Just like KFC, then?

“GR Logistics also supply a number of other restaurants outside the group with prepared components.” Isn’t that wonderful. We can enjoy the Sweary One’s warmed up ‘prepared components’ at other places too. Wonder if they make them taste any better?

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