by Leslie Chesterman
MONTREAL - The popular Outremont restaurant Laurier Gordon Ramsay will soon be missing two words from its name: Gordon Ramsay.
The famous U.K. chef’s participation in the rotisserie, an institution in the neighbourhood, has ended after only six months.
“We wish Gordon all the best, but he’s a big star and too busy to come to the restaurant,” owner Danny Lavy said on Wednesday. “He didn’t have the time to manage it. He hasn’t been here since August.”
On Wednesday evening, Lavy was in the process of having Ramsay’s name taken off the sign outside the restaurant. By Friday, the name of the star chef, who has a roster of restaurants, cookbooks and television shows, will be removed from all of the restaurant’s branded material, he said.
Ramsay’s involvement was big news when the newly christened restaurant reopened last August. The media frenzy that arrived along with the British chef, easily one of the most famous on the planet, was unrivalled on the Montreal restaurant landscape.
But an unhappy Lavy is ending Ramsay’s consulting contract as of Friday, Feb. 17, frustrated by a long list of complaints that go back to the start of the alliance.
Calls to Ramsay went unanswered on Wednesday, and as of then, the Laurier Ave. restaurant was still listed on Ramsay’s website (www.gordonramsay.com/laurier).
From the get-go, Ramsay’s role was not what Lavy had envisioned. He said Ramsay was originally slated to be a partner, but when the chef declined to put up any money, he became merely a consultant.
“He was hired as a consultant, but his team was acting as if they owned the restaurant. But there was nothing they did we couldn’t have done on our own.”
Soon after the restaurant opened, the question of “vision” became a sticking point btween Lavy and Ramsay’s people.
“They didn’t understand our vision,” Lavy said. “This is a local restaurant with a lot of heritage. We want to respect the clientele and deliver what they want when they come here. We got to the point of not being on the same page and having someone taking a direction we didn’t want to take. He didn’t understand what was important to us. He was the one who originally wanted to get rid of the original staff.”
The lack of Ramsay face time in Montreal was another disappointment.
Said Lavy: “We wanted him to promote our business, but he wouldn’t even do Tout le Monde en Parle when he was here. Customers kept asking, where’s Gordon? We spoke to his assistant and to him often about coming back at least three times a year. Gordon was excited about the project, but he never showed up.”
Almost 600 VIPs crowded the restaurant’s opening last August, and the reviews that followed were generally positive. The restaurant was given a $1.5-million makeover and a huge effort was made to maintain the classic dishes, including its signature barbecued chicken and desserts, some of which Ramsay objected to keeping.
On the flip side, to make up for taking some dishes off the menu, “we expected him to contribute Gordon Ramsay signature dishes,” Lavy said, “but we got nothing that was ever a ‘wow’ dish, and just a few tweaks on what we already had. He didn’t want salmon tartare on the menu, but we did it, anyways, and it’s now one of the best sellers.”
Even without any appearances by Ramsay, the restaurant has been doing brisk business, with lineups out the door on busy nights. One can question whether it was because of the star’s name, or simply because the clientele was happy to see an old favourite restaurant rejuvenated. “We wanted to give this restaurant a new beginning, and we did it,” Lavy said. “We’re packed all the time and we love running it. This place has 75 years of heritage behind it and we always respected that. We want to give the customer what he or she expects. Are we disappointed in his lack of participation? Totally. I expected more. He just didn’t get it.”
Lavy has been asking the Ramsay people to issue a media statement acknowledging the split. He hasn’t been able to get one.
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