Gordon Ramsay loves the New England lobster roll politics



Technically, the star chef loves the debate.

Gordon Ramsay at Ramsay’s Kitchen in the Back Bay. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

Gordon Ramsay’s newest restaurant is officially based at the Mandarin Oriental on Boylston Street.

Ramsay’s Kitchen, which opened January 24, combines some of the chef’s favorite dishes, drawing inspiration from both local ingredients and dishes from around the world.

Ramsay is an internationally renowned, multiple Michelin starred chef with a number of restaurants around the world and several well known television shows including hell kitchen. In an interview with Boston.com earlier this week, Ramsay shared why Boston is the destination for his latest venture, the challenges of opening a restaurant during the pandemic, and yes, he’s gotten into the hot versus cold lobster rolls debate mixed up in the region.

This interview has been edited slightly.

What was the appeal of opening a restaurant in New England? How has it affected the menu and other elements of Ramsay’s Kitchen?

I’ve always been a big fan of Boston and we have a lot in common – London, Boston, Glasgow – the heritage comes from the shellfish. Growing up on the west coast of Scotland I had access to scallops, oysters and lobster. I first came here in 2005 and in many ways was just blown away by how real and resilient the city is. It’s loud and proud, but in a way it doesn’t seem overdone. It doesn’t try to make it look and feel that special because it’s clearly visible on the floor. It doesn’t have to work very hard to be beautiful.

I went to ROW 34 [Sunday] night for a late night dinner and it was just exceptional. I see what’s going on with the docks and what’s happening to this side of town and what kind of development is happening there.

[I’ve] I was a big, big, big Boston fan and I’m so lucky to be here. The most important reason for me will boil down to the ingredients. …Boston has that through and through.

The Fish & Chips at Ramsay’s Kitchen.

What elements of the Northeast and Boston did you draw inspiration from for the menu?

Mainly the fish. From our fish and chips to [seared] Maine scallops, the lobster is second to none. I don’t think there are other areas in the country right now [where] We can get so many oysters at this time of year, so this is very seasonal.

We’re fish-heavy for obvious reasons, and then we have some classics of lovely bouillabaisse – we made a classic Mediterranean bouillabaisse, Marseille-style, but with seafood from Boston, so it’s beautiful. I mean it’s really beautiful and breathtaking.

i love politics Everyone is worried about the politics behind the lobster roll. I love it. I absolutely adore this stuff because they’re both winners, and it depends on what you want. And so Connecticut can go down the slow butter poaching route and Boston will go down the mayonnaise route. It’s just fascinating to listen to a damn lobster bun and dive into politics, for God’s sake, what the heck?

The Mandarin Oriental is well known and respected and the restaurant area used to be the accommodation Bar Bouloudunder the direction of chef Daniel Boulud. How did you settle at this location?

I’m a big supporter of Daniel Boloud. He’s a world famous chef and sometimes things don’t work out and it’s for the fortune of the next person who comes along. This is a properly built and developed company. Sometimes you see chefs and hotels as some kind of brand gossip, but we are a fundamental partner of a hotel and we have a beautiful design… with the beautiful shades of blue and cream and rocking towards the ocean. There are ornaments and statues in the dining room, the bar that leads to a kind of beautiful bridge, and the historic walls that refer to Boston’s history. So we tried to tie that up.

I think it’s really important not to shoot too high, in a way that you want to become too single-minded, in a way that’s too demanding. Bostonians will be uncomfortable with this. Fitting in with the community was something that was absolutely paramount.

[There were a] some noise about whether this is the right time to invest? We’ve just had the most devastating two years in the entire industry ever. We’ve seen stock market crashes and high interest rate levels, but nothing has hit the industry like the pandemic has in recent years. So now it’s time to strike back.

Interior of Ramsay's kitchen
In Ramsay’s kitchen. – Gordon Ramsay North America

What challenges has the pandemic presented trying to open this restaurant?

First of all, I love challenges. I think getting the supply question in terms of materials and getting the dining room the way we wanted it… It’s just sumptuous. We don’t have 250 seats, here it’s 130, so it’s pretty small compared to a lot of restaurants, but it’s conquering Boston.

I’ve delayed the opening to make sure we’re ready when we go because it’s going to be immediate and there’s a lot of demand. We’ve closed the book and are running at about 60-70% – we don’t want to open the doors and flood the store. It was amazing and the response was impeccable but that just keeps us going and I’m just happy to be here. … We’ve got just under 200 employees here, new jobs, new careers, new enthusiasm, and everything we wanted in the industry is back.

This restaurant is the first of a new concept. What inspired this Ramsay’s Kitchen that blends many of your classic dishes with dishes from around the world? How did you come up with this idea?

I think the idea was primarily a nod to everything I learned. Every time I join Uncharted and get transported to some of the most obscure countries, from Tasmania to the middle of Machu Picchu in Peru, the mountains of Indonesia, I’m absolutely amazed by what I’ve learned and done. Of course we will keep it local, but it will be so much easier when the quality of the products is what it is. I suppose the inspirational part of my career will be reflected on the menu from top to bottom.

The bouillabaisse at Ramsay’s Kitchen. —Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The restaurant has been open for a few weeks. Are there any tweaks you’d like to make, or is everything running smoothly and the way you envisioned it?

Adjustments are made every day. We made crafts this morning. And that was the bouillabaisse. I went and studied [and] lived in France for years and I was learning how to make a beautiful bouillabaisse with my eyes closed in Marseille and doing it with such incredible shellfish is fraught with danger. Cooking shellfish is much more difficult than cooking steak as there is only one temperature that is perfect. So part of cooking with shellfish has to do with the temperature and cooking of the broth. …

I strive for perfection every day and I wake up and you try so damn hard every day to get it right. It installs that across the team. So [it’s a] work in progress but we’re getting there.

What would you order tonight?

Well that’s tough in place. It depends who I’m with. So I would start with the tuna tartar, which is a really fragrant, peaceful, savory fresh tartar with crème fraîche. And then I’d share the bouillabaisse for two because it’s just out of this world. And then dessert: [the] sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce.


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