Gordon Ramsay has never been afraid to branch out. Over the last 20 years or so, his empire has accrued 16 Michelin Stars and has specialised in cuisines ranging from French to barbecue. His kitchens have served langoustine ravioli, vegan pizza and everything in between. There aren’t a lot of edible boxes that the Ramsay collective can’t tick.
However, despite his many obvious successes, his latest venture has raised more than a few eyebrows from across the food industry. Replacing his old “Maze” restaurant in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, Ramsay has announced plans for a new project - “The Lucky Cat”. According to early reports, this restaurant will mark the first time that Ramsay has tried his hand at Asian cooking.
As revealed in an excited press release, the new kitchen will be fronted by self described “tofu freak” and former employee at some of London’s top Asian concept kitchens, Ben Orpwood. The hope is that Orpwood’s “extensive experience in the realm of Asian cuisine includes his time as executive chef at Asian restaurant and bar, Sexy Fish, in addition to a six-year stint at Japanese concept Zuma” will put him in prime position to “lead the charge on the innovative menu.”
Ramsay himself is obviously optimistic about the new venture’s chances. As part of the statement, he added “I can’t wait to open the doors at Lucky Cat and bring a new flavour of Asian food and culture to Mayfair. I can honestly say there will not be a bad seat in the house — every table will have a unique view and each guest will come away having experienced something sensational — whether it be the phenomenal menu, the amazing service or the stunning look and feel. Maze leaves large shoes for us to fill, but I have no doubt Lucky Cat will more than step up to the plate.”
Despite the apparent enthusiasm of Ramsay and his team, questions remain over the efficacy of the new concept. Ramsay’s marketing team have explicitly referenced a desire for “authenticity” in their concept - a potential problem, given that this a kitchen run and designed by white British chefs. Already, Eater have called the restaurant’s ethics into consideration, citing the reaction to Ramsay’s recent National Geographic series “Uncharted” as evidence that cultural sensitivity and integrity may not be high on his priority list.
As is alluded to in the press release, “The Lucky Cat” will have a weight of expectation. Maze was one of the most famous high-end eateries in the city for a time, catering to a wealthy and often extremely picky clientele. The pressure will be on to deliver a high quality experience in the site’s latest iteration.
The debate over authenticity in cooking has become even more fraught in recent years. Ideas of ownership and respecting tradition have called certain styles and concepts into question. For anyone concerned about the implications of the new opening, the only option will be to wait and see what happens. It looks as though, from the outset, there’s one of two directions in which the business will go.