Chef de Cuisine Matt Abé firmly believes that teamwork is behind the ongoing success of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This is embodied in every element of the restaurant, from every person and process to the very design of the kitchen itself.
The pride in his team is immediately apparent. “We’re all here for the same reason, and we’re all really proud of what we, together with Gordon, have created.” explains Matt. “The team isn’t just me or Jean-Claude [Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s longstanding Maître d’ and Restaurant Director], it’s everyone, and it’s so important that each and every team member feels empowered by that.”
Jean-Claude echoes this sentiment, “For me it is all about togetherness – us all going in the same direction and taking care of our guests. Every day is about showing that same passion and consistency, but also about having fun together and living our dreams in each service.” While for Senior Sous Chef Kim Ratcharoen it’s as simple as everyone “giving 110% to achieve the best that we can all be.”
Matt’s commitment to helping the team work together and communicate better is most apparent in how the kitchen runs day-in and day-out. In 2018, the kitchen underwent a total transformation, providing the opportunity to make some major improvements with the team in mind. “Gordon was fully behind the project and was excited and involved with every little detail and decision.”
The stunning new electric stoves are all concealed within the work benches – no panels, ducts, hoods or other equipment coming down from the ceiling. “This makes the kitchen feel much more open,” explains Matt, “not only is it easier to see everything that’s going on, but everyone can talk to one another. It’s really important for chefs to communicate – yes you might only be working on one particular section, but as everyone is constantly moving about, transferring plates, trays and pans, you need to be aware of what everyone else is doing and people need to be able to bring dishes together at the same time.”
Explaining the way that the rest of the kitchen works, it’s clear from Matt that a successful kitchen relies on everyone doing their bit. The separate sections have been built and equipped to offer the chefs the best possible chance of success, but each person has a crucial part to play, from the Sous Chefs on the pass to the Kitchen Porters working their magic behind-the-scenes.
The highly creative Pastry section is on the far left of the kitchen, separated from the heat of the stoves and some of the kitchen noise so the chefs can work together creating the freshly baked bread, tartlets and intricate desserts.
Within the kitchen itself are the Meat and Fish sections. Previously this was one section, but Matt took the refurbishment as an opportunity to let his chefs dedicate themselves to just one of these aspects. “It was too much for one person before, meat might include hot starters as well as a lot of the mains, and fish includes things like the scallop dishes, too. Dividing the sections meant we could get a better result every time and helped each chef to focus and really excel.”
The Sauce and Garnish sections often get overlooked, but Matt explains that they are crucial to the restaurant. “Every dish has a sauce. They’re always finished off to order and the chef helps to dress the dishes on the pass, so it’s really full-on during service for them, too.”
When it comes to vegetables and garnishes, Matt explains that this was his first position in the restaurant over 10 years ago. “People might see it as a ‘boring’ place to work, but it gave me a lot of respect for vegetables, at one point I was prepping over 100 things a day!” The Garde Manger, where salads and cold elements are prepared, sits right next to the pass where all the final elements of each complex dish are added. “Something from these chefs is on every plate of food. Three people work here, one on the pass side to run it with the others following their instructions. It’s a real team effort to get that final plating to perfection every time.”
Before leaving the kitchen, every dish is brought to the pass where Matt works with his two Sous Chefs, Kim and James, to ensure the level of quality expected of three Michelin stars is upheld on every plate. The lights in the rest of the kitchen are dimmed slightly during service to reduce glare, whilst creating a focal point on the pass and giving Matt the right environment to check that each dish is perfect.
The clear focus on teamwork and hard work has meant Restaurant Gordon Ramsay has retained 3 Michelin stars for the past 19 years. However, for Matt it is not about the stars. “Michelin is a standard we work to. I don’t wake up every day to maintain the stars, I wake up to work to a level that achieves that” he says, and he knows the team behind him support that fully. “Of course, it’s pressure. Our reputation sits on every plate we send out, but Michelin might only come in one day of the year and it’s really about doing what we do every single day, regardless.”
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