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We’ve been told that in just over a week, Claridge’s will announce who will fill the shoes of Gordon Ramsay, whose contract to run the hotel’s flagship restaurant ended in June. Square Meal examines the odds on the potential heirs to Ramsay’s throne – and to one of the hottest openings of 2014.
The lowdown: Noma’s sell-out session at Claridge’s during the Olympics was a huge success for the hotel: the five-course, £195 Taste of Noma extravaganza – which included a jar of live ants – was booked up within minutes and put the hotel firmly in the spotlight at a time when the world’s focus was on the capital.
What the chef says: Redzepi would certainly bring something very distinctive to Claridge’s and usher in a defiantly post-Ramsay era for the dining room. He recently told The Guardian that he became head chef at Noma because, ‘I didn't want to take over someone else's cuisine; I wanted to start from scratch’.
Form: Two Michelin-starred Noma fell from the top of the tree at this year’s 50 Best awards – but only to number two, having been pipped to the pinnacle by Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca. Noma’s huge waiting list more than justifies a second restaurant, but for this committed chef, a Copenhagen-to-London commute could be a stretch too far.
The lowdown: When news got out that not only was New York-based restaurateur Danny Meyer planning to open a restaurant in London, but that he was also staying at Claridge’s earlier this year, the rumour mill swung into action. However, Meyer seems to be concentrating his energies on his company’s first non-US branch of Shake Shack, which launched in Covent Garden this summer.
What the chef says: ‘I stayed there one night when I was in town for business. All of a sudden I was opening a restaurant there. People put two and two together a lot of the time.’
Form: Meyer is the king of the New York dining scene, with destination restaurants such as Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern combining popularity with longevity. He’d be more than up to the job – but would his casual brand of fine dining work at Claridge’s?
The lowdown: 2013 has been a vintage year for Atherton, with two new restaurants – Little Social and Social Eating House – hitting the capital’s streets in quick succession earlier this year (the latter winning a Michelin star only five months after its launch). Atherton’s most recent opening, Berners Tavern at Edition Hotel, gained critical acclaim from all corners and is a step further into the world of hotel restaurants for the intrepid chef.
What the chef says: ‘I don’t plan anything. A lot of restaurant groups sit in their offices with a world map planning global domination but I just don’t know what I’ll be up to in the near future.’
Form: A Ramsay protégé and home-grown talent whose star is firmly on the rise, Atherton would be a fantastic fit for one of London’s most prestigious hotels. But although the chef clearly thrives under pressure, he more than has his hands full with his three new openings, plus his flagship Pollen Street Social, his overseas ventures, his upcoming Tower 42 project next May, and rumours of his involvement in Covent Garden’s Bow Street Magistrates Court, which will relaunch as a hotel in 2015. And with his Ramsay pedigree, would Atherton manage to escape the shadow of his mentor?
The lowdown: When Keller brought a 10-day pop-up version of his California-based restaurant The French Laundry to Harrod’s in autumn 2011, he was widely believed to be testing the waters for international expansion. So far, nothing has come of the rumours, and the French Laundry and Per Se chef has continued to oversee his west-coast and east-coast destinations without further comment.
What the chef says: Keller himself remains tight-lipped about this persistent rumour, but Danny Meyer admitted to Square Meal, ‘I heard it was Thomas Keller after The French Laundry pop-up’.
Form: Keller is one of the industry’s most revered figures and could take his pick of opening a restaurant almost anywhere in the world. His meticulous and classical cooking style would be a good match with the hotel’s image – but like Ramsay, would Keller become too big for Claridge’s?
The lowdown: The L’Enclume chef became the sudden frontrunner in the race for the Claridge’s position after a Twitter rumour went viral in foodie circles. The chef is well respected for his two-Michelin-starred Cumbrian flagship and his profile has been further raised recently following his two-year London pop-up Roganic last year, plus two new 2013 openings, The French and Mr Cooper’s House and Garden, at the Midland hotel in Manchester.
What the chef says: After the Claridge’s rumour broke, Rogan became the epitome of ‘unavailable for comment’ – his phone was permanently engaged for days afterwards and he didn’t respond to emails.
Form: Roganic certainly gave the chef valuable experience of the London dining scene and brought him a new audience in the capital. Meanwhile, his two recent ventures at The Midland in Manchester have given him a crash course in the world of posh hotels. With a permanent version of Roganic officially off the cards, Claridge’s could well become the Southampton-born chef’s new London vehicle.
The lowdown: Byatt trained at Claridge’s from 1989 to 1994, leaving the hotel as a chef de partie. He has since established himself as a top restaurateur with his Clapham flagship Trinity, plus local haunt Bistro Union.
What the chef says: ‘Claridge’s is one of the most amazing spaces in London, and if I were given the opportunity to go into a hotel in the West End I would only want to do so in Claridge’s. I spent many happy years in the restaurant, and I think it’s the best hotel in the world.’ Which sounds like a pretty firm job application to us.
Form: Rumours have abounded that Claridge’s will go for a chef who, like John Williams at The Ritz, will keep the focus very much on the hotel’s name rather than their own. Byatt fits the bill in this respect, but with so many big names keen to fill Ramsay’s shoes, we’re placing him as a plucky outsider.
The lowdown: Another Ramsay alumnus, Sargeant has also had a busy year, juggling consultancy positions here and abroad alongside his executive chef duties at Plum + Spilt Milk at King’s Cross and Rocksalt in Folkestone. His return to the hotel where he made his name – he opened Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s when he was just 28 years old – hasn’t been widely rumoured, but Sargeant still has ties with the team there, and first met many of his current staff at the hotel.
What the chef says: ‘I didn’t ever want to be a carbon copy of Gordon and do things just because he had done them; I wanted to be very much my own person… [but] I would love to take over Claridge’s.’
Form: In a sense, Sargeant has already been there and done that. But if Claridge’s wants a safe pair of hands, Sargeant could be the man for the job.
Who do you think will take over at Claridge’s? Email [email protected] to place your bets…