No, Gordon Ramsay Is Not Opening Here

February 13, 2009.

I seldom do “process” posts, but thought this might be interesting for the restaurant scene wonks among us as it charts how easily a story can come together and then fall to pieces…

There was some down low Gordon Ramsay chatter in the local restaurantosphere over the last few weeks (if I ever use that word again you can kick me hard in the shins). Plenty of frigate birds, if you know what I mean. Lots of vague emails and anonymous texts. Most of it had Gordon Ramsay partnering up with local restaurateur Jack Evrensel, owner of Araxi, West, CinCin, and the Blue Water Cafe. The “word”, according to the frigate birds, was that The Swearer had been hanging at Araxi in Whistler of late and that he and Jack were stewing something up together. Juicy stuff for food nerds like me (and maybe three of you).

I knew the former to be true. Ramsay had been up in Whistler, and I knew he’d dined at Araxi. But I had no clue as to the veracity of the latter claim, which reeked of rumour. Naturally, I was excited at the prospect of a Ramsay-Evrensel venture, and expended no small amount of energy trying to nail down some more info. As you are probably aware, the international celebrity chefs seem to be picking the West Coast over Toronto when it comes to expanding their empires northwards (witness Vongerichten and Boulud), so this seemed an entirely plausible development. The “who is next” question always brings up the same three names and Ramsay’s is at the top of the list (Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver are the other two). None of this was particularly shocking, but it would be news nevertheless. I’m not a very good gumshoe, but I’d had the good luck to publish the news on Boulud and Vongerichten before anyone else, and I was hoping for a hat trick.

Fuel to the fire was added when I went on Gordon Ramsay’s official website. There I found a headline that read something along the lines of “Gordon Ramsay will appear on CBC’s ‘The Hour’ with George Strombosoandso tonight!”. I was 90% certain – total dumbass that I am – that I might have a little scoop in the works. I had the feeling.

But I didn’t have the story. I couldn’t nail down a third source; my second source conflicted with my first; and the PR people involved weren’t returning my calls (which is generally a sign of promise). I honestly thought that the news of Ramsay and Evrensel joining forces was going to break on Strombosoandso’s show, and I was not the least bit chuffed about it.

When I watched the show (with a growing sense of pointed dread), Ramsay declared something that I wasn’t expecting at all. It was his intention, he said, to open a restaurant in Toronto before Vancouver. He was very non-committal about the timing, so much so that it sounded as if he was just trying to please and appease the Front Street audience.

And with that, thud went the scoop, and poof went the rumour. It didn’t sound like Mr. Potty Mouth Footballer would be coming here or Whistler any time soon. With shoulders thus shrunk, I erased what I’d accrued so far, turned my computer off, and opened a beer.

But in almost every rumour there is a kernel of truth that germinates to make the weed of rumour. The following day on Toronto’s CityNews, Ramsay announced that the winning chef from his television show, Hell’s Kitchen, would be awarded with some work at Araxi. From the lion’s mouth:

I was in Whistler two weeks ago at the Araxi restaurant, which, the new winner of Hell’s Kitchen gets a job there – they source everything within 100 miles. The food, the wine, and everything, all sourced locally. It’s amazing. That’s a template for every restaurant to follow.

Take away the hyperbole (not everything at Araxi is sourced within a hundred miles – the pastry chef, for example, is from Ontario), and it’s not much of a story at all. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea who the “new winner” of Hell’s Kitchen is (I don’t watch the show), so I can’t gauge with any measure of confidence if this is a big deal, a little deal, a gimmick, or Jack just doing a customer a solid.

What do you think?

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