Gordon Ramsay's first restaurant in France has only just opened and already the knives are out.
The British chef isn't bringing anything new to the table and owns so many eateries, it's just "karaoke cuisine", according to Le Figaro food critic Francois Simon, whom Ramsay calls "Roland Rat," usually preceded by an "F" word, and it's not "Figaro".
Ramsay, in an interview at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon, in Versailles, says the reception shows signs of being fiercer than in New York, where he came under fire from critics such as Frank Bruni of the New York Times when he opened there in late 2006.
"I poke to create a reaction but now it's like this tsunami, a barrage coming my way," he says.
"Karaoke cuisine? Come on. I thought New York was tough, but this? I had my pants taken down by the beloved Frank Bruni, but at least he panned me after five visits.
"We're not even open yet. New York was a tough opening and I've learned a lot from there. They say we played safe, no fireworks and all that. Here, I'm going to explode. Here, they've no idea of the arsenal ... The more criticism, the better I get."
Ramsay, 41, is sitting at the chef's table at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon for the interview. In the gleaming kitchen, chef Simone Zanoni and his team are at work preparing a special dinner for food writers. In the dining room, Jean-Claude Breton, the maitre d' of Ramsay's flagship London restaurant, is running through the finer points of service with the Versailles team.
This opening is important for Ramsay, even though he's looking relaxed and spends much of the interview joking.
He's also fast and funny, whether it's jumping to his feet and stamping the floor to show how he'd like to dispose of "Roland Rat" or saying what he'd do if another critic wanted any help with a new book.
Ramsay says he has had an approach to open a branch of his Maze eatery on the Champs-Elysees and that Touchstone Pictures are in talks to buy movie rights to his autobiography, Humble Pie. Ramsay says he has developed a thick skin, but it wasn't on show in Versailles.
In the event, he made a short speech of welcome, paying tribute to Savoy and introducing Zanoni. The menu included Ramsay's signature ravioli of langoustine and lobster as well as witty new dishes, such as an amuse gueule of a deconstructed English breakfast, including an edible teaspoon of puff pastry.
It was a strong menu and I was surprised to see Liberation's critic, Vincent Noce, quoted in the Times later as saying, "The dinner was unanimously judged extremely disappointing."
Ramsay deserves respect, not just for his cooking but for helping nurture some of the greatest chefs and for fine TV shows such as Kitchen Nightmares.
Thanks for the article it was very interesting. We see a lot of Jean-Claude in the shows which air on BBC America. He is just as sharp a cookie as Ramsay himself. Also helps that he is easy on the eyes!