Ramsay’s kitchen – well done or overcooked?

Gordon Ramsay’s caustic treatment of his staff is legendary, but is the
world-famous chef being held back by his management style? Michael Millar asked
experts if there was still a place for Ramsay’s leadership style in the modern


Owen Warnock, employment law partner at Eversheds

"Some aspects of Gordon Ramsay’s management style are legally pretty risky.
Swearing at staff and reducing them to tears would definitely put him on the
wrong side of employment law.

"However, his management style is not all bad. He has a very clear and
direct approach which is certainly honest and open. The other area in which
Gordon Ramsay scores highly is in the praise he gives people when staff do
well. As a result he has a highly motivated workforce – something that many
managers struggle to achieve."

Peter Hooker, managing director of recruitment website jobsstore.co.uk

A survey of 167 sous chefs from across the country by jobsstore.co.uk showed
72 per cent of respondents would be happy to put up with Gordon Ramsay’s famous
fiery temper in order to learn from the cookery guru. Less than one in five
said the treatment was tantamount to bullying.

More than two-thirds of those questioned said they had experienced similar
treatment from their head chef.

"His demand for turning out work to a perfect standard or not sending
it out at all; his ability to accept when he is wrong and that he has let the
customer down, plus his words of praise and encouragement when needed are all
marks of a good manager," said Hooker.

Joanna Wood, chef editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine

"This kind of behaviour is not unusual, particularly at the high end.
You don’t get it to the same degree as a few years ago, but Gordon is by no
means unique.

"In the kitchen you need to have very good discipline and clear
demarcation of roles, otherwise you don’t get the job done. This structure has been
refined over the past 100 years and it is the best way to get the food out.

"The morale boosting comes after the service – then he talks with his


Ruth Rogers, chef and owner of the River Café, London

"The standard of the River Café is tough, demanding and the standard is
high, but we run on hope not fear and it is an open kitchen so people have to
be polite. We find people learn best if they are given time and

Imogen Haslan, adviser on bullying, Chartered Institute of Personnel and

"Autocratic management makes good TV, but it is a dinosaur style. Even
in a situation like a busy kitchen where the team needs to be tight and clear
about their roles, a democratic approach would be more successful.

The staff should be a well-oiled machine – a reliance on bullying,
harassment and picking on individual staff members will only undermine the
whole team.

"I would be very interested in being Gordon Ramsay’s HR adviser and
doing a 360-degree appraisal on him!"

Alyson Hodgson, UK and Ireland resourcing manager, Sodexho

Sodexho catering has worked with Ramsay on a variety of projects. "His
management style is not commonplace in catering. There are 60,000 vacancies in
the hospitality sector and discerning employees can just walk away.

"We neither support or tolerate this kind of behaviour – professional
management culture condemns it.

The programme [Hell’s Kitchen] really hasn’t helped us – it has reinforced a
stereotype of long hours, blood, sweat and tears and petulance. I think it will
affect recruitment into our graduate programme in the autumn."

Matt Witheridge, operations manager, Andrea Adams Trust, the UK charity
dedicated to workplace bullying.

On the morning Personnel Today spoke to Witheridge, he had already received
three calls on the charity’s helpline from kitchen staff.

"Treating people like that is not the way to get results. It is a
management style that reaps a lot more negatives than positives in the long
run. You need to support, train and nurture staff to reach autonomy – if you
scream at them they will never reach their full potential. This kind of
behaviour has been handed down; it is not one that has been worked out."

Beverley Shears, HR director, South West trains

"Almost every piece of research will show that yelling at people won’t
get results. Being cruel is just grand-standing – nothing more, and nothing

"It won’t get the best results out of the best people."

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