A seemingly run-of-the-mill restaurant review for the Guardian unearthed a tense disagreement between Gordon Ramsay and a female chef who apparently worked in several of his restaurants over a two-year period.
Food writer Jay Rayner was working on a review of a London restaurant called Jinjuu when he accidentally stumbled across the food feud. Rayner was apparently attempting to verify head chef Judy Joo’s CV with Gordan Ramsay when things suddenly escalated.
Still, presumably Judy Joo knows her market. She began as an investment banker before swapping into the world of food and television. Her biography on her own website lists her two years working for Gordon Ramsay. Time spent at his flagship restaurant is mentioned again on the Jinjuu website. I ask Gordon Ramsay Holdings about her time with them. At this point it should be made clear that, from my subsequent enquiries, there is no doubt Joo did spend significant time working in the kitchens of the group, albeit mostly on an unpaid basis.
Which makes the Gordan Ramsay Holdings response all the more bizarre. You’d think I’d accused them of drowning kittens. Managing director Stuart Gillies told me that Joo was only given part-time experience as a gesture of goodwill at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in the pastry section, that they have no records of employment for her in any of their other restaurants, and that at no point did Gordon Ramsay himself train her (which was not something she’d ever claimed). Gillies went on to accuse her angrily of being economical with the truth on her personal website.
Sounds like someone really wanted to convey the impression that Joo was a) a liar or b) had little or no contact with Ramsay. Why he wanted to convey that impression is unclear, and Rayner isn’t able to figure out why. But, Rayner writes, Joo’s claims checked out.
Blimey. I was only looking for a bit of background. I put all this to Joo by email. I thought she might call me. I’d have liked that. After all, we met a few years ago. She even asked me for advice on getting into British food media. Instead her lawyers send me a 17-page letter denying everything that Gordon Ramsay Holdings said. She had worked for up to five days a week for over two years in many of his restaurants, mostly as an unpaid intern, they say, including three months at Pétrus. She’d also worked with Jason Atherton at Maze and elsewhere within the group.
The letter includes multiple pages of testimonials. In just 36 hours, Joo’s team has solicited responses from around the world. There are statements in support of her from Chantelle Nicholson, operations director for Marcus Wareing, a testimonial from Jason Atherton and later even one from Mark Askew and Simone Zanoni, two ex-head chefs of Ramsay’s flagship restaurant. All are clear: Joo had spent an awful lot of time in the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. Zanoni referred to her as a true pleasure and a great asset to the team.
Not exactly the dishwasher Ramsay’s team tried to portray her as. So what’s with the contradicting stories and team of lawyers? Pretty intense reactions over a restaurant that’s just “OK if you like that sort of thing.”