Controversial things everyone ignores about Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay is one of the most famous and accomplished chefs on the planet. He owns dozens of restaurants around the world, has starred in a number of different reality shows and documentaries, enjoys a secondary career as a published author, and runs a charity foundation with his wife, Tana. Perhaps most impressively of all, he is a holder of seven Michelin stars across four different restaurants. Basically: he's doing alright for himself. 

But beneath the shiny accolades and multi-million dollar social media deals; beneath the dining empire and huge fortune, is a man with a serious dark side. Since the very beginning of his career right up to the present day, Ramsay has been followed by a number of controversies and scandals. He's been in trouble with the law, with his wife, and with his rivals, and has been accused — on different occasions — of misogyny, homophobia, and racism. And yet, despite it all, his career marches on... and Ramsay just seems to go from strength to strength. These are the controversial things everyone ignores about Gordon Ramsay.

Gordon Ramsay's troubles with the taxman

It seems like there's no shortage of celebrities these days who get all shy when the time comes to pay their taxes, and Gordon Ramsay is no different.

In 2009, Ramsay appeared in London's High Court, having failed to pay taxes on a restaurant he owned at Heathrow Airport. In the end, he was forced to pay up £7.2 million (or over $9 million) in unpaid taxes. Then, in 2010, the New York Post reported that Ramsay owed some $2 million in taxes off his New York-based restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at The London, which he had sold at the end of 2009. At the time, a spokesman for Ramsay told the News of the World: "Conversations are in hand with US authorities to settle outstanding corporate liabilities."

In 2013, things became even more serious when documents surfaced written by Ramsay's ex-finance director Trevor James, revealing that the chef's business had misled HMRC in order to reduce its tax bill. Faced with accusations of fraud and a huge, seven-figure unpaid tax bill, a spokesperson for Ramsay insisted that the chef himself had triggered the investigation when he became aware of misconduct by his business' employees when it had been "run under previous management." Deloitte, Ramsay's law firm, declined to comment on reports that "five of its senior partners have been trawling through 30,000 emails in an attempt to clear the chef's name."

Most recently, in 2018, Ramsay revealed that he is hoping to move to Las Vegas — "for tax reasons."

Gordon Ramsay has had run-ins with the law

Gordon Ramsay's troubles with the law extend far beyond his clashes with the taxman. His first run-in came in 1993, when he was arrested and cautioned for gross indecency after an incident that took place in the bathroom of a London Tube station.

When The Mirror asked about the incident during a phone interview in 2013, Ramsay was lost for words. "I'll call you back," he told the tabloid, before hanging up. Later, a PR representative for the chef contacted The Mirror to explain the incident.

"The incident took place in the early morning after a whole night of drinking and celebrating with friends," she said. "It culminated in the three of them horsing around in the loos of Green Park underground station. The station master, disturbed by the commotion, got the wrong end of the stick and notified police. They arrested Gordon and the others on leaving the loos."

The PR rep then insisted that it had all been "an innocent drunken prank," before putting an end to the topic at hand. "He has nothing else to say," she said.

Just under 10 years later, Ramsay was in trouble with police again, when he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He had been found driving the wrong way up a one-way street in central London during the early hours of the morning. After being breathalysed, Ramsay was taken to a police station and charged with the crime. The charge was later dropped due to a "procedural error" made by police.

Gordon Ramsay has been accused of physical violence

Much of Gordon Ramsay's career success has come off the back of his television shows — many of which involve the chef interacting with various guests and contestants. And although Ramsay is infamous for his sharp attitude towards the people who appear on his shows, sometimes it goes much too far.

For example, in 2004, the chef landed himself in trouble when he became embroiled in a "scuffle" on the set of Hell's Kitchen. Allegedly, a contestant had provoked Ramsay so much that the two had ended up in a "shoving match," with the contestant eventually falling and spraining his ankle. According to The Scotsman, Ramsay told a colleague that he had been "in constant meetings with lawyers trying to avoid a lawsuit."

"The people at Fox are frightened there is going to be a massive lawsuit," Ramsay is believed to have said. "The guy wound me up and I got angry. He hurt his ankle when he fell. It wasn't intentional. I'm Gordon Ramsay, for goodness sake: people know I'm volatile. But I didn't mean to hurt the guy."

Years prior to this, Ramsay was accused of assault and reported to the police after allegedly confronting his pastry chef over a banana parfait. At the time, Ramsay denied the accusation, although The Scotsman notes that a documentary following the same restaurant at which the alleged assault happened showed footage of another worker riding away on a bicycle in tears due to their treatment by the celebrity chef.

The time Gordon Ramsay abandoned one of his restaurants

Although the best of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants are ranked among the finest in the world, not all of the chef's establishments are quite so dear to his heart. Take the restaurant once known as Laurier Gordon Ramsay, for example.

Located in Montreal, this restaurant had reopened in August 2011 with Ramsay's involvement, an event which, according to the National Post, caused a "media frenzy" that was "unrivalled on the Montreal restaurant landscape." In February 2012, however, the restaurant's owner Danny Lavy announced that he would be removing Ramsay's name from all of his establishment's branding — because the chef had never once paid it a visit.

"We wish Gordon all the best," Lavy said, "but he's a big star and too busy to come to the restaurant. [...] He hasn't been here since August." Ramsay's consulting contract with the restaurant was also ended, bringing an end to a long and difficult relationship with Lavy. According to him, Ramsay had originally agreed to be a partner in the business, but was downgraded to consultant when he refused to put up any money towards the venture. Despite this, Lavy claimed, "his team was acting as if they owned the restaurant. But there was nothing they did we couldn't have done on our own."

Ramsay and Lavy eventually ended up suing each other; Ramsay for $2.7 million, and Lavy for what he said was "30 or 40 times" that amount.

Gordon Ramsay's remarks about women

While Gordon Ramsay is celebrated for the "fiery temperament" that so frequently comes to the fore on his television shows, many have levied a number of altogether darker accusations against the chef. For example, according to the BBC, he has been "branded a sexist" for saying that women should be kept out of professional kitchens. His argument rests on the idea that there is nothing less sexy than "a woman who's had her hand up a pigeon's arse all day." He has also admitted he could never have married a chef himself.

According to the Guardian, Ramsay has also been hesitant to hire women to work in his kitchens in the past — because "PMT is a well known problem." Ramsay continues, "Four days of the month they tend to have a long weekend" and "they only work three weeks a month." The chef also claims that "you can't get into the staff loo" if women are around, and that he has a distaste for female workers becoming pregnant. "How can you shout at someone who's four months pregnant?" Ramsay asks.

Worse still, Ramsay made headlines in 2019 when footage resurfaced from a 2010 appearance on The Tonight Show alongside Sofia Vergara — during which the chef repeatedly talked over her, mocked her, and touched her leg. For the duration of the interview, Vergara appears to be genuinely uncomfortable, and, according to one Twitter user, the actor at one point "straight up yelled 'this guy does not respect me!' in Spanish."

Gordon Ramsay's use of homophobic language

In 2009, Gordon Ramsay attracted the ire of pretty much everybody when he became embroiled in a row with Tracy Grimshaw, an Australian journalist. During a demonstration at a food show in Melbourne, Ramsay referred to Grimshaw — who had interviewed him a few days earlier — as a "lesbian" and an "ugly old pig." Even worse, it seems like the comments had been pre-planned, because he then showed the audience an image of a woman "doctored with the features of a pig." He then said: "That's Grimshaw. Holy crap. She needs to see a Botox doctor."

When the audience apparently made clear their dismay at the remarks, Ramsay continued, "What? I'm not saying she's a dyke."

Critics picked up on the misogynistic strain to these comments, and — even though Grimshaw isn't gay — the homophobic one, too. Blogger and commentator Perez Hilton later said that Ramsay had "crossed the line" with his "sexist, homophobic remarks," while FoxNews.com called it "an obscene, sexist rant," (via The Week). In the days that followed, journalist Wendy Tuohy wrote in the Herald Sun that Ramsay was "an outrageous self-promoter who keeps raising the rudeness bar to stay at the top of his game."

Later, Hell's Kitchen winner Heather West defended Ramsay, saying: "He has never had a problem with it. In fact, all three sous chefs on the show have been lesbians and he has many other lesbians working for him. He's always been cool with it."

Gordon Ramsay has been accused of racism

Back in 2012, chef Marcus Samuelsson released his memoir, Yes, Chef. In the book, Samuelsson alleges a particularly unpleasant interaction with Gordon Ramsay earlier in his career. Samuelsson had spoken to the media before taking on a role working in the restaurant at The Lanesborough, a luxury hotel in London. He had been asked who his favorite British chefs were, and mentioned a number of names. Ramsay was not among them.

On his second day at the Lanesborough, Samuelsson was working in the kitchen when a phone call came through for him. According to him, Ramsay screamed down the phone: "How the f*** can you come to my f****ing city and think you are going to be able to cook without even f***ing referring to me?"

This rant apparently continued for some time, after which Ramsay concluded: "This is my city, you hear? Good luck, you f***ing black bastard."

As shocking as this language is, it appears that Samuelsson was hardly surprised to have been on the end of such a rant. "I had cooked with Gordon Ramsay once," he writes in Yes, Chef, "a couple of years earlier, when we did a promotion with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. There were a handful of chefs there, including Daniel Boulud and Ferran Adria, and Gordon was rude and obnoxious to all of them."

Samuelsson continues: "What I finally realized in London was that I wasn't an underling anymore. I didn't have to take that kind of bulls*** anymore."

That time he accused Marco Pierre White of being a thief

This story is probably best told without any context.

In 2007, The New Yorker ran a profile on Gordon Ramsay that featured an interview with the man himself. As part of this profile, the magazine recounted a story from 1998, when Ramsay was worried that his bosses and financiers at Aubergine, his Michelin-starred restaurant, were about to replace him with the renowned chef Marco Pierre White. When a negative review of Aubergine appeared in the Sunday Times, Ramsay became convinced that White had made it happen, as part of a desperate conspiracy to stop Ramsay from overtaking him as London's best young chef.

Not too long after, "a man on a motor scooter pulled up in front of Aubergine, entered, grabbed the reservation book, and bolted." Back in the days before computerized reservations, a book such as this was arguably the most crucial part of a restaurant's business. In a subsequent interview with the Evening Standard, Ramsay voiced his suspicion that White was the culprit, and that he had "decided to sabotage the business in order to make it his own." White, for his part, has always denied that he had anything to do with the theft.

So who was behind it? Well, when The New Yorker's Bill Buford interviewed Ramsay for his feature, the truth finally came out. "It was me," Ramsay said. "I nicked it. I blamed Marco. Because I knew that would f*** him and that it would call off the dogs."

So... yeah.

Gordon Ramsay has had issues with cultural appropriation

While many of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants have been celebrated worldwide, some have faced criticism every now and again. And that was the case in 2019, when Lucky Cat, his Asian restaurant in Mayfair, London, was criticized for engaging in cultural appropriation.

In a review of the restaurant for Eater, food writer Angela Hui said that, at the preview event she had attended, she had been "the only east Asian person in a room full of 30-40 journalists and chefs." In her Instagram stories, she lamented that she could do nothing but "drink through the pain that this is an 'Asian' event," and, as part of her review, suggested Lucky Cat's approach to food as "Japanese? Chinese? It's all Asian, who cares."

Ramsay hit back at Hui, calling her review "derogatory and offensive," and accusing her of lacking professionalism. He wrote that, otherwise, the preview night had been "a warm, buzzing and brilliant night to celebrate what has been a long-time vision for me."

Other Asian chefs criticized the restaurant too, however, such as George Chen, who tweeted: "Every chef has a right to interpret another cuisine but the integrity and culture [...] needs to be studied in depth and not whitewashed for marketing purposes."

Meanwhile, chef Ken Hom told the Guardian that "I wish Gordon the best and wish him much success. Perhaps I can be of help as consultant? I do have 59 years of experience in Asian cuisine."

Gordon Ramsay has been accused of infidelity

For almost 25 years, Gordon Ramsay has been married to his wife, Tana, with whom he has five children. But despite its longevity, their marriage has been on the receiving end of some tabloid accusations.

In 2008, the now-defunct News of the World (via NZ Herald) accused Ramsay of engaging in a seven-year affair with Sarah Symonds, a notorious so-called "professional mistress." A source told the tabloid that Ramsay and Symonds had met in a nightclub in 2001. "Ramsay and Sarah exchanged mobile numbers and became lovers just a few weeks later," the alleged source said. "So much for him being true to his wife."

Another unverified source told the Mirror that Ramsay was "devastated" by the revelations, allegedly telling one friend, "I'm so sorry I've put Tana through this. I've apologised to her and feel absolutely dreadful." The same source suggested the pair had talked it out, and then Ramsay was angry about certain aspects of the accusations that were "complete b*******."

Publicly, Ramsay vehemently denied the accusations. "Did I know her?" he said in 2009. "Yes, of course. She'd met Tana for God's sake. But did I have a torrid 7-year affair with her? Did I f**k!"

Referring to Symonds, Ramsay continued: "It is all crap. She's deluded. Not a stalker, exactly, but that sort of thing. Everywhere I go — the US, even bloody Reykjavik — she is there the next day, trying to flog her book."

Gordon Ramsay's treatment of vegetarians and vegans

It seems that few people can escape Gordon Ramsay's ire, and vegetarians are certainly no different. Despite a recent epiphany on the subject, the chef has spent years mocking and degrading vegetarians and vegans.

In one example, whilst filming Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay handed out pizza to passers-by on the street. When a man turns up claiming to be an avid vegetarian, Ramsay offered him some "vegetarian" pizza — and, after the man had eaten it, revealed that one of the toppings was Parma ham. When the man became upset, Ramsay simply pointed out that he hadn't "come out in a rash," offered him more, and yelled to his kitchen staff that they'd "converted a vegetarian."

Moreover, he once found himself facing legal action after boasting that he had told a table of vegetarians that the artichoke soup they'd just eaten contained vegetable stock, when in fact he had used chicken stock. Then, in 2012, Ramsay told the Mirror that "My biggest nightmare would be if the kids ever came up to me and said 'Dad, I'm a vegetarian.' Then I would sit them on the fence and electrocute them."

A joke, sure, and by Gordon Ramsay's standards, not even a particularly mean-spirited one. But hey — doesn't that just say it all?