Gordon Ramsay and controversy have gone hand in hand ever since the potty-mouthed celebrity chef took London’s culinary scene by storm back in the 1990s. Owner of numerous restaurants and host of a legion of hit television shows, there has rarely been a dull moment from the perpetually hot-headed star of such series as Kitchen Nightmares, MasterChef, and many more.
Over the years, the tabloids have had a field day chronicling Ramsay’s exploits, which have involved lawsuits, allegations of shady dealings in his restaurants, and claims that he’s faked his TV shows. Throw in accusations of cultural appropriation, racist remarks, ripoffs, and randy rudeness to a sexy female TV star during an infamous talk show appearance, and that’s only scratching the scandalous surface of the controversial chef who’s built an empire based on good food and bad behavior.
So get ready to take a deep dive into some of the many, many scandals that have plagued Gordon Ramsay over the years.
Gordon Ramsay was arrested and charged with indecency
Long before Gordon Ramsay was a household name, he was already getting in trouble for the bad-boy antics that would become his hallmark. In 2004, an old incident resurfaced that spelled embarrassment for the celebrity chef. As the Daily Mail reported, Ramsay had been arrested back in 1993, along with two other male chefs, caught in "various stages of undress" in a tube station lavatory.
While the three were cited for "gross indecency," a spokesperson for Ramsay insisted the incident was just a little booze-fueled tomfoolery. The spokesperson described the boozy hijinks of three men who’d had a bit too much to imbibe and were "horsing around" in a public bathroom after a celebratory evening.
After talking with Ramsay about what transpired all those years ago, the spokesperson explained that "one of them was having a pee in the sink. The other one was running around with his trousers around his ankles and Gordon was actually just at a urinal with his head slumped on the wall." The spokesperson emphasized that there was no court appearance, dismissing the whole thing as "a complete boys’ lark" while maintaining "there was nothing sexual involved."
Gordon Ramsay denied claims of infidelity from a "professional mistress"
In 2008, Gordon Ramsay was accused of infidelity by self-described "professional mistress" Sarah Symonds (via HuffPost), who claimed she’d had a seven-year affair with the married chef. Sharing details of the alleged affair with now-defunct News of the World (via New Zealand Herald), Symonds claimed to be Ramsay’s "confidante" and "’soulmate," and described him as "someone who lives on the edge. He loves the risk and needs that adrenaline rush."
Ramsay, however, denied everything, even joking about the allegations while filming a cooking show — with his mother in the audience. "What a week I’ve had," Ramsay declared. "My mum is in here tonight so I’m on my best behavior, ooh la la. Oh f**k it. I didn’t do it, mum, I love you."
In an interview with Men’s Journal, Ramsay restated his innocence, and graphically explained why he would never cheat on his wife. "She’s a nut crusher," said Ramsay of his spouse. "If I ever f**ked up, she’d have my balls in a vise and turn them into a f**king crêpe suzette thinner than the frilliest knickers Paris Hilton’s ever worn."
Gordon Ramsay admitted to serving frozen food in his high-end restaurants
In 2009, several of Gordon Ramsay’s London gastropubs were found to be serving previously prepared frozen food to oblivious customers. The revelation came about thanks to a sting orchestrated by The Sun tabloid, reported The Guardian, which revealed that the eateries were supplied with boil-in-the-bag coq au vin supplied by Ramsay-owned kitchen facility GR Logistics. When heated and served, the food was sold to unsuspecting diners at a markup of around 500 percent.
As Daily Mail reported, a spokesperson admitted that GR Logistics did indeed "prepare components of dishes devised and produced to the highest Gordon Ramsay standards." These menu items, the spokesperson continued, "are sealed and transported daily in refrigerated vans and all menu dishes are then cooked in the individual kitchens." This, the spokesperson asserted (via The Guardian), allowed the gastropubs to "control the consistency and the quality of the food served."
Helen Hokin, food editor for Food and Travel Magazine, didn’t buy that explanation. She told The Scotsman that this was just another example of "an ever-increasing discrepancy between what Gordon Ramsay says and what Gordon Ramsay does. I think he’s going to lose the trust of his adoring public."
Gordon Ramsay was accused of cultural appropriation
In 2019, Ramsay opened London’s Lucky Cat, described in its press materials as an "authentic Asian eating house" that was "inspired by the drinking dens of 1930s Tokyo and the Far East." Food critic Angela Hui, however, took issue with just how "authentic" it was, slamming the eatery in her review as "a real life Ramsay kitchen nightmare."
After Hui’s scathing critique (and her accompanying social media posts) called out Ramsay for cultural appropriation, Ramsay issued a statement on Instagram. Acknowledging that critics shouldn’t be prevented from providing their honest opinions, Ramsay insisted Hui was biased against him and his restaurants, pointing to "the slew of derogatory and offensive social media posts" she had written about him. Ramsay concluded by stating if a reviewer is "going to be critical, then I expect them to be professional and have some integrity."
Hui wasn’t the only one to criticize Lucky Cat. Chef and restaurateur George Chen tweeted that while "every chef has the right to interpret another cuisine," the line is crossed when that cuisine becomes "WHITEwashed for marketing purposes."
Gordon Ramsay was sued over accusations of faking it for Kitchen Nightmares
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares was a big hit on U.S. television, but created a legal nightmare for Gordon Ramsay when one of the restaurateurs featured on the show took him to court. Martin Hyde was manager of Manhattan eatery Dillons, until being fired during an episode in which Ramsay called him out for such infractions as rat droppings on the floor and rotten hamburger meat in the fridge.
Hyde launched a lawsuit, reported The Guardian, alleging that "unknown to the viewing audience, some or all of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares shows are fake and the so-called ‘problems uncovered and solved’ by Ramsay are, for the most part, created by Ramsay and his staff for the purpose of making it appear that Ramsay is improving the restaurant."
A judge subsequently tossed the lawsuit, and ordered both sides to enter arbitration. In an interview with TV Week cited (via BBC America), Ramsay denied Hyde’s allegations. "I would never-ever-ever dream of setting anything up. I want to sleep at night," he said. "We were issued a writ because, God bless America, if the toilet paper is not thick enough and you come out with a rash on your ass [you’ll get sued]."
Why Gordon Ramsay’s neighbors in Cornwall call his over-the-top mansion "a monstrosity"
Back in 2015, Gordon Ramsay purchased an oceanfront five-bedroom home in the English seaside resort of Cornwall. He then demolished the property and began construction on two new structures — a mansion and a garden house — and that’s when problems began.
According to the Daily Mail, the new homes boast modern, box-like architecture that Ramsay’s ticked-off neighbors have described as "a monstrosity" resembling "a stack of containers."
Ramsay’s next-door neighbor, Andrew Nisbet, told Cornwall Live that the chef made no effort to meet with neighbors about their concerns. In fact, Nisbet said he attempted to contact Ramsay but never received a response. "Considering the scale of the development and the detrimental effect it will have on the enjoyment of our property and others it is disappointing and demonstrates a lack of consideration for local residents’ concerns," Nisbet griped.
Another neighbor, Gerard Manley, shared his concerns about Ramsay’s garden house. "The unnatural height increase of the garden will considerably alter an area of outstanding natural beauty," he said.
Gordon Ramsay was slammed over his creepy comments about a female broadcaster
Gordon Ramsay nearly caused an international incident when, as The Guardian reported, he publicly insulted an Australian female broadcaster. During a 2009 live appearance in Melbourne, Australia, Ramsay displayed a Photoshopped image of a naked woman on all fours with multiple breasts and a pig’s face, declaring, "That’s Tracy Grimshaw. I had an interview with her yesterday, holy crap. She needs to see Simon Cowell’s Botox doctor." He also claimed she was a lesbian.
"Obviously Gordon thinks that any woman who doesn’t find him attractive must be gay. For the record, I don’t. And I’m not," responded Grimshaw on her show, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. "I’m not going to sit meekly and let some arrogant narcissist bully me."
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd even weighed in, describing Ramsay’s remarks as "a new form of low life. I just think that’s off and offensive. Good on Tracy Grimshaw for coming out and giving him a left upper cut."
Ramsay’s spokesperson later issued an apology, admitting his intention "was to make a joke" but "with hindsight he realizes that his comments were inappropriate and offensive…"
Gordon Ramsay’s swearing led Australian lawmaker to call for new TV regulations
While Gordon Ramsay’s frequent profanity is bleeped out on American television, this is not the case in Australia, where his colorful language remains uncensored. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this captured the attention of Australian legislators in 2008 when a single episode of Kitchen Nightmares was said to have contained an impressive 80 F-words.
After numerous viewer complaints, an Australian senator launched an inquiry into the nation’s broadcasting standards, calling for more stringent regulations (Australia’s TV broadcasters, noted THR, are self-regulated and follow a code of conduct registered with Australia’s Communications and Media Authority).
Ramsay responded to the controversy, telling critics of his show that if they are that upset by his swearing, they’re free to change channels and watch something else. "Turn over [the TV channel]; isn’t it easier?” he said in an interview with Nine Network, as reported by Associated Press. "I don’t mean to swear, it’s just the muppets I have to work with sometimes,” he said of his tendency to unleash profanity on his TV shows. "It’s high pressure, high energy and, more importantly, real — that’s how we keep it every day."
Gordon Ramsay infuriated Scots by claiming to be English
Gordon Ramsay was just 5 when he and his family moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in England, but he was born in Scotland. Ramsay may consider himself English, given that he’s lived there for the vast majority of his life, but Scotland claims him as their own.
This explains why a 2011 episode of Kitchen Nightmares cooked up controversy in the land of his birth, when Ramsay was seen conversing with the British-born owner of a failing Florida restaurant. As the Daily Record reported, Ramsay compares himself to the restaurateur, stating, "We’re both English, and we both studied in Paris, but there’s one thing we don’t share in common. I care about my customers. He clearly doesn’t give a f**k."
The first part of the statement raised some serious Scottish ire. Inverness politician Don Lawson became so riled he demanded Ramsay apologize to the people of Scotland. "If he’d said this a few hundred years ago, he’d have had his head chopped off," declared Lawson, insisting that Ramsay "should always remember where he came from, even if some of his American TV audience don’t know the difference between Scottish, English and Chinese."
Gordon Ramsay denied chef Marcus Samuelson’s claim of racist rant
Chef Marcus Samuelsson is no fan of Gordon Ramsay, and in his 2012 memoir writes about a conversation with the Hell’s Kitchen star that allegedly ended with some racist remarks.
In his book Yes Chef, reported the Daily Mail, Samuelsson writes of answering the phone and hearing the voice of a furious Ramsay, who was apparently unhappy that Samuelsson didn’t name him when asked which chefs he admired. After about five minutes of yelling, wrote Samuelsson, Ramsay ended his rant with these words: "I’m going to make sure you have a f**king miserable time here. This is my city, you hear? Good luck, you f**king black b*stard."
Ramsay denied Samuelsson’s claim, and issued a response through a spokesperson. "We’re shocked by these completely false and extremely offensive accusations," said the statement, suggesting "We can only think… these malicious comments have been made in order to garner publicity for Mr. Samuelsson’s book" and promising to "pursue such actions as we deem appropriate against Mr. Samuelsson and his publishers."
Samuelsson, however, didn’t back down. "Mr. Samuelsson stands by his statement regarding Mr. Ramsay and has no further comment," read a statement from his publisher, Random House.
Gordon Ramsay was accused of ripping off Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain was a true television trailblazer with such series as No Reservations and Parts Unknown, which found the adventurous celebrity chef exploring foreign cultures and sampling exotic cuisine in far-flung locales throughout the planet.
In 2019, just a few months after Bourdain’s tragic 2018 death, the National Geographic channel announced a new series with a near-identical premise starring Gordon Ramsay. As soon as Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted was announced, Bourdain’s fans accused Ramsay of ripping off the concept. Numerous social media users took to Twitter to slam Ramsey, including celebrity chef Eddie Huang, who tweeted, "the last thing the food world needs right now is Gordon Ramsay going to foreign countries ‘showing locals he can cook their cuisines better than they can.’"
Ramsay responded to the furor during an appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour, reported ET Canada. "We took a lot of flak on the announcements with Nat Geo about rivalling Tony Bourdain, and that was incorrect," Ramsay said. "Judge the program, and the integrity, and the team that’s gone to hell and back to make this work."
Gordon Ramsay faced backlash for shooting a goat
Not only did Gordon Ramsay face scorn from those who accused him of ripping off Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown with his Nat Geo show Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, he took even more when he did something on the show that left many viewers downright horrified. In a scene that took place in the debut season’s second episode, Ramsay is in New Zealand to discover the secrets of Maori cuisine. This involved Ramsay picking up a rifle, taking aim, and then shooting and killing a goat. The episode followed his progress as he prepared the carcass before roasting it in traditional Maori style.
While Ramsay explained in the episode that the locals consider the goats to be "a pest" that a few years back were "right out of control," the goat wasn’t the only thing to get roasted as viewers took to Twitter to lambaste Ramsay. While one viewer blasted Ramsay for "profiting from the fear, misery, suffering and murder of innocent animals," another claimed to be channel-surfing when she stumbled upon the goat-shooting scene, writing "I hate you… you are the worst."
Neither Ramsay nor Nat Geo responded to the outcry.
Gordon Ramsay was hit with backlash for sexual comments to Sofia Vergara
A video of a 2010 Tonight Show appearance resurfaced in 2019 and led to some serious backlash for Gordon Ramsay due to the outrageous behavior and sexist attitude the celebrity chef displayed toward Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara. When she tells Leno that a scream she let out was "all acting," Ramsay touches her on the arm and asks, "Only in the bedroom?" In response, Vergara inches away as her face takes on a pained expression.
Later, Vergara is showing off photos from a recent vacation, including one of her eating pizza. "You seem like you’re enjoying that. You had a whole wedge in your mouth at one time? You haven’t heard of a knife and fork?" Ramsay tells her. After she insists "you don’t eat pizza with a knife and fork," Ramsay lewdly quips, "You just pick it up and stick it in?"
Things got worse when Ramsay sampled her favorite treat from her native Colombia, which he described as "sh*t fudge" before spitting it out and telling her to "take it back to f**king Colombia." He also mocked the name of Vergara’s son, Manolo, telling her it "sounds like a paint."