NEW VIDEO: Matt Abé, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2018

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Matt Abé is the Chef de Cuisine at three Michelin-starred, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

He took over from Clare Smyth in 2016 and he has worked for Gordon Ramsay for 10 years since starting at Claridges. Gordon and Matt spoke to The Staff Canteen about their relationship and striving for perfection.

matt and gordon

Matt and Gordon at

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

“Without your team, you’re nothing,” explains Gordon when I meet him and Matt at his eponymous restaurant, which has been 20 years in the making and is built on a team ‘dedicated to absolute perfection’.

“It’s not an overnight success,” he continued. “And keeping that team together and inspiring them to push even further – that’s the key.”

There have been just three head chefs in that time, Mark Askew, Clare Smyth and now Matt, which Gordan says ‘is pretty incredible’ and as a self-confessed perfectionist I wanted to know if the restaurant was where he hoped it would be.

 “I’m very happy and it takes a lot for me to be happy! Opening your own restaurant is a dream and getting to a standard that out-smarts your competition is the objective. Then winning three Michelin-stars was a dream and maintaining it is even harder! There’s a lot of work gone in to these 12 tables and 40 seats.”

Talking about Matt, Gordon can’t be any clearer how hard it is to find chefs like him who you trust to run your business.

He said: “Matt knows me inside out. I’m honest and I’m straight to the point with no bullshit. Taking the reins of this business, it’s not something I would pass down easily and it’s not a position which got handed to him on a plate.

“You spot talent like that and you nurture them and support them. You improve their weaknesses and highlight their strengths. That sort of raw talent is a dream for me.”  

Matt, who is originally from Australia, first worked for Gordon at Claridges, he had the desire to work in fine dining early on in his career and says ‘watching programmes like Boiling Point’ really inspired him.

On working with Gordon he said: “My relationship with him is a mentorship and a friendship, he always guides me and it’s a two-way thing so I always feel free to express myself. I can talk to him and he listens to me, just as I would listen to him. There is no enforcing from either way, it’s a joint effort.”

Nurturing his chefs’ talent is something Gordon is very passionate about, he believes ‘clipping their wings’ is detrimental.

kitchen
In the kitchen at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

He said: “You can’t suffocate talent, it’s the worst thing you can do. Matt has the most amazing palate and if I was to blindfold him and put 25 ingredients on a spoon he’d identify every one. He’s a refined diamond…..he was rough diamond ten years ago!”

Gordon has a reputation which precedes him, his TV persona is what he is known for but seeing him in the dining room at Royal Hospital Road he is relaxed and he explains that persona as passion.

“People complain about language, and if you are strong but if you don’t want perfection then toss Caesar salads and flip burgers for a living. If you want to hit that level of creativity and get to the top of your game – knuckle down. The top is the best position to be in because at the bottom it’s the fucking pits!”

Comparing his kitchen to sport, he says Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is ‘like the Manchester United of kitchens’, always striving for perfection and then getting upset when that level of perfection is not hit.

“We get frustrated when it’s not firing on all cylinders,” he said. “We have some amazing days and we have some bad days – that kind of pressure is healthy, and very few can handle that – Matt can.

“It’s fascinating watching his development. He’s now conducting 20 chefs and bringing them together in four minutes, that’s a massive learning curve and very few can step up to that mark.”

Maintaining the standards is just one of the goals Matt has set himself when it comes to running the business.

He said: “I want to create an evolution and keep the restaurant moving forward, always, never looking backwards. But I want to maintain the rich history which this restaurant holds.”  

Matt has certainly delivered on Gordon’s expectation, retaining three stars and continuing to push the restaurant forwards while also looking after his team. He has also taken his first steps in to television this year when he was a judge on MasterChef Australia.

gordon quoteMatt wants to impart what he has learnt and says: “Advice I would give to any young person wanting to join our industry is you need to think about where you want to be and what inspires you. Make sure you work for a chef who is going to allow you to explore all of your possibilities and who will try to get the best out of you.”

Clearly Matt made the right choice, progressing through the ranks to be Gordon’s number one, but what does Gordon believe are the necessary attributes to make a great head chef?

“Vision, creativity and then you need to present yourself. It’s more than cooking today, Matt needs to come out of the kitchen and into the dining room and talk to table one, he needs to talk to our regulars on table five. He needs to conduct a meeting with forty-five staff in three minutes, sell that special and go away on his days off to see new things to bring back to the fold and entice his brigade.

“Those chefs are rare breeds and I love watching how they handle mistakes. There’s nothing worse than ‘I told you so’ it’s ‘what’s the solution?’. All I want from Matt is the solution and after he has solved four or five problems these solutions become fluid.”

He believes that by managing him in that way brings out the best qualities in Matt. He’s made it clear he no longer wants to be in the kitchen and his ‘captain’s armband is off’, he’s now there to guide Matt.

“That’s my role. Do I want to be behind the stove in my sixties and my seventies… do I fuck.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2018

NEW VIDEO: Matt Abé, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

IN ASSOCIATION WITH