Let’s say you’ve never seen one of Gordon Ramsay’s television programs – Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and MasterChef, among others. And let’s say you’ve never heard of his 25 restaurants or their 15 – fifteen! – Michelin stars. And let’s say you’ve never caught his guest appearances on American Idol or The Simpsons. (What are you, living under a rock?) You’ve likely still heard of the Scottish chef’s legendary temper. A temper that’s kept in check, come to find out, by Cape May Brewery beer.
But before we get to that, some GR history:
This is the guy who says even his own mum is appalled at the extent of his cursing. A guy who once kicked a food critic out of his restaurant and allegedly shoved a contestant on one of his shows, resulting in a sprained ankle. A guy who hired a private detective to tail his father-in-law when he suspected the man of bankrolling a mistress on his dime. A guy who’s feuded with the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali. A guy who names the turkeys he raises after celebrity chef peers.
In line with reality TV dogma, that kind of behavior garners a hefty following. So, unsurprisingly, the excitement surrounding the grand opening of the new Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill in Atlantic City’s Caesars Casino yesterday was palpable. Ramsay himself was set to be there – tapping a CMB firkin — after all.
By 5pm, the cask sat in position at the top of the grand steps leading to the Roman Coliseum-motiffed restaurant. Beside it stood Ramsay’s guards – both real and Praetorian – as well as the 200 Casino big-wigs, reporters, and members of the public who’d been invited. When the man of the hour appeared, the crowd that had gathered in the lobby below took a collective breath and began tapping furiously at their cell phone cameras.
“Anyone who says Atlantic City is in decline is full of utter horseshit,” Ramsay said into his mic, likely glad his mother was not in attendance, before thanking the requisite people.
Just then, an Irish bagpiper named Alex McKee who says there is never anything under his kilt but lipstick (womp, womp) began leading a procession of tartan-clad, Scottish flag-waving staffers and CMB’s own Brew Master, Brian Hink, across the lobby, through security and to the foot of the stairs. When they arrived, Ramsay began tapping at the firkin with a wooden mallet in order to fill his glass with the delicious brew inside: South Jersey Seccession Session Scottish Ale conditioned with Earl Grey tea and vanilla bean. When the cask remained uptapped, Brian lept up the stairs to help in applying just the right amount of force.
“Man, that was nerve-wracking,” Bri-guy said later, over passed hors d’oeuvres. “There were so many cameras and so many people, and it’s hard to know until you do it if the beer has settled enough to avoid a blast of foam when tapped.” But no catastrophes this day.
“Very beautiful,” Ramsay said after his first sip.
Around this time, your blogger – who had earned entry to the event by tucking in behind the bagpipe procession – accidentally stepped out of bounds while looking for a bathroom, and was not immediately allowed back in to the event for lack of a proper wristband… doh! At least that’s what security said, but we’re suspicious it might, also, have had something to do with said blogger’s egregious farmer’s tan, which she’d regrettably acquired earlier in the day, but we digress.
After 35 minutes of sweet-talking her way through three layers of food-and-beverage management, your blogger finally managed to regain entry. Only problem? By now, all star-struck groupies who had not yet gotten a moment of face-time with Ramsay were going full-on 12-year-old-girl-at-Justin-Bieber-concert. As the star made his way through throngs of grown men throwing elbows and even one middle-aged southern woman who yelled between sobs that she’s been waiting her whole life for THIS MOMENT, we shouted one question at Ramsay that managed to catch his attention: Why, of all the craft breweries out there, is it important to have Cape May’s beer on tap?
“I started tasting that stuff a long time ago,” he said. “After a long day in the kitchen, it makes everything alright.”
And knowing what a day in the kitchen can look like for Ramsay – the man’s pastry chef once called the police on him, citing abusive behavior – we’re very flattered.
As for whether all that temper stuff is real, or merely a show put on for the cameras, we asked Casino President Kevin Ortzman.
“Gordon Ramsay is a wonderful partner,” he said. “But he has very high standards. Cape May Brewing Company fits in with that.”
So while GR may be the culinary villain America loves to hate, he’s a-ok by us. Even if we were nearly booted from his pub.