Interview: G.I.Gilles

St. Regis Doha chef de cuisine Gilles Bosquet explains the military precision involved in running Gordon Ramsay’s two new restaurants in Qatar

Doha’s culinarians were first introduced to Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay back in March 2010, when the renowned cook and TV personality launched Maze by Gordon Ramsay Doha at popular destination The Pearl Qatar.

It was a culinary coup for the city: achieving a string of Michelin stars at his restaurants in the UK after going it alone in 1998, Ramsay became an international celebrity, famed for both extending his fine dining repertoire around the world and, of course, his inimitable choice of language on his numerous TV appearances. At the same time, he maintained his culinary prowess at home — in the 2012 Michelin Guide, Ramsay was one of just four chefs in the UK to be awarded three Michelin-stars, at Gordon Ramsay London, which now holds the record for maintaining its three-star status longer than any other British restaurant.

Sadly, just two years later at the end of March 2012, Gordon Ramsay Holdings made the decision to close Maze Doha, following the highly-publicised alcohol-ban on The Pearl that was enforced at the end of last year. Restaurants at the time reported profits slumping by 50% or more, and while Ramsay’s team wouldn’t comment specifically on the reasons, it’s reasonable to assume that with punters staying away, and alcohol revenues off the table, Maze was just not a sustainable business for the celebrity chef.

But, in a twist of fate, the closure perhaps couldn’t have come at a better time. As Maze’s regulars mourned the loss of the European and Asian influenced cuisine, Ramsay opened not just one but two new outlets in the city.

In partnership with Maze Doha owner Alfardan Group, Ramsay has launched fine dining restaurant Gordon Ramsay Doha and casual eatery Opal by Gordon Ramsay — inspired by London’s acclaimed Bread Street Kitchen — at the luxurious St. Regis Doha, a new hotel from Alfardan making waves in Doha’s crowded hotel market.

To do so, he brought with him chef de cuisine Gilles Bosquet, a former chef at Ramsay’s one-star London outlet The Connaught, who went on to earn his own Michelin star at a restaurant in the French countryside within only two years. Bosquet also has previous Middle East experience working at One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai under chef Lew Kathreptis — responsible for encouraging Bosquet to shun a promotion and move to London to learn direct from Ramsay — and at the opening of The Address hotels.

It may be Ramsay’s name above the door, and the chef’s cuisine obviously guides the menu, but it was Bosquet charged with the pre-opening, the sourcing of only the finest ingredients and the recruitment of his small brigade of chefs. Now both restaurants are open, it’s Bosquet in the kitchen and his food that diners will be enjoying. So what made him return to Ramsay’s roost and specifically, the mammoth St. Regis project?

Ramsay’s army

Bosquet’s recollection of his time in London under Ramsay is much as you would expect considering the fiery British chef’s formidable reputation.

“It’s an army — really strict. Three minutes is three minutes, two and a half minutes is two and a half minutes. You don’t move from that. And when you go to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant anywhere in the world, it’s like this. It’s a real army, and it’s good, as you find you need to be strict in the kitchen and you need to be very pointed in certain things that you don’t find in any other kitchen. And it was good [experience] — very organised, very professional,” reminisces Bosquet.

“But now it has changed. I went to London [recently]. I was very pleased – [it’s a] more family-friendly environment. Always, there is the strict discipline, but you can’t work like that anymore. People change.”

Yet he admits: “For me personally, I prefer 12 years back. You knew the pressure, you knew what you needed to deliver to the guests, there’s no messing about, no joking.”

So when he got the call from Ramsay’s team last November regarding the plans for Doha, Bosquet says that after some initial reservations he was raring to rejoin, especially on introduction to Opal.

His concern at the outset was Ramsay’s desire for food at the fine-dining restaurant to be three-Michelin star level.

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