MANAGERS ABROAD : Culinary colonist

He is one of the most famous chefs in the world; Gordon Ramsay, the potty mouth chef, television celebrity, kitchen bully, philanderer, multi-starred Michelin phenomenon, super-chef – choose your persona and Ramsay probably fits it, at least in some branch of the media, if not in his own head.
However, the manager of Maze by Gordon Ramsay in Melbourne, the newest outpost of the continually expanding global Ramsay culinary empire, is not multi-faceted gustatory phenomenon, but country boy from the Waikato ‘done good’. Not that Josh Emett is fazed by the challenge of setting up luxury food venues, having done the same job for Gordon Ramsay Inc in London and New York before arriving back in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is not about bringing recipes to new destinations – it is about establishing outposts of Ramsay excellence that have the same capacity for winning three Michelin stars as those in northern metropolitan centres such as London or Paris.
“It is not like McDonald’s, where you set up logo over the front door, have plan for decor, canned music and bunch of recipes created at head office,” says Emett.
“That is franchise, this is an extension of Gordon’s philosophy of excellence.”
His position is weird, he acknowledges. “Technically this place is Gordon’s, but I can only be successful if I treat it as my own. Whether I am buying equipment, or setting up the menu, I have freedom to operate. What I have to achieve is standards and commercial performance,and I can only achieve those by assuming this is my place, taking on ownership.”
And that obliges him to take ownership of Ramsay’s standards, to exercise them as if they were his own. Indeed, they are his own, gathered over 10 years of working in Ramsay kitchens, of conforming to Ramsay philosophies and encouraging them in others who work beneath him.
“You can’t teach somebody something you have learned over 10 years; you can only create place where they learn by practice. It is all the little things that make the difference at this level of operation, attention to detail and making sure you get everything dead right.
“Some of this stuff you can teach by telling people, but other things they only learn when they get their work rejected every time they get it wrong,” he says.
“If there is one feature of the way Gordon operates, it is really strict operation back of house. For lot of people who have never come across that sort of attitude it is real shock and many of them walk away because they just can’t handle it.”
The other key point insisted on by Ramsay is that there is no recipe for operations. What needs to be done is to fit the restaurant into its local cultural environment by making sure the menu and service delivers what locals expect, not what is considered exceptional in London.
“It is very nice to have the freedom to operate as I see fit,” Emett admits.
“But if you think about it, that is the only way it can work in different locations. To understand the local climate, you have to be in the local climate, and the decisions need to be made by people on the ground, not at head office.”

Josh Emett is member of Kea, New Zealand’s global talent community. www.keanewzealand.com

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