A night in Heaven at Hell’s Kitchen: Gordon Ramsey hosts celebration

STATELINE, Nev. — Hell’s Kitchen opened its doors in Harvey’s Lake Tahoe over two years ago but the pandemic delayed Gordon Ramsey’s grand opening party. Finally, Ramsey visited his restaurant last month to host the long-overdue celebration. 

While Ramsey has visited the Tahoe location since it’s opened, this event marked the first time he could interact with guests while they enjoyed one of his world-famous meals. 

“Sadly, we opened, then a month later we had to shut down because some bat decided to bite the butt end of a chicken in Wuhan,” Ramsey told the Tribune. “So that brought us all to a halt and I had to cancel that launch party which I was mortified.”

Despite closing shortly after opening, since permanently reopening, Hell’s Kitchen Tahoe has enjoyed success, which Ramsey said is a testament to the location and the energy the restaurant brings. 

“When we have a kitchen this big and a dining room this small, the expectations are off the charts, so we have maintained a level of consistency so much earlier,” Ramsey said, comparing Tahoe to his Las Vegas location which seats up to 1,000 people. “Here, it’s a little more intimate and a lot more localized. That’s important.” 

Ramsey has a soft-spot in his heart for Lake Tahoe, long before he even had a restaurant here. He was born in Scotland and grew up poor in England, where he still lives now. When he was in his early 20’s, he went to France for a job. 

“My parents never had the money to ski, and so, I learned to ski [while in France] and Lake Tahoe reminds me of Isola because its this quaint, authentic, beautiful spot that I could see the Mediterranean on top of piste,” Ramsey said, fondly reminiscing how he’d ski all day and work all night. 

“We draw on something similar here, it’s beautiful,” Ramsey added. 

Ramsey’s been able to ski at Lake Tahoe. 

“I like going off-piste, so that for me … when you’ve got a flask, telephone, tiny little rucksack, couple of mates … I love the movement in and out of those trees,” Ramsey said. 

It’s not just skiing that Ramsey loves about Tahoe, he also visited last summer and said he spent a great day on a boat out on the lake fishing. When asked if he’s cooked up any of the fish he caught, he said he already had dinner plans so he released them all, since he was always taught not to be wasteful. 

When asked where his dream location for a restaurant would be, he said Lake Tahoe is hard to beat. 

“Flying in today, I was so excited with the view. Lake Tahoe, aesthetically, is going to be hard to beat,” Ramsey said. 

The guests at the November event were able to watch Ramsey host a blind taste test challenge, which has been made famous on the Hell’s Kitchen TV show on Fox. Ramsey, who was visiting the week before his birthday, was then surprised with a large birthday cake. 

City Manager Joe Irvin and Douglas County Commissioner Mark Gardner went head to head in the taste test challenge.
Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Finally the guests were served a predetermined dinner.

First course – Parsnip soup with shaved carrot salad, crispy parsnip, and micro watercress

Second course – Pan seared scallops – with butternut squash puree, braised bacon and pickled green apples

Third course – Beef wellington with potato puree, glazed root vegetables and red wine demi-glaze.

Ramsey’s famous beef wellington.
Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Dessert – Sticky toffee pudding with speculoos ice cream

In addition to wine, guests chose between several specialty drinks, including Fallen Leaf Punch, Lady of the Lake and Pony Express. 

The Tribune asked Ramsey to create the perfect meal to encapsulate the feel of Lake Tahoe, to which he responded, “I would start off with a wild mushroom risotto.” 

He said he loves the taste of the local root vegetables, so he’d use those to make a fondu for the second course. 

“For a main course, I’d put together a turkey wellington.”

He’d stick with the sticky toffee pudding for dessert with a whiskey sauce. 

While the pandemic did shut down his new restaurant, Ramsey said there are silver linings to the pandemic, such as our changed relationship with food and the dining experience. 

“I think the pandemic has realigned the importance of breaking bread … we’ve got this rejuvenated importance of eating and the fun has been reinstalled. I think everyone’s got better because they’ve come back to the restaurants with a lot more knowledge because they’ve had to survive, they’ve had to cook, they’ve made their own started and cooked their own bread to survive.”

Blind taste challenge: ‘You’re killing me Laney’

While I enjoy a good meal as much as the next person, I have never claimed to be a foodie. My lack of food knowledge became painfully obvious however, when I participated in Gordon Ramsey’s blind taste test.

For those who haven’t seen Hell’s Kitchen, the blind taste involves contestants being blindfolded and having noise canceling headphones placed on their ears. Ramsey then spoon feeds them food items which the contestant has to guess. Sounds simple enough.

Of my team of five, I was forced to go first and I was put head to head with a food writer … which didn’t seem too fair.
So the blindfold and headphones are put on, and Ramsey taps my shoulder to signal me to open my mouth. I’m greeted with a tangy crunch.

While talking to Ramsey before the event, he specifically told me not to overthink it. So of course, the minute the food touches my tongue, I begin to overthink.

“Pear,” I guess, thinking it could taste like an unripened pear.

He pulls one side of the headphones away from my ear and leans in close and says, “apple.”

The headphones prevented me from hearing basically everything, except the loud eruption of cheers telling me my opponent got the answer correct.

I’m not normally one to shy away from the spotlight. I kind of like public speaking, but after getting the first guess wrong, the spotlight got a little warmer. I could feel sweat under the chef coat that I was given to wear during the event.

He taps my shoulder, letting me know it’s time to open my mouth a second time. It was the chewy texture of dried fruit.

“Raisins,” I guess with little confidence in my voice.

“Dried apricots,” he says.

Again, I hear the cheering letting me know my opponent guessed correctly.

The third shoulder tap comes, I open my mouth and I’m greeted with … well, I don’t know what I’m greeted with. It has the crunch and texture of raw potatoes but not the taste (yes, I know the taste of raw potato because I actually really like raw potato).

My mind goes blank and I forget every food item I’ve ever eaten. I shake my head and say, “I don’t know.”

“Just give me something,” Ramsey says. Again, I shake my head and say “I don’t know.”

Hours pass … well actually just a few seconds and Ramsey pulls the headphone away and whispers in my ear, “you’re killing me Laney.”

Still nothing.

He again pulls the headphones away and says, “I’ll give you a hint, it’s an item on tonight’s menu.”

The only menu item I can remember is the dessert.

“Pass,” I say.

“So close, it was actually parsnips,” Ramsey says.

I hear cheering letting me know again, my opponent got it right.

Watching the rest of the contestants go, I think, “oh I definitely would’ve gotten that,” to pineapple, asparagus and to the person who actually got pears. In reality, I probably would’ve gotten all those wrong too. All the food items were chopped into little cubes, so not only do you not have eyesight but you also don’t have shape, which takes away a huge point of reference, leaving you with texture and taste buds.

So now I know, I do not have a refined palette. But being spoon fed by THE Gordon Ramsey is an experience I will always remember and cherish.

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