When he’s not running his globe-spanning restaurant empire or berating hopeless wannabe chefs on Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, Gordon Ramsay can be seen lending his assistance and tough-love advice to failing restaurants on the brink of bankruptcy in Kitchen Nightmares. Now Ramsay offers his hospitality expertise to hotels, motels and B&Bs in his latest series, Hotel Hell, which finds him travelling the U.S. and checking into some of the country’s worst-run hotels. I recently spoke with Ramsay about the hospitality horrors he encountered while making Hotel Hell.
When you’re dealing with people who own restaurants and hotels, it seems like you can identify the problems pretty quickly, but they just seem kind of oblivious. What is it that these people don’t seem to get?
That’s a very good question. I think the biggest thing is that they take things for granted. They literally think that customers are going to walk through that door because they own the hotel. And I think also part of the problem is that the smaller boutique hotels, like restaurants, they fall in love with the fantasy as opposed to the realism of what it takes in terms of business. Two of the hotels that I experienced on Hotel Hell had never ever had any experience in hospitality. So I mean, would you attempt to be a racecar driver if you don’t pass your driving test? Those are some of the ludicrous things that we’re experiencing.
Obviously the people who run these hotels know you’re coming. Why don’t they, you know, clean things up a little before you get there?
A lot of people think it’s set up. It’s not set up. What you see is what really happened. You know, I found a pillowcase infested with cockroaches and then they turn around to tell me, ‘But we cleaned up!’ They know I’m coming, they spent the last two weeks tidying up. What scares me is the state of it before they started tidying up — that’s what worries me. These hotels, you’re staying there, you’re supposed to have a romantic time, a quiet time…pretty horrific.
Have you found that people in the industry are already aware of the show? Do you see people cringe when you walk into a hotel now?
Yeah, I checked into a hotel recently and it was in Italy and they had even heard about the series Hotel Hell in Italy. So that was a scary sign — but I had perfect service [laughs]. I got upgraded and it was really good room service.
Do you eat a lot of room service food when you travel?
I always keep the room service to a minimum, because food in transit doesn’t really translate very well. So what you see is going up five floors in a lift, and then handled by three or four people, and then another 25 per cent charge on top of that. If you can eat in the lobby or downstairs restaurant, I’ll always advise it.
In person, you seem to be a kinder, more gentler Gordon Ramsay than what we see on TV. Where does that anger come from?
I get upset when I see incompetence and I get upset when I see laziness. Because that’s what I chose as my career, that’s me. I don’t look at it any different to sports because if you can’t win to be the best, well, continue aiming for the best. Yeah, I get upset for a reason; I don’t get upset to fake it.
Has anyone ever yelled at you like that?
Yeah, my wife yells at me sometimes when I leave my socks and pants and knickers on the floor.
And how do you react to it?
I just sort of turn the shower on and turn the music up.
You talked about being horrified when you used your black light in a hotel’s honeymoon suite, and recommended that if anyone ever gets an offer to upgrade to the honeymoon suite they should turn it down.
Honestly, it was like a semen galaxy. I turned that light on and it was…shocking. I mean really shocking. And then I got the owner and every guest in that hotel to come in my room and put a pair of glasses on and I turned my light on. Stay out of the honeymoon suite, OK?
HOTEL HELL premieres Monday, August 13 on Global & Fox, with a second episode airing Tuesday, August 14