Going to restaurants and deciding what to order can be an overwhelming task on its own. Deciding which restaurant has the tastier dishes, the more sophisticated ambiance, and how to rate the restaurant is a more tedious but rewarding task. Of course, if planning for a casual dinner date, one need not look any further than the nearest local restaurant or even a fast food chain for a quick meal. But if preparing for a grand and eventful occasion, like a marriage proposal or an anniversary, one would definitely want to check out the upscale local restaurants.
And speaking of fancy places, often they are synonymous with celebrity chef-owned restaurants. Why? Well, since we see them all very often on television shows. We come to expect a degree of quality and accountability from the chefs we watch on television. We see their cooking process, the way they talk about the food, and the care they put into picking their ingredients. It’s all laid out for us! But sometimes even the best of celebrity chefs have something to hide… their restaurants! Though we might think that all celebrity restaurants are good, there are definitely some really bad ones. Here are 15 of the worst celebrity chef-owned restaurants
15. Fat Cow by Gordon Ramsay
Is it surprising that Gordon Ramsay appears so quickly on this list? It’s true, he may just be the most popular celebrity chef, with the most popular food and cooking videos. Remember his awe-inducing lobster shelling trick? Or his life-changing scrambled eggs? Well, whatever they tell you, apparently Mr. Ramsay has one of the worst restaurants in the world.
The food at this particular restaurant is described as “disappointing” as well as overpriced. LA Weekly reviewer Besha Rodell claimed the food didn’t exude the skill Ramsay has. An article in The Telegraph by Keith Perry and Dan Hyde claim Ramsay’s restaurant has overpriced food. An article in The Guardian shared the same sentiments, though this time for his other restaurants like Maze in Mayfair and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.
14. Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar by Guy Fieri
It seems that a lot of people – critics, reviewers, and regular customers alike – are up in arms about Guy Fieri. Most of them have very not nice things to say about both the man and his cooking. First, a very scathing review by Pete Wells for The New York Times of Guy’s Times Square restaurant “pulled no punches” and asked a lot of rhetorical and biting questions. Let us just say that the critic’s experience was the worst. He explained that the food has no identity, even less quality, and is just all-around poor.
Not only that, customers on online forums also described his restaurant as horrible. “Guy Fieri’s restaurants need to burn to the ground,” a Sacramento customer by the name of Melanie writes. “Yuck” and “annoying,” agree users Ruthie and Michelle. One thing’s for sure, you won’t catch us at a Guy Fieri restaurant any time soon.
13. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Heston Blumenthal is a celebrated British celebrity chef, known for owning the restaurant The Fat Duck. The Fat Duck is incredibly prestigious, it has three Michelin stars (one of the only five restaurants in Britain to be awarded all three stars) and was hailed as number one on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2005. But time makes fools of us all because, apparently, his 2-Michelin starred restaurant, Dinner has been hailed as second worst. It makes us wonder how exactly these stars are distributed.
The hotel dining room was ranked second worst restaurant in The Telegraph article, “Celebrity Chefs’ Restaurants Among Most Overpriced and Worst Food.” The article, sourced from Harden’s 2015 London Restaurants list, highlights how the Hardens list claims that the Dinner restaurant, which is located in Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge is second on the list of “Most Disappointing Cooking.” The list is echoed by an ITV article as well. How disappointing!
12. Gato by Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay may be one of the most popular celebrity chefs out there. He has been on numerous television shows including Iron Chef America, Beat Bobby Flay, Throwdown! With Bobby Flay, and so many more. And only very recently, he has been seen in the company of celebrities, such as Scarlett Johansson. A chef like Flay, who has such a huge following, is sure to garner a lot of attention to any restaurants he is associated with.
Except, his restaurant, Gato has been panned by food critics, a move that appears contrary to how amazing he seems to be on his food shows. According to Ryan Sutton, it’s not so much terrible as it is boring. He uses words like “ho-hum” and “ghastly” to really illustrate his disdain for the Mediterranean restaurant. So remember: while Bobby wins during a lot of Throwdown! With Bobby Flay episodes, he loses a lot as well.
11. Del Posto by Mario Batali
Mario Batali may have been born in Seattle, but Italy runs through his blood. He is a very established chef, restaurateur, writer, and television personality. His achievements and the number of restaurants he’s handling seem to speak to his talent and culinary prowess. He co-owns restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, and Boston, just to mention a few.
But it seems like Batali has met his match with critics like Ryan Sutton (who also critiqued Bobby Flay), Robin Raisfeld, and Rob Patronite. In a Cheat Sheet article, it is revealed that the Del Posto restaurant is “overpriced and underwhelming.” The two Rob’s are mightily confused about the restaurants “hundred layer lasagna” which is cut tableside. Besides the apparently strange cutting ritual, they also failed to discern an identity for the restaurant.
10. Imperial No. Nine by Sam Talbot
Sam Talbot is not only known as the sizzling Sicilian American Chef who made it to the semifinals of Top Chef. He actually appeared on the show three times over the next few seasons, including during an all-star season. He’s also known to have worked at restaurants like Dean and Deluca, as well as appearing on reality television show – The Real Housewives of New York City. But not unlike his run on the Top Chef show, Sam just couldn’t quite make it to the very top.
His restaurant, Imperial No. Nine made headlines for entirely the wrong reason – a scathing review. Food critic Sam Sifton described the tuna as “inedible” and having a “spongy funk.” The atmosphere of the place was also slammed. Perhaps the criticism does have a solid basis, as the restaurant has since closed its doors.
9. Cut by Wolfgang Puck
Anyone who has ever casually flipped passed the Food Network will have seen the face of Wolfgang Puck, with his optimistic eyes and splendid cooking. The Austrian-born American chef and restaurateur has a lot of credentials up his sleeve. He has been involved with numerous cookbooks, restaurants, show appearances (he has even been on CSI!). Wolfgang Puck has also received several accolades, like a Daytime Emmy Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is definitely one of the biggest TV chefs ever.
According to one critic, Wolfgang’s restaurant Cut doesn’t quite make the cut. Ryan Sutton (he’s really been slaying a lot of celebrity chefs, hasn’t he?) describes the steaks at the restaurant as quite bland and lacking in flavor. The drinks are described as either “saccharine” or “forgettable.” All in all, his restaurant experience at Cut left him feeling that it is “not a good restaurant.”
8. Aqimero by Richard Sandoval
Just like Sam Talbot, Richard Sandoval is a Top Chef star. And just like Mario Batali, this celebrity chef owns a lot of restaurants – in fact, he owns more than thirty! This shows that he really is passionate about food. He’s more popular than your average chef but, perhaps not so surprisingly, one of those restaurants does not quite live up to the others. And according to food critic Craig LaBan, this is exactly the sort of situation that Aqimero found itself in.
The critic from the Philadelphia Inquirer described how Aqimero is an “out-of-touch and bungled attempt to create a destination restaurant that matters to anyone.” Harsh words that suggest that this restaurant struggles to connect with its customers. While not too expensive, the food was apparently not very flavorful either. It’s no wonder it lacked any sort of identity.
7. Grahamwich by Graham Elliot
We probably know Graham Elliot best from the MasterChef series, as one of the formidable judges and hosts. But before he went on to be on MasterChef, he also competed on other television cooking shows himself, including Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. It is safe to say, he really made a big time, moving on from contestant to judge in just a couple of years. He’s also been named one of the Best New Chefs in Food & Wine in 2004.
But can the same be said for his restaurant? Julia Kramer from Time Out Chicago doesn’t think so. She explained that Grahamwich’s selection of international sandwiches suffered from both “repeated failures of execution” and “lack of care in their conception.” The restaurant eventually closed, “unmourned by all,” according to The Chicago Reader.
6. Per Se by Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller is a Michelin star chef. So, it should be unsurprising that he has also won numerous other awards like the Best California Chef in 1996, the Best Chef in America in 1997. Impressively he has seven Michelin stars in total between his three restaurants: The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Per Se. It seems like Thomas Keller has been blazing a trail for the last twenty years. But is Per Se past its prime?
Many critics seem to think so. In particular, New York Times critic Pete Wells gave the restaurant two less stars than his previous four star review. The dishes are described as “random and purposeless,” while they yam dumplings were described as “limp and dispiriting.” In fact, Ryan Sutton had nothing good to say about the Per Se experience.
5. Vandal by Chris Santos
Many food trends have come our way over the years. Some of them have been a blessing, some frankly, have been completely annoying. There was the deconstructed food trend – from burgers to coffee. There was the crazy milkshake trend, and the rainbow colored everything trend as well. Latel,y it’s all avocado toast and organic drinks. It seems that Chris Santos’ restaurant Vandal isn’t one to fall behind the trends, focusing primarily on mini foods.
Eater’s Ryan Sutton described delicacies like mini ramen, mini burgers, and mini knishes. Though, clearly, Sutton did not see this restaurant in a very positive light, as he follows it with “[y]ou could fit the entirety of Semilla into the men’s room at Vandal and still have space left over.” In conclusion, the restaurant was described to be just “a machine to make money.” It seems Vandal was nothing but a gimmick.
4. Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver
Another one of the more popular chefs to have graced our TV screens, joining the ranks of Ina Garten, Mario Batali, or Bobby Flay, is Jamie Oliver. The celebrity chef has continuously advocated for delicious but definitely nutritious food. Besides his cookbooks and television shows, he is notable for his advocacy of fresh and organic food. Remember that campaign he launched against chicken nuggets?
Does the food at his restaurant live up to expectations? It seem not. The restaurant has been getting mixed reviews for a long time. It has been famous more for its blunders than its successes, including the time they served a customer with celiac disease some wheat pasta. Reportedly, Oliver himself doesn’t even run this restaurant and the food has the unfortunate combination of being both overpriced as well as underwhelming!
3. Joanne by Art Smith
Celebrity chef Art Smith has really lived up to his name. His talents have been highlighted on shows like Top Chef Duels and Iron Chef America. And he has been described as “a genuinely major talent” by Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post. But Cuozzo, while praising the chef, has also said quite the opposite about his restaurant Joanne.
And unlike the Lady Gaga album of the same name, which has only received praise, this restaurant didn’t quite garner a similar response. And yes, Art has collaborated with Gaga’s parents for the restaurant. Yet, Cuozzo described the calamari as being like leather and the veal as “unspeakably fatty.” All in all, the restaurant is not a place that food critic Cuozzo would recommend. Maybe fans of the singer should stick to listening to the album instead
2. Firenze Osteria by Fabio Viviani
We know that many Italians really have a passion for their food. The same can definitely be said for Fabio Viviani, whose passion for food stems from his childhood. From growing up as a baker boy to becoming a sous chef during his teenage years, Viviani is now a popular celebrity chef, restaurateur, and wine seller. You could say, he’s been cooking his whole life!
But while his appearances on Top Chef may only elicit positive reactions, the same can’t quite be said for his restaurant Firenze Osteria. It came under heavy fire from critic S. Irene Virbila, who described the restaurant as a tourist trap, the menu as having no identity and being essentially “italian food for dummies.” The food was described as “greasy” and “unattractive,” while the wine was called “banal and lazy.” Firenze Osteria definitely sounds like a place to skip.
1. Otium by Timothy Hollingsworth
A lot of Top Chef contestants and favorites have really blazed a trail on television. They have shown their fearless skills and their passion for food in the heated and pressure-filled kitchens. One of these is Timothy Hollingsworth, a Top Chef alum who also appeared on the Food Network show Guilty Pleasures. But does his restaurant Otium live up to his reputation?
Critic Rodell from LA Weekly seems to think not, saying the restaurant seems like a “souped-up version of every trendy restaurant in town.” But while the food isn’t entirely disastrous, the service is described as “uncaring.” Rodell goes even further suggesting that the restaurant employs a sort of “caste system” in which one’s social status or looks can garner them more dutiful attention from the staff. Unbelievable!