'Gordon was a Nightmare' - An Owner's Perspective
Gordon Ramsay is both Britain's best chef and most challenging, according to The Granary's owner, Nigel Nieddu.
Nigel says: "We had been going for about 18 months when we decided to do Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. From day one we always knew it was a tough location, with every promotion we tried to let people know what we did and where we were, but it seemed to make no difference. Despite what Gordon said on the program, our location is our biggest problem. That doesn't mean I disagree with his suggestions - I do actually agree with them - but I still don't believe they would have made a massive difference on their own.
"I actually bought the restaurant to stop my parents going bankrupt. I never really had pretensions to being a restaurateur, it was more through a matter of necessary circumstances. I never set up The Granary as an exclusive establishment, it was started as a sensibly-priced accessible family restaurant. I was convinced by people with far more experience in the industry that there was a demand for such a place, I was naïve and they were wrong.
"The style and dishes at the Granary were guided by Martin, the head chef. He had been successful at other places with his style, and in truth, we found it very well received by the customers at our place. The Granary is situated in a fairly well to do area and as a result we have quite a good number of intelligent, worldly customers that use our restaurant. They never had any issues with our food or service and always loved Martin's menus.
"It was Martin's idea to use young offenders in the kitchen. It's something he has done for a while now. I think it gives him a great sense of achievement bringing these lads on and making good chefs of them. I was amazed and quite upset by Martin's decision to leave The Granary, but he was very honest with me and told me he had lost the passion for the kitchen. I have since re-hired him as the general manager, where he is now really shining.
"Gordon's style is obviously rather difficult to deal with at first. I am not used to being spoken to in that way, having personal abuse screamed at me and being told everything I have done is shit. It's enormously hurtful and I still think it's unnecessary, but it makes good television. And I'm sure Gordon's personal plea to the kitchen staff about his tearaway past was helpful in many ways, not least to the boys' self esteem.
"Nevertheless, the hen-house building exercise was a farce. I understand the point he was trying to make, but in truth, putting up flat packed furniture without the necessary tools, and instructions that were incorrect was a bit of a cheap shot I thought. I don't think I was arrogant. I think I was reacting to his arrogance and his abuse.
"I was a huge fan of the programme before participating in it, and thought that it was probably portraying places reasonably accurately, however, taking part in the programme was a huge eye opener, I'm sure viewers would be amazed at just how manipulated the whole thing is in order to produce the story they want and ensure that Gordon always looks good. Seeing shouldn't necessarily be believing in this case!
"I did feel that Gordon was pointedly rude; if it hadn't been so hurtful it would have been comical. In the real world, you simply don't speak to people that way, not unless you want a fat lip. Having said that I didn't mind the chicken suit, it was a bit of fun and I'm certainly not above laughing at myself.
"The introduction of local produce has been Gordon's best suggestions - there really is a difference in quality and it also seems to be appreciated by customers. I have made some further minor changes: we have introduced real ale from Hampshire to complement our 'everything local' ethos, we have put in an organic herb garden and grow our own watercress but that's about it. Gordon made all the major changes and we have adhered to every single on of them. I think it would be a rather pig-headed person that would ignore the advice of arguably Britain's best chef.
"As for my feelings for Ramsay: I don't know him personally. I met the character that he plays on his TV show. I would like to think he actually cares about the businesses that he tries to help and I'm sure that at some level he does, but I'm also sure that he cares rather more about his own celebrity and television career. Having said all that, I hated him during his first visit, purely because he was vile to me and about my business, but on the re-visit he was very pleasant and friendly. I would even go as far as to say I liked him.
"Professionally, obviously I'm in awe of him. Anyone in this industry that says they don't respect his ability or his achievements is a liar or an idiot. He has achieved incredible things in a relatively short space of time from humble beginnings; it's almost the perfect success story. Having said that I think it's worth noting that, he hasn't achieved 5% of the success that Richard Branson had by the same age, and Richard Branson never felt the need to belittle anyone as far as I'm aware. I think that puts things nicely into perspective.
"I love The Granary, I just want to see it packed with people enjoying themselves and hopefully making a profit instead of a loss. It's a very tough game, the restaurant business. I'm a businessman not a restaurateur, so it's been hard for me getting to grips with the whole thing, but I do feel I'm getting there."