maze in Cape Town never a-maze-ing, closes down

maze at the One&Only Cape Town closed down this morning, when the hotel cancelled its contract with Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd.  The restaurant re-opens this evening, as the unimaginatively named The Restaurant at One&Only Cape Town, with a brand new menu.  

Our review of a dinner at maze five days after the restaurant opened 15 months ago highlighted how unsatisfactory the experience had been, and what a let down it was.

The PR Manager of the One&Only Hotel, Etienne de Villiers, said that the new restaurant style will be “a contemporary South African take on classic dishes, including salads, gourmet pizzas, and a wide selection of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, whilst focusing on the freshest seasonal produce”.   The menu is likely to be loaded onto the hotel’s website on Monday, de Villiers said.   The Resort Executive Chef is Jason Millar.  Phil Carmichael, the ex-chef of maze, left earlier this month.

The media statement by the One&Only Cape Town is short and sweet:

“We can confirm that Gordon Ramsay Holdings Limited’s engagement as a consultant to One&Only Cape Town has terminated.  As a result, the restaurant at One&Only Cape Town no longer trades under the maze brand, but the restaurant will remain owned and operated by One&Only Cape Town and will continue to offer daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.   All employees who worked at maze Cape Town are employed by One&Only Cape Town and will not be affected by the transition.”

 

The story was broken by Spill blog this morning, and expanded upon by www.bloomberg.com.  We publish their story below:

“Maze Cape Town, the African outpost of chef Gordon Ramsay‘s dining empire, has closed after about 15 months in business at the One & Only Hotel.

“We can confirm that Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd.’s engagement as a consultant to One & Only Cape Town has terminated,” the hotel said today in a statement. “The restaurant at One & Only Cape Town no longer trades under the Maze brand.” It gave no reason for the decision.

The chef’s company, run by his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson, switched to operating restaurants around the world on a consultancy basis after losses almost pushed the company into bankruptcy in 2008 following rapid international expansion.

“GRH Ltd. is purely a consultant to Maze, One & Only, Cape Town,” Gordon Ramsay Holdings said today in an e-mailed statement. “We were aware that the hotel has been having some difficulties but they only informed us of their decision to close Maze this morning. We will be reviewing our contractual agreement with them.”

The woes of Ramsay’s restaurant business have attracted increasing attention as his TV career has soared. He has a new U.S. show, “Masterchef,” following the success of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares.” Ramsay has said he had to battle to save his dining business from bankruptcy in 2008.

‘Too Many Risks’

“We weren’t unlucky, we were clumsy,” Hutcheson told Bloomberg News in December 2009. “We’d put too many risks in front of us with too much confidence that nothing would fail.”

Jason Atherton, who created Maze, quit Gordon Ramsay Holdings in April. He was followed by his London successor, James Durrant, whose resignation was announced on July 1. A week later, Maze Cape Town’s Phil Carmichael said he was going too.

Maze Prague has already closed, which means the chain has shrunk to four outlets: London, New York, Doha and Melbourne.

“The Maze restaurants in the U.K. and around the world are performing extremely well, with the recent opening of Melbourne exceeding all expectations,” the company said today.

The hotel’s restaurant remains open — as yet without a new name — and employees won’t be affected by the fact it is no longer an outlet of Maze, the One & Only said.

The closure was earlier reported on the blog site Spill.

“Maze is perfectly suited for South Africa,” Ramsay, 43, said on his Web site after the opening on April 4, 2009. “I fully expect this will quickly become another of our successful and sought-after restaurants.” 

POSTSCRIPT 1/8A call to the One&Only Cape Town Hotel Public Relations Manager Etienne de Villiers this morning denies spilling the beans to Spill blog about Reuben Riffel taking over the running of The Restaurant at One&Only Cape Town, and says that he has not spoken to Clare Mack since Friday.  He sounded angry to hear that he had been quoted today by the blog about the Riffel appointment, which has not been confirmed, as they are talking to a number of restaurant operators, de Villiers said.  The Reuben’s Franschhoek staff do not know about the appointment.  Riffel is not available for comment. 

POSTSCRIPT 2/8: The following e-mail was received from Reuben Riffel this morning, denying his involvement at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town:  This is very flattering, but unfortunately there is no truth that a Reubens will be opening there anytime soon. As far as I know the One and Only is talking to several chefs around the Cape. Kind regards, Reuben”

POSTCRIPT 6/8 The following report comes from Sake24:

“Cape Town – Well-known South African chef Reuben Riffel says he’s not interested in taking the place of Gordon Ramsay, who was abruptly “fired”  last week by Kerzner International. 
Riffen has been rumoured to take over from Ramsay at the One&Only Hotel in Cape Town after the consultancy agreement with Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) at the One&Only’s Maze restaurant was suddenly ended. The hotel is now running its own restaurant there.

 

Riffel said he was happy in Franschhoek at the moment and hoped people would stop speculating. He noted that the South African restaurant industry could learn from what had happened at the internationally GRH-branded Maze at the One&Only.

 

He now realised more than ever how important it was not to get too big and become unable to keep a finger on the pulse of one’s business.

Because of the economic climate, Riffel considered restaurants in South Africa currently in a highly vulnerable position.
 
It had been a difficult year for everyone in the restaurant industry, and it was now even more important to maintain a hands-on approach to a business.” 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

 

 

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