It took the help of some expensive lawyers and an out-of-court settlement, but the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is finally coming to speak in New Zealand - and this time, he's promised to write the menu as well.
Ramsay will headline an Auckland dinner on April 26, organised by event company Duco, which last year settled a $1.4 million legal claim against the star of Hell's Kitchen and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares after he twice withdrew from similar events.
Ramsay was first due to speak in June 2010 at dinners in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, but withdrew claiming his mother was ill; he also cancelled rearranged dates in October that year for "business reasons". Duco alleged "fraudulent misrepresentation" and claimed $2.1m, including Ramsay's $100,000 fee.
Ramsay flew to Auckland last March to negotiate a settlement, that included the chef paying $100,000 to the Chance2Eat Trust and Matisse Reid, a girl with a rare intestinal disorder who was to be the dinner's charity recipient.
After reaching the settlement, Ramsay and Duco Events founder David Higgins shared a bottle of wine. Higgins said negotiations this time were different because instead of dealing with booking agents, they had worked directly with Ramsay's office. And the wine had helped. "I spent maybe an hour chatting with him and, despite the history, he was charming, he was charismatic and he had some bloody funny and interesting stories to tell," Higgins said.
In addition to making a speech and answering questions, Ramsay had volunteered to write the menu, and was working on an initial draft for Auckland caterers Austin's.
Higgins wouldn't confirm that a return visit had been part of the settlement. Asked what would happen if Ramsay reneged for a third time, Higgins said: "He is coming. It's a silly question - he is coming."
He wouldn't say what it was costing to finally get Ramsay here, but Turkish whitegoods manufacturer Beko is picking up the tab as it launches into the Kiwi market. Tables for the dinner at Auckland's TelstraClear Events Centre will start at $5000.
Ramsay, who has won 11 Michelin stars for his various restaurants across the world, said in a statement he was "delighted to be returning to Auckland for this event which will . . . be a lot of fun".
The dinner will also raise funds for the South Auckland-based Rising Foundation which helps at-risk youth.
The Sunday Star-Times has a pair of tickets to give away to the Beko Dinner with Gordon Ramsay on April 26. To be in the draw to win, email firstname.lastname@example.org, with Ramsay in the subject line.
- Sunday Star Times