I f Gordon Ramsay is going to devour his New York rivals, as he recently boasted to London’s Sunday Times, he should consider hiring a wardrobe consultant. That’s the conclusion of a ridiculously informal poll we conducted the other day. The hot-button topic: Ramsay’s insistence on wearing short-sleeved chef smocks, all the better to display his steely foreshanks, no doubt. Surely Escoffier didn’t barrel about his kitchen looking like Jerry the dentist from The Bob Newhart Show, and neither do the majority of New York’s top chefs that we talked to.
“Not in a million years,” said Daniel Boulud spokeswoman Georgette Farkas, when asked whether the suave and dapper superchef, who buys his jackets from old-school French supplier Bragard, would ever work bare-armed. “His tastes were formed at a young age when he was working with very classic French chefs in France, and sure, he could have gone off in another sartorial direction … but he didn’t.” Further downtown, Boulud’s former lieutenant, Andrew Carmellini, admitted that in a giddy moment of youthful exuberance, right before he opened A Voce, he flirted with the idea of going off half-sleeved, but his staff was having none of it. He added that the Ramsay (as we’ve come to call it) isn’t so practical and may even be hazardous to your health: “You can really get hurt working on the line without the extra protection.” Likewise, Maremma chef Cesare Casella, always resplendent in his full-sleeved chef’s jacket, with his signature rosemary bouquet poking rakishly out of the breast pocket, tsk-tsked when we broached the subject: “It doesn’t look professional,” he explained.
In his own defense, Ramsay says he would never force his team—or anyone—to wear “the Ramsay”: “It’s their choice, so long as they are clean, smart, and pressed.”
None of this is to imply that it’s impossible to succeed if you choose to go through life wearing short sleeves. Downtown chefs like Anita Lo swear by a roguish variation on the Ramsay, essentially a snap-front dishwasher’s shirt, but that would never do uptown. Over at two-Michelin-star Del Posto, however, chef Mark Ladner favors the same short-sleeved double-breasted Bragard “Grand Chef” model as Ramsay, but offers an excuse: “My arms are really long and the full-length sleeves never fit.” And thanks to his cool, un-Ramsayian demeanor, he pulls it off without looking like he’s about to perform a root canal.