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Gordon Ramsay aghast at 'Lady Victoria's' treatment at Gjelina

Posh-spiceGjelina is serious about its "no substitutions" policy. Even if you are chef Gordon Ramsay and you're dining with Victoria Beckham. Listen to this story and you can decide whether the restaurant went too far, or whether Beckham was asking for too much:

Ramsay said he was practically speechless -- imagine that -- when he found himself at Gjelina in Venice on Tuesday dining with the heavily pregnant Posh and the waiter wouldn't accommodate her special order. "I couldn't believe it," he said.

Posh is eight months pregnant with her fourth child with soccer great David Beckham, and the couple are close friends with Ramsay. (David Beckham and Ramsay sat together courtside for one of the Lakers-Mavericks games.) Ramsay said that Victoria Beckham ordered the smoked trout salad and asked for it plain, unadorned, with the dressing on the side. According to the menu, the dish is normally served with grapefruit, avocado, red onion and lemon, and that combo was apparently a bit too much for the ready-to-give-birth-at-any-minute Beckham.

The restaurant's response? Ramsay says they refused to make the change.

Speaking with the media on the eve of Season 2 of "MasterChef," which begins Monday night, Ramsay said he had trouble believing that such a simple request was asking too much of the kitchen. What do you think, dear reader? If you are paying good money for your meal, should you be allowed to ask for something on the side? Or does the chef and the restaurant have the right to reject such requests? 

"The lady's pregnant!" Ramsay said. "No one is asking to be fussy.... I still think that's the customer's prerogative.... It was a sour note. I don't think customers should be treated that way. That might not be the way I choose to eat it, but that's what the customer wants."

He added that he had an overall positive impression of the restaurant -- "the place is great" -- but added: "I don't know, times are tough out there. You have to show a touch of sensitivity."

Ramsay -- who refers to Victoria Beckham as "Lady Victoria" -- said he did not know who was running the kitchen at the time, or whether chef Travis Lett was in the house.

I contacted Gjelina for their side of the story. When the manager, who identified himself as Fran, came to the phone, I explained why I was calling and asked about the Beckham encounter. There was a long silence, before he said: "So you would like to know about our 'no substitutions' policy?"

Sure, I said, tell me all about the policy.

"It's clearly stated on the menu." And then he added, "Have a nice day," and hung up.

So much for sensitivity.

Gjelina's menu clearly states the following: "Changes & modifications politely declined."

And they are not joking.

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--Rene Lynch
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Photo credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

 
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This is pretty over the top for a restaurant.

I have a relative with food allergies and we try to do the following to show respect for the kitchen AND keep my loved one safe

a) we don't go to a restaurant at 8 PM on a Saturday when the kitchen is slammed and special requests could be tricky

b) we call ahead and give a head's up about the allergy and make sure they are cool with it

c) we order ask for simple stuff, with sauce left off, etc.

d) if really bad, we will just get a side of fruit or fresh veggies and that's IT -- which is better than putting my loved one's life at risk for a meal.

I also of course tip well. I have NO beef if a restaurant were to say "we will have to charge extra" or "We will have to charge you the full price even though you don't want the side of nutty goodness" etc. but to refuse on principal seems rude.

I have been in the restaurant trade for over 30 years, as a chef, and have often accomodated guests who ask for something different. If I have the ingredients at hand, why not? I wouldn't eat my tournedos well done, but if someone is paying me for it? (I would not guarantee tenderness in that case of course). I think the restaurant has gone too far. Guest is King. They are paying your wages, overheads, etc. So get a grip.

So does this no substitution policy cut both ways? If, for example, the kitchen finds itself running out of an ingredient, say a particular brand of olive oil, does the item get yanked off the menu or do they substitute another brand? What about variances in the smoked trout? Yank it? Plating not the same? Dressing not emulsified exactly as the original creation? Yank it?
There is no way a restaurant can make the same promise to the consumer, so to not allow a simple request like dressing on the side, whether they be Posh or the non posh, they're demonstrating a lack of common sense and good manners.

This story is so familiar to me. I went to Gjelina a few months back with 3 friends. I ordered a salad and asked to have the dressing on the side. The waiter said "WE CAN'T DO THAT, READ THE MENU, NO SUBSTITUTIONS!" My friends stood up and we all left, never to return again. The article doesn't say if Gordon Ramsay and Victoria Beckham walked out?! I am not pregnant, nor am I a celebrity, just a long time Venice resident who can't have vinegar....so no dressing please. This minor request has always been met with 'no problem' at many other restaurants I've frequented. So....if you have food allergies or any other reason for special requests, you now know that GJELINA will not be a good dining choice for you.

It is funny and ironic that gjelina is so strict about their customers following the restaurants rules when they have been violating their conditional use permit for the last four years- rules the City od LA impose on alcohol-selling establishments.
So I say go to gjelina and ask for substitutions and when you are declined, tell them they only have the right to impose rules if they themselves follow the rules imposed on them.

I LIVE AROUND THE CORNER FROM THIS PLACE. THE FOOD IS ALRIGHT (NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT) BUT WHAT CAN'T BE DENIED IS THE PRETENTIOUS ATTITUDE OF THOSE WHO WORK THERE, WHOSE UNNECESSARY SNOBBERY IN TURN ATTRACTS THE SAME TYPE OF PEOPLE TO SIT AT THE TABLES INSIDE AND CROWD THE SIDEWALKS OUTSIDE WITH THEIR VAPID HIPSTER ACTS AND OVEREXERTED NONCHALANCE.

DEFINITELY NOT WORRIED ABOUT THIS PLACE RUINING VENICE, BUT A BIT WARY OF THE TOO-PROUD FOLK WHO JUMP ON ITS BANDWAGON.

Sammy...you are an absolute moron. How do you know Fran and what could possibly entitle you to make a comment like this on the internet? What do you know of any fueds? You should really not rely on hearsay and Venice gossip.

Gjelina has ruined Venice? By bringing revenue to Venice and providing great food ? Don't you think that the gang shootings, food trucks, etc are a bigger issue than Gjelina?

You're clearly either a bitter old hippy who can't aford to eat out or you're a transplant who now acts like he's the king of Venice locals. Grow up. I live in Venice and have many friends who live here and we all love Gjelina. What has Posh Spice ever done for you?

Last thing I'll say...there are plently of restaurants in LA that have this same "no changes" policy. Ever heard of Father's Office?!

Have any of you considered the fact that you're getting only one side of the story here?

I am somewhat bemused with all of the comments suggesting that Gjelina should close, or that its bad customer service should deprive it from business. I ask you, have you ever purchased a car? or do you own a cellphone? or have ever flown on an airline?
There are many, Many businesses that do not cater to their customers that continue to make money.
Bad customer service is the new normal.

what do they do for people with food allergies?

Gjelina has ruined Venice. Fran - the owner not the manager - is a surly, self absorbed SOB who is also in a major fued with Robert Downey Jr...who happens to live up the street. Venetians don't go there - it's all bridge and tunnel...or as I like to call the LA version - overpasses and exits.

Abolish the silly and man-made notion of royalty in this world and the world will be a much much much better place. So funny that when you tell Posh "no" it makes headlines but us "mortals" have an astonishingly easy time of dealing with rejection.

Oh yes, Stephanie, who listens to doctors when they could have the internet tell them what to eat? Give me a break.

That it's GR and VB is beside the point, customers should be treated a certain way, and that is with grace and service. Genuinely classy places bend over backward to make their customers happy, and thus have long lives and worldwide reputations. This place will now henceforth be known as 'the place that wouldn't put the dressing on the side of a pregnant lady's salad.' That they've also said they won't make allowances for allergies (some of whch are genuinely fatal) just suggests the food is pre-prepared rubbish anyway.

It's quite simply. If that's all that motivates you in life which is having you dressing on the side then you've got it pretty damn good in life. People are living in poverty and you're worrying about your friggin dressing on the side. Agh. If only. Again it's quite simply. Don't friggin eat there next time if you want to dine on salad with dressing on the side.

Did you say four children? In this overcrowded world?

This restaurant is avoided by the locals. And not just because we can't afford it.

Insults to customers have grown as their 40 legal tables have had babies since they opened.

Come on, aren't there more important things to get worked up about besides a tactless restaurant du jour?

obviously you have never eaten at gjelina. it's perfect exactly the way it is and the menu is planned according to sustainability and taste. i have never had more amazing food in my life. i respect and admire the chef for his creativity and integrity.
if you dont want what is on the menu don't eat that dish and pick something else or don't eat there. make room for the rest of us outside waiting to get in.

After the number of shockingly great meals I've been fortunate enough to enjoy at Gjelina over the last year, I would eat dried leaves and dirt out of Travis Lett's hand if that's what he decided to serve. Let him do it however he wants to do it. The man has something amazing going on and a tremendous amount of thought and work goes into making the food the way he wants it. A no substitutions policy may not suit everyone, and it may be difficult to get used to for people who are used to having everything their way but I found it's fine to just trust that the artist in that particular kitchen has a better handle of what's going on than I do. I just Lett it be.

Gjelina is representative of a changing Abbot Kinney attitude for the worse.

I supported this restaurant when it first opened and told my friends about the cool new venue. As the months rolled on I found the staff to be frequently dismissive and arrogant.

There are simply too many great restaurants in LA to spend your time somewhere where you're made to feel they're doing you a favor by serving you.

The lady was just asking them to leave stuff off, not make a whole different item. And its a salad. So they make those way ahead of time? I doubt it. So what is the problem with leaving some of the things out of that?

And pregnancy is an issue here. Some items that people like normally are nauseating when they are pregnant--their bodies are full of hormones and trying to keep the status quo going for the baby's sake.

And what happens if a customer asks to leave part off because they are swell-up-and-keel-over allergic to one of the ingredients? They probably go "f-you, we'll still make it the way the menu says."

Stupid, just stupid and arrogant.

Having eaten both at Michelin restaurants and in a one-dish restaurant off a river in Sierra Leone, I think context in any given situation is relevant.
This is America, we are known for customer service and catering (AND encouraging diet-specific dining). We created this... "dairy intolerant" or "ask for all egg whites" mentality (and to some degree, it's a GOOD thing).. Granted, there are the people who are annoyingly excessive with the (butter at room temp on the side in a circular dish with 3 prongs of parsley) but in general (and in this case), I like to think most people don't abuse it.
I have had similar experiences (when asking for someone else's allergies at NOrth End in MB .. they asking simply for the salsa to be left OFF an omelette.. surely no great task for an "expert" kitchen) .. if they say NO (especially in the case of allergy or a special case of heavily pregnant woman. I mean come ON, who says no to a heavily pregnant woman?), that, to me, simply demonstrates ignorance and arrogance.. and then I am VERY aware that as a consumer, I damage them most by NOT giving them my patronage and telling people about it.
Last time I was at Gjelina, didn't have a problem with the service and food was good but this story annoys me. If you open a restaurant in LA, know your place.. we are the birthplace of "special diet" and that someone asks for a modification here should be no shocker. Charge for it if you must (though I think that's douchey) but to me, a chef unable to roll with a modification is simply incabably and unimaginative... especially something SO SIMPLE.

Doesn't matter if it's Gordon Ramsey or the waitress from the restaurant down the street, if a customer asks for something (especially as simple as Victoria's request) the chef should give the customer what they ask for, if they have the ingredients at hand. The restaurant needs the customer more than the customer needs the restaurant. It may be one customer but that customer tells 10 people and they tell more people. Refuse 1 customer once a day and that means at least 15 people hear about that one experience, multiply that by 365 days a year. What restaurant can afford that kind of publicity?

I have owned two small restaurants and am in the process of planning my next one. We will give the customer what they ask for unless it really is not possible.

By the way, I don't claim to be a chef, but I would like to ask Chef Ramsey why his so called chefs on Hell's Kitchen had such a hard time pan seering scallops. I did it for the first time the other night and they came out beautifully. I have used them in other ways but just never bothered to pan seer them before. I was wishing Chef Ramsey was in my dining room.

I have eaten there a few times and i have always found The staff to be dismissive bordering on rude from the minute you arrive to the minute you leave, as if they are doing you some big favor by letting you eat there. Its very cliquey in a Venice sort of way. If you are a friend of one of the servers, then you are treated well, if you are just an ordinary paying customer, you get barely get any service. In fact last time i was there, ( last Tuesday) my waiter stood with him bum in my face while he chatted and hugged his buddy for for about 5 minutes, while many of us on the patio had yet to be waited on. I realize that they are the only really imaginative restaurant on the west side, but someone needs to click there heads together and tell them there not in Kansas anymore! darryl

If you don't like the no substitutions policy, order something else! It's not complicated.

And what doesn't pregnancy have to do with it? Gimme a break. That's a false excuse, not a reason.


What's really rude is the sense of entitlement that people have when ordering at a restaurant.

At the same time, restaurants should make a $5 add-on for modifications policy in addition to the extra costs of a new ingredient. Restaurants in LA would make bank.

I understand the no substitutions policy especially restaurants serving the Hollywood set. It's a clear reaction to the constantly "build your own menu" people who seem to flood Hollywood who go for the scene and couldn't care less about the food.

At the same time, it's not very good customer service.

Another restaurant goes out of business in 3....2....

This sounds like they have incompetant kitchen help. No decent restaurant would have a policy like this. If your not in the business of serving your customers what are you doing?? The owner should look into opening a franchise but even anyone of them will let you order or modify what you want. Get a life Fran.

All of you people who think this is so ridiculous are ridiculous. There are plenty of restaurants out there that will do it your way. If you choose to go to a restaurant that is known for no substitutions then don't order something you have to change. And by the way, its not going to harm or kill a baby for a pregnant woman to eat fish, that's the dumbest thing i've ever heard. Too many pregnant women listen to their doctors ridiculous orders on what not to eat or drink. Maybe they should do a little studying themselves, and for that comment earlier, Gjelina isn't a mass producing restaurant you idiot, it's a farm friendly, local, and small restaurant that is doing pretty well. Even by turning down celebrities that just can't handle not getting what they want. By the way Gordon Ramsey, did you actually say "times are tough"? Ha, for who, Victoria Beckham??

Give me a break

I was unsure of which way I was leaning until I read the chef's reaction to the media call. What a rude place!! POLITELY declined? More like disgustingly declined.

A lot of americans don't have anything to eat .....

Come to Bouchon in Beverly Hills, we'll do anything for you and I mean ANYTHING you want we'll do it!!!!
Beckhams are regulars and we love them!!!!

Customers these days have a sense of entitlement when they dine in restaurants. It's pathetic sometimes how they behave for a 6 ounce of lettuce and some grapefruit....For gods sake its just a freaking salad. There are lot more bigger problems in the world then that. Get over it.... even if you are Victoria Bechkam

The restaurant have shot themselves in the foot - they are going to be missing out on some whopper tips in the future as the Beckhams are known as generous tippers. I think, house rules or not, it is very mean-spirited to not leave some stuff off a dish for a very, VERY pregnant woman. Doesn't matter who she is. Restaurants are taking themselves way too seriously lately. They are mass producing food - not performing a symphony. Are they serving pre-prepared meals there? If not, there is no excuse to refuse to leave stuff off the side. It's so pretentious.

Important fact: pregnant women are not allowed to eat smoked meats and fish. Smoked foods are technically uncooked and can contain a bacteria that is dangerous for the fetus. Posh was simply following doctor's orders by asking for the fish smoked trout to be removed.

There are a lot of food modifications you need to make when pregnant and you would be surprised how many dishes you are not allowed to eat because they contain one or more of the elements you are asked to avoid. I went to a restaurant when pregnant and couldn't order a single salad because every one of them had either smoked meat, fish, raw egg or some other thing I wasn't allowed to eat.

If this were a non-celebrity I don't think people would be judging her so harshly for asking for this modification.

Having worked in or owned restaurants for most of my life, I have to say people generally don't see the invisible diplomatic dance the waiter does between the customer and the cook. As another comment already stated it has to do with the customer and the manner asked. The waiter relays this information along with the request in a few quick words and looks to the cook who makes the decision. If the request comes in the form of a command from Mt. Olympus...well then they rely heavily on what's printed in the menu..a little humility or humanity can go a long way-and lets face it-Posh and Gordon...humility and humanity?-I think not..

Read the menu idiots.

Though i do have to give that server severe credit. I don't think I have it in me to look Gordon Ramsey in the eye and tell him he can't have his fish the way he wants it. :P

no matter what your 'policy' is, and no matter what you write on your menu, if you are willing to look a customer in the face and tell them that they cannot have a dish different than the way you envisioned it then you do not run a good restaurant. If a customer does not like an item, it does not matter if the item is prepared perfect and the customer is simply feeling 'off' today you take the food back and you get them something else. If you have a signature dish that is pre-prepared, you keep some of it's stocks in case a group comes to eat it and one of them really wants to but needs it slightly different. That way you are not denying service to a customer and making them feel akward and singles out. A huge part of dining is the experience, and being treated well, otherwise we would just cook it ourselves. A good restaraunt puts it's customer's experience, and the serving of good food that is well prepared, above it's ego and it's menu; no matter how popular it is.

Perhaps Gordon and Miss Vicki weren't recognized.I mean who would not fall all over themselves to wait on the very pregnant Miss Vicki and Gordon the personification of all things elegant iin dining. I wonder had the "owner" been present would they have been more accomodating. I personally love it. Just because "you" think your boo-boo don't stink others may be inclined to disagree. With Gordon's "clout" I wonder if he'll "bad-mouth" the restaurant in an effort to shut them down. Could be rather interesting if the "owner' was there and said "no substitutions." Period. Got that Gordo? All right.

Fran is the owner, not the manager. I eat there regularly and they have never made substitutions for any one at any time. It's probably not the best spot for anyone with dietary restrictions requiring modifications to a dish. I really don't see what all the fuss is about, plenty of places decline substitutions, such as Tasting Kitchen, Father's Office, Lukshon etc.

Can Falkor the Luckdragon, I mean , Victoria Beckham read? I thought English was her first language?

Firstly, Ramsay is incorrect about addressing Skank Spice as "Lady" anything.

Her husband received an Order of the British Empire. It is not meant to imply - nor does it award - any courtesies to his spouse, nor does it come with the right to wear a coronet.

Secondly, if the restaurant doesn't want to OMIT toppings on prepared dishes, it can jolly well suffer the same fate hundreds of other shithole eateries have before - and waste away, empty, on the vine.

"Lady" Victoria should have asked for a plain salad as an extra side then ignored the fish plate components she didn't care to eat.

Clearly, she thinks she is above the rules. "Has-beens" are like that.

Gjelina can afford to let go anyone that doesn't like their no sub stipulation, it will leave a possible space for those in the line up out the door. Victoria is not the only celeb that has had a problem, new Venice local Robert Downey Jr refuses to go back after a similar incident with his wife.

If the policy is clearly stated on the menu. Then that's, that. If you are not happy with that policy, then go some where else.

A no substitution policy simply means that the restaurant prepares the food BEFORE they open the doors for diners. A salad pre-prepard cannot be changed by removing elements of it for an individual diner. And the dressing is added in advance as well. As to ice cream desserts, also prepared ahead of time. This restaurant is unwilling to change or allow substitutions because they fear that if the public knows that the food is NOT freshly prepared they would lose business. Obviously, pouring the dressing into a cup as opposed to on top of the salad is easy and efficient, but not if the dishes are arranged with specific elements ahead of time.

It's the hidden art form of GUEST SERVICE! There are so many restaurants that are so arrogant. They need to remember that it's the GUESTS that that pay their bills, salaries and rent. In a tough economy people will weed out the impostors, will go to places that don't treat them like crap and where the chefs think they are god. Being in the business for over 18 years success comes with 1) having a great product 2) Service wins the Market

The Menu clearly states "Changes and Modifications politely declined"
what part of that doesn't Victoria Beckham understand???????????????????
If that is not suitable get up and leave.. you are in a free country..
why all this fuss?

hahahaha this is why i should totally refrain from making comments...i should have read the article properly - "changes and modifications politely declined"...! Whatever though Gjelina, much as I have enjoyed many lovely evenings with you, it is a tad pretentious.

Well done... Not because of the substitution policy but for applying it to ALL their customers. I think it's a stupid policy but it would be stupider if it apply to some customers and not all. Some people have to simply understand that they cannot get everything they want in the world.

It should say no modifications - no substitutions infers that you might ask to substitute one thing for another.

I think if this happened to someone lovable instead of Victoria Beckham and Gordon Ramsay things would be different.

 
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