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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
Twitter / renelynch

Photo credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (104)

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I love the food at Gjelina and I fully support their no substitutions rule. If diners have an issue with that, there are always other restaurants to choose from, including Burger King.

Gjelina is always busy and doesn't need to put up with fussy and high maintenance customers. Same thing with Father's Office and Lukshon - both which are busy and don't allow substitutions either.

I wish more restaurants instituted the No Substitutions Rule.

Very classy. Not.

I am getting very tired of this "no substitutions" policy that seems to be all the rage right now. I experienced it at Ammo recently, when I wanted to change the flavor of an ice cream from A to B as part of a dessert and it was refused. It is really pretty ridiculous, particular in a restaurant where I am spending significant amounts of money for a meal. And when the request is simply to put a dressing on the side, it is atrocious.

I love Gjelina. No secret they do not do substitutions; something whiny celebs would have to already know by just hearing about the place. It is a good policy especially considering that the place is jamming from the second it opens its doors to the second it closes. Substitutions are a pain in the ass. If Slosh wanted a simple meal she could have had her private chef prepare it. As for Ramsey, he's an ass. I have never once been treated poorly there. I've been countless times and the food is amazing. And it's not that expensive.

The restaurant has the right to run their business any way they like.... and we have the option to spend our money there or not.

Personally, I would not patronize an establishment that was so rude and stubbornly unwilling honor a simple request like putting dressing on the side. It's their right to deny me this service, but it's equally my right to deny them my business, and spend my money elsewhere.

In this case, their stringent "no modifications" policy and absolute lack of customer service means they won't ever get my business.

If you don't like their policy, vote with your dollars. If they can't sustain business with their policy they'll change it.

They tell you before you order, "Changes & modifications politely declined." IF you don't like it, go somewhere else. Rules are rules. The consumer makes the decision where they will spend their money. So if you want to change the rule, don't patronize the place.

"The lady's pregnant!"
So what?

"No one is asking to be fussy"
Yes. Yes you are.

"I don't think customers should be treated that way."
You're entitled to run your restaurants any way you like, Gord.

Kudos to Gjelina.

jgelina is actually a great restaurant, but they mean it when they say no substitutions - and it's on the menu. robert downey jr has it out for this place too because they wouldn't do substitutions for his wife, going so far as to hire a firm to try to block their new restaurant opening down the street. so, celebs be warned, no substitutions means YOU TOO. if they don't like it, then go somewhere else and we locals can be happy and eat in peace. i highly recommend the homemade ginger ale.

Maybe under regular circumstances, they can have their non substitution policy. But come on, for a pregnant women you can change the order slightly. Pretentious people who will realize how stupid thier ideas are when their popularity fades. And no, im not talking about posh.


I read the menu from that restuarant... I think she was being a bit unreasonable, why did she not order this from the menu instead?
Coleman Farms Lettuces with olive oil, lemon, aged balsamic & parmesan 9.00

i'd say that's about as plain as it gets....

My god this is ridiculous, she HARDLY made demands, why are some of you so rude?!! Ridiculous! I cant stand the woman, but im totally on her and Ramsay's side here, the restaurant, is known for being rude, and unaccommodating to their clients!

i think this restaurant should close .the successful rest. must be resilient and flexible and welcoming not regreting the customer right , when they didnt ask for somethin much but their right ,well the cheapest rest. does so i dont see a reason why such expensive rest. doesnt do so! is it the labor! or skills!

Thanks for reminding me why I hate the Westside.

I went a few weeks ago on a tip from a friend who lives in Santa Monica (and who just sent me a link to this article).

Service: We had to wait 45 minutes to get a seat along the bar (in the meantime we strolled the neighborhood after putting a name on the list), but once seated we got some of the best service I've experienced at a restaurant, despite a packed house. I've only been once, so I can't generalize about service, but our waiter was easy-going, attentive and informative.

Food: The three of us sampled from the charcuterie, salads, pizzas and entrees. The dishes were sophisticated without being overdone, with sometimes unexpected, but really delicious, combinations of flavors.

No complaints here. Would love to return on my next trip to LA from SF. They've got a good thing going. Why mess with a good thing?


Sure, one can almost respect the equal opportunity arrogance directed at celebrities and hoi-polloi alike.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the gang behind Gjelina are not just rude to those who patronize this Palace o' Pretense, but incredibly unpleasant to Venice locals as well. They're intending to put unbelievably noisy mechanical parking lifts on the roof of their newest restaurant down the street, over the repeated objections of those unfortunate enough to live within earshot, not caring whether they ruin the pleasant and low-key Venice vibe; they've illegally doubled the seating capacity of the restaurant without a permit; and they've illegally painted the curb in front of Gjelina red to keep people from parking there.

In short, while it might be a decent restaurant, it makes for a terrible neighbor. Here's hoping Fran chokes on their "grapefruit, avocado, red onion and lemon" garnish. And should that happen, don't be surprised if no Venice local volunteers to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Restaurants ought to cater to their patrons, no matter how good the fare. Leaving something off a plate is hardly a substitution. Rigid enforcement of a policy when departure from it will cause no difficulty at all is absurd arrogance. Doing so, even politely, when it is bound to draw public attention to the absurd arrogance--as when the diners are Gordon and Victoria--is stupidity. Hanging up on the Times reporter compounds the absurd arrogance and the stupidity with outright rudeness.

Well, anything that makes Gordon Ramsay unhappy is something that makes me exceptionally happy.

Kudos on Victoria, Gordon Ramsey and Gjelina on the free publicity given them by the LATimes! Much Ado about Nothing!

Who cares if she is a celebrity and pregnant. The point is that Gjelina does not provide good customer service by having a no substitution policy. I like the trout salad but I don't like avocados and onions on it. So now i'd have to pick them out myself? So the chef can waste a totally good avocado and onion on me, who doesn't prefer them to begin with? How wasteful for the restaurant and inconsiderate to the customer. If they had honored the request, I would be very appreciative to the chef and return again someday.

Dressing on the side is a normal request that should be honored because many restaurants over dress salads. I like very little dressing on my salads and always ask for it on the side, a requrest that has never been denied. There are hundreds of restaurants in Los Angeles that that would honor her request, so I suggest patronizing them and not bothering with a restaurant that is inflexible and whose employees hang up on reporters or anyone else.

Yeah!!!!! Why would they change it for her? Do other pregnant women ask for changes? No! She wasn't asking to be seated because she was unconfortable... She was asking for something a lot of people do and don't get. Next time she can go somewhere else, while me and my friends all eat their delicious food with no modifications.. HAHA!

It's Victoria Beckham internationally known. I think a restaurant that pulls a power trip like that over a simple modification is just rude. Victoria is bringing you free publicity just by the very fact she is dinning at your restaurant. Gjelina deserves all the negative press it deserves. J

Love love love Gjelina - never had bad service there and never would want to change anything they make. Get a private chef and stay home - no one cares.

Asking for the salad dressing on the side is hardly a "substitution" or an inconvenience to the kitchen. It's not like asking to leave the vin out of the coq au vin. Unless, that is, the restaurant is making up its salad hours or days in advance like the packaged stuff at Von's. That's something a restaurant of this alleged caliber shouldn't be doing.

Who cares what some dumb policy says... If was ordering from that meal from that resturant and they declined the request ... I would just leave...

ITs called customer service peroid!

I'm visibly pregnant AND i can't eat dairy. I enjoyed a delicious dinner there but my request to have the ice cream left off my dessert was denied. I knew about the policy, but I thought leaving off the a la mode wasn't going to be a problem for the kitchen. Every other option had dairy, so we ended up skipping dessert altogether. The entrees were delicious.

Don't get what any of this has to do with her pregnancy. It was just the usual ego death struggle, this time between a prima dona chef and a demanding rich *itch used to getting her way. It doesn't take much to morally outrage me, but it takes more than this.

The question shouldn't why did the restaurant not make the substitution; the policy is clear, and there is no indication that pregnant celebrities can avoid the policies.

The question should be is Victoria Beckham unable to read, or does she simply expect special treatment that is not available to others?

Mrs. Beckham has demonstrated that she is either stupid, or spoiled, and I suspect it is the latter.

It's one thing for the restaurant to be unwilling to bend for a pregnant woman (celebrity or not). Whether this was faithful adherence to protocol or haughty snobbery is debatable.

But for the manager (of all people!) to so blatantly underscore the restaurant's smugness by rudely hanging up on an LAT reporter? Please, the city is chock full of fine dining options, especially on the Westside. Gjelina's arrogance is wholly at odds with unconceited Venice and its condescending brand of "service" is several notches below what the moneyed class of the Westside expects (and can easily get elsewhere). By being an an unapologetic turnoff to both locals and diners looking to drop a few bills, I'm not quite sure what Gjelina's business model is.

Congratulations on making fools of yourselves in the LA Times, Gjelina management.

As a former owner of a casual (but quite nice) café I can understand the no-substitution policy. Oh, you want the fresh asparagus instead of mashed potatoes? You want me to make your ratatouille with no oil? You want your tzatziki with no garlic?

But to ask for sauce/dressing on the side isn't a request onerous to grant. And if she didn't want the garnishes, could she not, herself, have pushed them to the side? If I have a small kitchen (and in big cities, most are startlingly small) it is so much easier to say "you get it the way we make it" than to make even small changes to each and every order of any given menu item.

So here's how I weigh in: leaving off garnishes, kitchen wins here. Dressing on the side: customer wins here.

Ay, que lastima! Picky Posh couldn't have it her way.

The only thing that is special about Gjelina is that they think they are. The food is at best average the attitude by the staff is undeserving giving their menus top seller is probably pizza. The fact that they can't accommodate a pregnant person by leaving something off a dish shows their arrogance and is exactly the reason I won't go back. With plenty of places serving food on the westside that will leave the dressing on the side especially in LA to endorse this foolish policy allows the Chef to think he knows what I like more than I do. I know I don't want onions imagine going to a restaurant and requesting a please no onions on my salad and they say no...not a place I would go back to. I went with friend and after his simple requests and being denied he finally asked the waiter do you have bread? yes do you have butter? yes do you have salt? yes do you have water? yes I'll have that. Suck ups eat at Gjelina

Gjelina's in Venice Beach, CA is a pompous restaurant that could care less about customer service and rely on the reputation of their food. My wife and I had to walk out when we were treated horribly by the staff. We should have taken the advice of several locals that had warned us of the way they treat their customers. We had heard a few stories of "the cool crowd" special reservations as mentioned above and mis-treatment to customers. Unfortunately we had to wait for 45 minutes and experience it ourselves first hand. I recommend a pass on this highly overrated, uncomfortable dump.

I've never loved anyone's food more than I do Travis's. Wouldn't dream of changing a morsel. Folks don't dig the policy? That's just dandy. The place is plenty crowded enough with out them.

I'm almost certain pregnant or not, 'Lady Victoria' would have expected special treatment. She can stomach smoked trout but not the other parts? Salute to Gjelina for sticking to their policy. I've eaten there many times when I was pregnant and have always found their menu vast and completely reasonable, without changes.

It's a stupid, arrogant policy, but points for being consistent. Most places only apply rules like that to the little people, so good for them to apply it to the imaginary aristocracy as well.

Gordon of all people should love that no substitutions alerations policy. Chef's hate changes. I know so many people that work in the food industry at fine dining restaurants or fantastic restaurants. The biggest complaints I hear are rude customers and people that expect to not have to follow any protocol. Such as corkage fees or not following the no alterations policy. There are too many people that think they are exempt from this. So often they compromise the dish altogether. The dish gets changed so much to the point of frustration in the kitchen. Then the customer says...."I do it all the time." Whatever the issue may be....Vicotoria should follow along like everyone else. She's scared of salad dressing (sad that kid probably needs some olive oil) -- being pregnant and being "LADY VICTORIA" is supposed to give her a pass. Those people need to get over themselves. Gjelina is totally busy--ALL the time, so it is funny that he says that times are tough and show some sensitivity. That cheating mouthy chef has no sensitivity and not clue about that restaurant. If some of you guys aren't going...fine by me and a whole slew of people that wait forever to get a table there. Bravo to the restaurant for standing their ground.

My experience at Gjelina was so profoundly underwhelming that I'm feeling somewhat vindicated that someone like Gordon Ramsay is pushing back against this puffed up, overrated, ridiculously arrogant restaurant.

My experience: first of all, found the whole no sign thing utterly cliched...uber chic, though...right? When I did, the maitre d, such as he was, was a mumbling, disinterested fellow who seated me (clearly not cool enough) at a very uncomfortable table near the door (one of my dining partners had to request a more comfortable chair out of sheer agony). From there the mumbling, shuffling, barely comprehensible waiter gave us little eye contact and marginal service, my particular meal (the same salad as Lady Victoria...see, I AM cool!) came with overpriced, overcooked salmon. The other meals were marginal but not memorable. The bill was high, the waiter continued to be as bored as he could be with us, the maitre d couldn't rush us out of there fast enough (it was getting later and the MUCH cooler crowd was rolling in) and the only positive point I could make was that the bus boys were attentive and professional.

As for your questions, yes, substitutes should be allowed, for God's sake! I worked and managed restaurants for years and there is no discernible hardship for a chef to remove or exchange items. It's a snobby, bullshit way for a restaurant to be lazy, lacking in customer service, and so full of themselves that they literally shoot themselves in the foot: ignoring Ramsay's and Beckham's request, two high profile trendsetters, one actually in the restaurant business, both of whom are obviously capable of drawing copious negative attention to them, is just astonishingly stupid.

Why, tell me, is this place popular?

BRAVO! I applaud Gjelina for sticking to their policy!

Gjelina is easily one of the best restaurants on the West Side, Ramsay and Beckham can take their tacky "personas" elsewhere if they can't abide the simple and clear policy. Fine dining is meant to be experienced at the chef envisioned it, if they or you don't agree...go to burger king and we'll be all the better for it.

I can understand a no substitutions policy to a degree. The chef went to a lot of trouble combining flavors and textures to create something presumably special. But there has to be some flexibility and good naturedness for customers like Victoria who are pregnant, allergies and simple requests that don't disturb the workings of the kitchen, like removing something from the dish like a sauce, dressing or garnish. Having a zero tolerance policy is short-sighted, inhospitable, egotistical and just plain bad business.

I went on a mini-tirade myself about the whole no substitution brouhaha. I think it's context dependent (extent/difficulty of swap requested, type of restaurant , etc.) but a lot more restaurants nowadays are just having none of it, period. Which is a pity ... when did the hospitality industry turn into a hostility industry?!

I experienced this kind of dis-service at a "high end" restaurant in Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia some time ago...a simple request summarily refused. We never returned, and we shared our experience with friends. It would not take many others to share their experiences to have an impact on business in such a competitive business. the restaurant went under soon after our visit. The building is for sale. Hopefully a new chef and owner will be more willing to serve its paying guests.

It always strikes me as funny when policy becomes so rigid, If she had asked for Ranch Dressing I get it. Forget celebrity, forget Ramsay.....can't we just try and take care of a pregnant human being by leaving something off....what the hell is wrong with the world.

This restaurant is not trying to be "Burger King" - have it your way, and they state their policy right up front.

I've dined at many restaurants that claim to have a 'no substitutions' policy, yet they still somehow manage to accommodate them when made. If this restaurant is 100% across the board a 'no substitution' restaurant, then fine. It's short-sighted, IMO, but it's their choice. They had just never get caught deviating from that policy now that it's so public. Although I rarely, if ever, ask for anything off menu, this kind of leaves me with that nagging feeling that this is another one of those hipster-wannabe type of places that make me cringe anyway. Pass.

I love Gjelina, even though I'm not crazy about their no modifications policy. They turned me down when I requested no horseradish on a lunch sandwich. But there is plenty on their menu to choose from, and they are consistently one of the more difficult reservations to obtain in town. So the market is speaking; if they are full, there is no motivation to change.

It really would have teed me off if they made changes for the famous, but not for loyal, regular customers like me.

The restaurant went too far indeed give me a BREAK! I won't be dining here ever!

Perhaps if "Lady Victoria" smiled once in a while ...

Seriously, I have never seen her smile.

I don't believe that being a celebrity or pregnant are prerequisites for making a reasonable request. Restaurants should be in business to serve their customers, but in this case, it seems the customer is required to accommodate the restaurant. Stiff policies like the one enforced at Gjelina can easily translate to empty tables especially in a time where discretionary spending is just that - discretionary.

 
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