Chef Gordon Ramsay brings ‘MasterChef’ film crew to San Diego for the day

British chef Gordon Ramsay is interviewed by KUSI reporter Allie Wagner on Feb. 15, 2023.
British chef Gordon Ramsay is interviewed by KUSI reporter Allie Wagner at his Hell’s Kitchen restaurant Wednesday in Valley Center.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

An episode of the show’s 13th season was filmed at Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at the Harrah’s Rincon Southern California Resort in Valley Center


Last fall, fiery British chef Gordon Ramsay opened a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Valley Center, inspired by his long-running cooking competition series of the same name.

But on Wednesday, the 332-seat restaurant at the Harrah’s Resort Southern California was closed for the day to accommodate the filming of another one of Ramsay’s television shows. The final six contestants in season 13 of the Fox TV series “MasterChef” were going to be cooking all day for invited diners and the judges inside the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant. The new season will premiere in the summer.

Ramsay has served as head judge on “MasterChef” since 2010, and he asked the producers if the cast, crew and contestants could leave their Los Angeles studio for one episode to film at his North County restaurant, which is the only Hell’s Kitchen eatery on the West Coast.

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In an interview inside the restaurant a few hours before filming began Wednesday morning, the soft-spoken and thoughtful Ramsay said he was excited to introduce “MasterChef” viewers to his newest restaurant, which opened last August in the space at Harrah’s formerly occupied by the buffet, which closed when the pandemic hit. Ramsay’s first Hell’s Kitchen restaurant opened five years ago at Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, and that location just served its 2 millionth diner.

Ramsay said this week’s visit was the first time he’d been able to visit with the restaurant’s cooks and serving staff since it opened last summer. He said the Valley Center restaurant serves more of a local and regular clientele than the transient convention and vacation crowd at his Vegas restaurant, so good food and customer service has been key to building repeat business.

The local restaurant opened with a limited menu, to give the kitchen staff time to become comfortable with the items, but he said that in the coming months new items are likely to be added from the larger menu in Las Vegas. The first nine months, he said, is a shakedown period to work out the kinks, like reducing wait times for dishes. But once he’s satisfied that the kitchen and service teams are working at the highest level, new menu items can be introduced.

“I’m very pleased with the beginning. The demand’s off the charts. But all restaurants need a settle-down point,” he said. “When you’ve got a brand like Hell’s Kitchen, people become pickier earlier ... everyone’s a critic ... all I want to know at the beginning of owning any restaurant are the negatives.”

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Ramsay said the international restaurant industry is still in recovery mode after three years of pandemic. He said that in the first 12 months after restaurants were able to reopen, diners flooded in for the social experience of dining out, and they rewarded themselves with luxury items like caviar and shaved truffles. He believes that luxury-ingredient trend is on its way out and diners now are more interested in good service and eating food that’s locally sourced.

Besides filming the “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” TV shows, Ramsay also recently launched a third cooking competition series on Fox called “Next Level Chef.” Like “MasterChef,” it was adapted from the U.K. version of the show, and it features chefs competing on a three-story glass-walled set where they vie to move up to the top floor by the episode’s end.

One of Ramsay’s fellow judges on the U.S. version of “Next Level Chef” is Del Mar celebrity chef Richard Blais, who just opened his second San Diego restaurant, California English, earlier this month in Sorrento Mesa. Ramsay joked about Blais’s sky-high hair but praised his intelligence as both a judge and a chef.

“He’s this powerhouse nugget that is just electrifying with his A to Zed encyclopedia of knowledge,” Ramsay said. “Very few chefs at his level can cook and talk at the same time and he can do everything. He’s the real deal.”

Ramsay also talked about his love for San Diego County, which he said he visits whenever he can, particularly to swim in the ocean. He has competed in the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside triathlon, and he said a tour of Camp Pendleton a decade ago with his then-12-year-old son, Jack, was a life-changing experience. That visit convinced Jack he wanted to serve in the military, and in October 2020, he joined the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines and is now stationed in Norway.