7 Superstar Chefs and Their Biggest Failures (Slideshow)
Paul Prudhomme: Big Daddy-O's
At the age of 17, chef Paul Prudhomme, the youngest of 13 children, opened a hamburger stand by the name of Big Daddy-O’s in his hometown of Opelousas, La. He ground his own meat to ensure the right meat-to-fat ratio, but nothing else about it struck anyone as anything special. It closed in nine months. Prudhomme picked himself up, spent the next 13 years in kitchens across America, in 1970 returned to New Orleans, five years later was named head chef at Commander’s Palace, and went onto achieve international when he opened K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.
Michael Symon: Parea
When Cleveland golden boy Michael Symon, chef/owner of Lola, which is arguably the city’s best restaurant, decided to head out to New York, expectations were high. He took a title as consulting executive chef, brought on four investors, and opened Parea in the city’s Gramercy neighborhood in early 2006. But reviews weren’t glowing, money didn’t roll in as expected, and Symon resigned after 14 months. The restaurant shut down three months later, and Symon hasn’t attempted to make it big in the Big Apple since.
Gordon Ramsay: Laurier
In 2011, chef and TV host Gordon Ramsay attached his name to one of Montreal’s most renowned restaurants, Laurier. The problems began from the get-go. Ramsay, who was originally supposed to be a partner, didn’t put up any money so he was named a consultant. Ramsay was a no-show, though, yet demanded that famous dishes like their roast chicken be removed from the menu. After six months Ramsay’s name was dropped from the restaurant’s sign, and the restaurant has been closed since April of this year. Ramsay is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the restaurant’s owners, as the chef is claiming that his reputation has been damaged.
Michel Richard: Michel
Michel Richard is undoubtedly one of the country’s finest French chefs, but believe it or not, not everything he touches turns to gold. Case in point: Michel, the restaurant he opened inside the Ritz-Carlton at Washington, D.C.’s Tysons Corner mall in late 2010. Running a three-meals-a-day hotel restaurant wasn’t exactly in perfectionist Richard’s wheelhouse, and the location didn’t make it front and center in the D.C. dining scene. The restaurant closed in early 2012.
Gastón Acurio: La Mar Cebicheria Peruana New York
Renowned as "the ambassador of Peruvian cuisine," Gastón Acurio very well might be the most famous Peruvian chef in the world. Incredibly prolific, his most successful franchise is La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, which has locations in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Panama, and San Francisco. In September 2011, with much fanfare, an outpost opened in New York City, in the sprawling Madison Square Park space that was last home to Danny Meyer’s Tabla. The $5.5 million-restaurant was trashed by The New York Times’ Pete Wells soon afterward, however, and never really seemed to get a solid footing. It closed down in August 2013.
Scott Conant: Faustina
When the glassy Cooper Square Hotel was under construction in New York, many believed that it would become one of the city’s hottest. One of the city’s reigning kings of Italian cuisine, chef Scott Conant of Scarpetta fame, opened Faustina inside the hotel in early 2010, replacing Govind Armstrong’s panned Table 8. The restaurant didn’t do poorly, but it wasn’t universally beloved, the crowds never materialized, and the hotel ended up on the rocks to boot. The restaurant was finished before the year was out. Today, the hotel has been re-christened The Standard East Village, and a new restaurant is in the works at the under-renovation ground floor.
Charlie Trotter: Restaurant Charlie
Chef Charlie Trotter, of the great, recently closed eponymous Chicago restaurant fame, opened a restaurant named Restaurant Charlie (and an adjoining bar, Bar Charlie) in Las Vegas’ Palazzo Hotel in 2008. It soon earned a Michelin star, but the economic downtown was just beginning, and after briefly considering making some changes in order to keep them in business, the restaurant and bar ended up shutting down in March 2010. "Chef Trotter did not want to compromise the integrity of the operations that bear his name," his wife and spokeswoman Rochelle Smith Trotter, told Diner’s Journal.