Ramsay reveals new Ulster protégée
She was Gordon Ramsay's best-kept secret and holds the keys to both the top chef's reputation and his triple Michelin-starred restaurant. But now her identity has been revealed.
When the Glaswegian millionaire announced last month that he had hired a female chef to take charge of Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Chelsea, west London, he jealously guarded the exact identity of the rising star, releasing just her first name, Clare, while publicly fretting that "someone will poach her".
Now the first and only female British chef to be in charge of a three-starred restaurant has been outed as 29-year-old Clare Smyth.
Many of the details of who this culinary star is remain a mystery; she is avoiding any contact with the media so as not to spoil an upcoming exclusive she has signed with an unnamed glossy magazine.
But yesterday Jo Barnes, a spokeswoman for Gordon Ramsay, confirmed she had been hired. "She's worked with Gordon on and off since 2002 except for a period where she worked with another well-known chef," she said.
Ms Smyth, who was born in Northern Ireland, has been wowing patrons of London's only three-star restaurant since she was quietly brought in by Ramsay last month to replace Simone Zanoni, who has moved to Versailles to open Ramsay's first establishment in France.
Sources say she began cooking as a teenager after school and, determined to prove her mettle in the male world of Michelin-star kitchens, wrote to several top restaurants offering to work free on her days off.
After her first encounter with Ramsay in 2002, she is believed to have spent short periods, known in the industry as "stages", with other top restaurants, including two days at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant in Bray, The Fat Duck. She is also thought to have worked as a private chef in France and under the guidance of Alain Ducasse. He is the only chef in the world to own restaurants with three Michelin stars in three countries: Monaco, France and the US.
Ms Smyth is the second senior woman chef to have been thrust into the culinary limelight by Ramsay, a man who once claimed women couldn't "cook to save their lives". In 2004, Angela Hartnett won the Ramsay group a Michelin star for her restaurant in the Connaught hotel, which closed this year.