New Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant at Foxwoods Dishing Out Gordon Ramsay Classics

The beef Wellington dish at the Foxwoods Hell's Kitchen restaurant. (CT Examiner)

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MASHANTUCKET – Foxwoods is inviting everyone to come to hell – Hell’s Kitchen, that is – as the Gordon Ramsay restaurant chain opened its sixth location in the casino resort two months ago.

Themed after the hit television series, Hell’s Kitchen at Foxwoods has the hallmarks of the show, including a fiery pitchfork display at the restaurant’s entrance. The dining room is brilliantly illuminated, with the kitchen visible for diners to watch the chefs clad in classic Hell’s Kitchen red team/blue team garb. The chefs don’t actually compete – it’s all part of the aesthetic.

Though Ramsay has yet to visit the restaurant, portraits of him are mounted throughout the space. Televisions at the bar also show clips from the eponymous television show.

Separated from the main dining area by a wall of wine is a private, 40-seat dining room for parties.

“I think it started with conversations with Jason Guyot, our CEO, and myself about discussing our options at Foxwoods,” said Eddie Allen, vice president of food and beverage at Foxwoods on how the casino landed a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant. 

“We talked about if we were to bring a brand on, what brand would that be?” Allen said. “Who’s the most recognizable chef and successful chef in the country? And that’s how Gordon Ramsay’s name came up. We reached out to his people at Gordon Ramsay North America and they came to this site.”

The restaurant’s location used to be a ballroom, but Allen knew it would eventually be renovated into a restaurant.

“This space lends itself to this,” he said. “There’s no columns here. It’s really modeled after that show.”

Under the licensing agreement with Ramsay, he said, Foxwoods owns and operates the restaurant, while Ramsay’s team provides guidance for service and design as a whole.

A chef-driven restaurant, the core menu items come from the show, Allen said.

From left, Foxwoods culinary director Ashley Archer and food and beverage Vice President Eddie Allen at the casino’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant (CT Examiner).

Ashley Archer, culinary director for Foxwoods, said the menu is mostly fixed, but there are elements that rotate seasonally. He and Allen oversee operations at Hell’s Kitchen.

“Right now, we’re offering the tomato and burrata salad, but that changes during the fall,” he said. “It’ll be a seasonal menu change on the soup. Right now we’re offering corn … and usually the set on the risotto and the set on the scallops will change. … There will be five or six items that’ll change seasonally.” 

Working directly with Foxwoods is Hell’s Kitchen season 10 winner Christina Wilson.

“She’s the vice president of culinary for Gordon Ramsay North America,” Allen said. 

Hell’s Kitchen staff also went through a rigorous training program, he said, that started as early as six weeks before opening for some.

“The training was really intense, but we wired it pretty tight,” he said. “The opening opened well. [Ramsay’s] team, from a development standpoint, is based in Texas and they do development there. They came and we worked on dishes here. If we have an idea, we’ll push it up to them and they’ll hash it out and push it back to us. It’s a collaborative effort, but Gordon wants to have control of his restaurant. It’s a true reflection of what Gordon wants on his menu and the details are finely done.”

The beef Wellington is Ramsay’s most signature dish on the menu and is the only entree offered for the prix fixe menu dining option, which comes with a choice of pan-seared scallops or tomato burrata salad for an appetizer, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The three-course dinner is $95 per person with a wine pairing option for $140 per person.

Cut from the beef tenderloin, the beef Wellington is a filet-mignon sized portion and is cooked medium rare with brushed-on mustard, duxelle mushrooms, parma ham and puffed pastry.

“It takes out the guesswork for us,” Archer said. “When you’re going through a thousand of them a week, it’s nice to know this is what needs to be done. That is something every restaurant struggles with, consistency. There’s no interpretation or guess work.”

Allen said the oven is also specifically calibrated for the beef Wellington. 

“The process of the Wellington from start to finish … is pretty orchestrated to the second,” he said. “There’s not a lot of ways that somebody can make that wrong. You do these things you’re going to produce the results Gordon wants.”

Ramsay’s signature beef Wellington is the top selling item on the menu, and Archer’s favorite dish. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. Another favorite is the crispy skin salmon.

“You’re not always in the mood to eat a big piece of steak with puff pastry on it,” Allen said. “But a piece of salmon that’s cooked really well and crispy skin, it’s refreshing and really good.”

Not everything on the menu comes from the Ramsay cookbook, though, as the team allows local chefs to infuse their own recipes if approved.

“We had some input because we’re based in New England,” Allen said. “There are signatures that are necessary in the restaurant, but there are things we wanted to bring in because we’re in New England. We have a lobster roll during lunchtime and we added some fish at dinner.”

Other items Archer brought to the menu include a crab cake, clams on the half shell, and shrimp scampi. 

With an added emphasis on seafood, the Foxwoods Hell’s Kitchen also offers a dish that no other location is making.

“It was a dish actually featured on the TV show,” Archer said. “We offer the halibut with the mussels and saffron broth and chorizo.”

Allen said there’s some weight that comes with meeting customer’s expectations for Ramsay-quality food, “but when I eat it or try it, it’s really good. It’s his representation of his food. There’s not a lot of ego involved in that or debate.”

Working with Ramsay and his team also invites a degree of quality control, as members of his team will visit from time to time.

“He’s going to protect his brand,” Allen said. “It’s a collaborative thing. They come in, they observe, they work behind the line. It’s a good relationship.”

Allen said he expects Ramsay to visit relatively soon.

“It’s on his calendar,” he said.

Unlike other restaurants at Foxwoods, Allen said, Hell’s Kitchen hasn’t experienced a significant post-opening drop in numbers, with weekdays only slightly lower than weekends. The restaurant is also drawing incremental coverage, or visitors who are coming specifically for the restaurant.

“It’s good for business,” Allen said. “It was amazing for us. People come in specifically for the show. That’s unique here at Foxwoods. Business has been really good.” 

Allen said he hopes the restaurant will continue to grow in business and expand the number of tables it serves a day, especially with larger groups.

“I think there’s some opportunity to do more,” he said. “We’ve started booking some larger groups. I see that coming on. I look forward to the future of what Hell’s Kitchen has. … It’s a beautiful-looking restaurant. It adds depth to the property and it introduces Foxwoods to people who I think haven’t been here before. That’s hard to do in the market.”