Emma Cullen on the importance of being earnest when christening a culinary brainchild…
Fat Duck, Fat Cow, Spotted Pig – there seems to be a trend here, so much so that war is a-brewing. Controversy rages in the world of restaurant names, with Gordon Ramsay having put in an application for the name ‘Spotted Pig’ as a UK trademark. Of course, this flies right in the face of April Bloomfield’s gastropub, located in New York, and many chefs are up in arms over Ramsay’s actions – Anthony Boudain wasted no time in branding the UK chef as ‘shameful and pathetic’.
So, although Ramsay’s spokespeople have assured the public that this is but one of many names up for consideration, it does make you think: what’s in a name?
With its similarly meaty moniker, Ramsay’s US restaurant, the Fat Cow, had mixed reviews across the pond. Looking to tackle the American market by moving away from fancy fine-dining food, Ramsay focused on hearty portions of good-old American food, with a British twist. The rustic interior and lights that look suspiciously like udders all played a part of the Fat Cow image. As for the name, some believed that it was meant as an insult – though even if it was in some way a snide comment, it still wasn’t half as shocking as Ramsay’s colourful language.
His latest idea follows a distinct fashion for animal names, including The Spotted Cow and The Hinds Head. In the newest edition of the Michelin Guide, there are no less than eight restaurants with animal names. Perhaps with today’s emphasis on local and organic meat, naming a restaurant after an animal suggests a desire to communicate a back-to-basics, man-versus-nature aspect to the dining experience. Furthermore, prefixing the chosen animal name with ‘fat’ adds a sense of indulgence – something a discerning diner is probably on the lookout for.
There’s no doubt that a restaurant name is of the utmost importance. For a chef, it’s almost like naming a child. Heston admits that there were hundreds of names banded around before The Fat Duck was hit upon. For chefs of Heston’s, Ramsay’s and Bloomfield’s calibre, the name is a building block on which they hope to construct their culinary empire. So it’s entirely understandable that one chef’s ‘pinching’ of another’s name (even if they are on different continents) has got everyone’s knickers in a twist. You simply don’t steal someone else’s pig.
Then there are those who just get it so wrong, failing to see how a restaurant’s success is partly reliant on a good name. I mean, how tempting does Beaver Tails sound? Or Cabbages and Condoms? On the other hand, a certain handful of low-key restaurants have found internet fame on the ‘strength’ of their name alone. Without them, I wager no-one would have heard of Wok This Way, Thai Tanic; Just Falafs or Nin Com Soups.
Sometimes a pun goes a long way.