Meet the Abu Dhabi chef who looks, and hopes to cook, like Gordon Ramsay

Broadway restaurant's George Lyon wants to emulate celebrity he worked under for eight years

Gordon Ramsay’s protege leads restaurant at Emirates Palace hotel

Gordon Ramsay’s protege leads restaurant at Emirates Palace hotel
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Popular British chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay once described him as his "mini-me". But George Lyon, a small-town boy from Yorkshire, has bigger ambitions than just his physical resemblance to the famous chef.

For eight years, he worked for Ramsay's restaurant group to hone his skills in the kitchen. Now, he's hoping to bring his wealth of experience as the head chef of Broadway, the newly opened restaurant at Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental in Abu Dhabi.

"I have no relation to him whatsoever, I just look like him," Lyon tells The National with a chuckle, adding: "But that certainly didn't give me the upper hand in his kitchen."

Lyon's culinary journey started when he was 13 years old at a local restaurant in his hometown of Barnsley as a pot washer. Eager to break into actual cooking, he spent extended hours at the job.

"It started with working Friday evenings and Saturdays that turned into skipping school," Lyon recalls. "From that point on, I just fell in love with the kitchen, and working with people who had so much life experiences. I knew I wanted to get out of Barnsley."

In 2011 he moved to London for a 12-hour trial shift at The Savoy Grill, owned by Ramsay, kicking off his career with the popular celebrity chef.

"It was very tough," he prefaces, but then says Ramsay is nothing like his fiery television persona.

"He wouldn't have staff behind the scenes if he was anything like how he is on television," says Lyon, who describes the Scottish MasterChef judge as "very charismatic, caring and a great leader".

Ramsay would trust his team to carry his name, so everyone was motivated to do their best, he says. A few years later, Lyon became head chef at London House, another one of Ramsay's famed venues.

"He really shaped my future," Lyon says. "You work hard and you learn – sometimes it's the hard way, sometimes it's the easy way. Diamonds are made under pressure."

It was during his stint at London House, where he worked closely with Ramsay, that people started noticing their physical resemblance, even prompting the famous chef to call him his "mini-me" on X.

When asked whether he sees the resemblance himself, Lyon takes a long pause, before saying: "Yes and no."

"It became a running joke at the restaurant, but I didn't want people to think I got the position because I look like Gordon," Lyon says.

Ramsay was clear about how he respected him for his work at his restaurants, he adds, saying: "I don't think that would've changed just because we can have a laugh about looking alike.

"But it's fun, and it is what it is. It doesn't bother me," he says. "People think I'm related to him, but I'm really not. He's a great guy with a big heart, and I've learnt so much from my years working at his restaurant."

After five years at London House, Lyon spent a year at Ramsay's Maze, before moving on to a private members club in Mayfair where he worked for four years.

He moved to Abu Dhabi in September last year to join Broadway as head chef. The modern French brasserie serves British comfort food with an American twist.

"I want it to be a place where people go to have fun, while eating great food and experiencing great service," he says.

The social aspect of dining is palpable in the venue's sleek setup, with a prominent bar at the heart of it. On the menu are British classics such as tater tots, smashed burgers and beef Wellington, as well as desserts such as sticky toffee pudding and chocolate peanut butter tarts.

Since moving to the UAE with his family, Lyon has been fascinated with the capital's vibrant restaurant scene.

"Abu Dhabi is up and coming, and that's why I chose to move here," he says. And although he looks up to Ramsay's decorated career, Lyon says he's not necessarily chasing accolades for Broadway.

"It is all about great food, great service and great ambiance. I think that's what good restaurants are all about, and that's what we want to be."

Updated: January 05, 2024, 6:28 AM