I'd like to say

I'm baking a cake à la Ramsey.

Here, à la means in the style of. My problem is: what if Ramsey is male? The French la goes with feminine nouns. So, should I write the following?

I'm baking a cake au Ramsey.

That might be more grammatically correct in French, but seems wrong in English, since au isn't a phrase in English in the same way that à la is.

  • The only expression in English where I've seen "au" is "au naturel" which is in fact a loanword. I can't be more helpful. – user15851 May 30 '13 at 14:33
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    In French à la remains à la whatever follows. It's a common (almost mandatory) ellipsis for à la mode de or à la manière de. With an adjective, à la grèque it is short for à la mode/manière grèque. In any case, it is simply incorrect (and not understandable) to substitute à la with au in French. – Stéphane Gimenez May 30 '13 at 17:15
  • Oops. *grecque (so easy to fall for this trap). That is, greek, adjective, feminine form. – Stéphane Gimenez Jun 13 '14 at 19:34

Literally, à la only means (in this case) in the. It's an abbreviation of à la mode de, which means in the style of. The de is not governed by the gender of the place/person/etc that follows.

So your usage is correct.

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  • So -which- usage is correct? 'a la' or 'au'? Because he uses both. Anyway, there is no 'au' in this place in English, it is always 'a la'. Unless of course there is a direct borrowing from French like 'au gratin' or 'au chocolat'. In English the productive pattern is 'a la', so 'a la (something male)' is correct English. – Mitch Sep 30 '13 at 21:48

Perhaps this might be relevant to the Cookery SE as well.

How about Turkey à la King?

As you say, à la means "in the style of". It's reached English and is now subject to English rules, which do not [for the most part] include gender-specific expressions. It doesn't matter whether Gordon Ramsey is male or not: à la is used regardless.

Further examples: Apple pie a la zing; Pumpkin pie a la Pigalle; Penne a la vodka

Where an entire phrase like au gratin or au naturel has reached English, that's treated en entière.

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  • Only sometimes, the degree to which we follow English rules or the rules of a source language differs from case to case, though tending to become more English as we go. In this case though DavidR is correct, au Ramsey wouldn't even be correct French, we borrowed à la as an idiom that already existed in French, so whether we consider it as French or as English we should have à la Ramsey. – Jon Hanna May 30 '13 at 16:38
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    I usually see Italian alla instead of French à la when talking about Italian cuisine, but +1 regardless. English speakers do sometimes try to retain grammatical gender in loanwords (like Latina), but we're not consistent about it and often simply don't bother. – Bradd Szonye May 30 '13 at 22:17

'a la' is feminine, so if Ramsey was male, then you would use the terminology 'au', and you don't need to worry about the relations of French to English, because they are two totally different languages, and what makes sense in French doesn't necessarily have to make sense in English. :-)

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    This answer appears to contradict itself. Is that and supposed to be a but? – Bradd Szonye Sep 30 '13 at 21:36

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