THE BIG ASK GORDON RAMSAY
LONG before Gordon Ramsay found international fame as the foul-mouthed and volatile chef on Hell’s Kitchen, he’d made a name for himself in Britain as a soccer star turned accomplished restaurateur.
It’s easy to forget that Ramsay, when not berating staff or contestants on television, is a chef first and foremost, having earned three Michelin stars at his eponymous London restaurant and opening more than a dozen others.
With the new show Kitchen Nightmares making waves in Australia because of Ramsay’s penchant for the f-word — more than 80 times in a one-hour episode — Ramsay talks about his on-camera demeanour, the molecular gastronomy movement and his dining experiences. What kitchen nightmare is your biggest peeve? What’s frustrating more than anything is when chefs start to cut corners and believe they are incognito in the way they send out the entrees. And they know it’s not 100 per cent, but they think the customers can’t spot it. We know (customers) vote with their feet. They return to restaurants on the back of consistency. There are very few chefs both in Britain and the States who really identify the secret of being consistent and combine consistency with flavour. I train my chefs with a blindfold. I’ll get my sous chef and myself to cook a dish. That young chef would have to sit down and eat it with a blindfold. If they can’t identify the flavour, they shouldn’t be cooking the dish. Do you think you’re mean to people you work with on the show? I spend a lot of time in top restaurants across America. No disrespect, but when you’re cooking in the premier league of restaurants . . . when things go down, it has to be sorted immediately. My mum doesn’t enjoy sometimes listening to me tell staff off, and I say to my mum: ‘‘It’s a kitchen, not a hairdressing salon’’. Being assertive and really firm has to be backed up with being fair. And one thing I’ve been all along is incredibly fair. Have there been any dishes you’ve taken a liking to on your US travels? The fascinating short rib phenomenon. I had one recently at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in Los Angeles and it was absolutely phenomenal. It came out on this plate with this amazing creamy polenta, finished with grated truffle, and it’s served with the cooking juices and the short rib on top. I was like a pig in heaven. What’s your take on the scientific approach to cooking? Molecular gastronomy is a doubleedged sword. For those who misinterpret it and don’t understand it, it becomes a catastrophe. When the integrity is applied and you understand . . . dealing with, say, liquid nitrogen, or the effects of cooking meat over a three-day period at a very low temperature, it’s extraordinary. But for me, the phenomenal amount of insight and real scientific approach to (molecular gastronomy) is completely different to a normal style of cooking, so you’ve got to really understand it. You’re a big fan of El Bulli and Ferran Adria (the Spanish chef regarded as the father of molecular gastronomy). I’m not a great lover of foam. I’ve been to El Bulli on four occasions now and that man is the standardbearer. There have been so many ripoffs, it has been embarrassing.
When you’re dictating to a customer, ‘‘You’ve got to start at this side of the plate, and move vertical 10 degrees, then come back to 6 o’clock, and then reappear at 9 o’clock, and don’t eat that one before you’ve dusted it with powder’’, I’m sorry, eating out doesn’t have to be a formula.
Eating out is about having fun. I get really frustrated when it’s badly done.