COVER STORY

He might be known for his tyran­ni­cal out­bursts and ag­gres­sive global ex­pan­sion, but in per­son Gor­don Ram­say is a warmer, gen­tler and more ef­fu­sive pres­ence, writes AN­THONY HUCKSTEP

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - For ex­clu­sive recipes from Gor­don Ram­say, see de­li­cious.com.au

Gor­don Ram­say’s softer side.

Gor­don “eff­ing” Ram­say. The chef’s dropped more F-bombs on TV than a char­ac­ter in The Wolf Of Wall Street. His trade­mark fur­rowed brow and ver­bal dress­ing downs could strip paint.

Meet­ing him for the first time feels like you’re step­ping into a lion’s den wear­ing Lady Gaga’s meat dress, but tele­vi­sion has a funny way of por­tray­ing only part of one’s per­sona.

Just as I ar­rive in the UK to interview him comes sad news that his wife, Tana, has had a mis­car­riage at five months’ preg­nant. The dis­cus­sion of such mat­ters is off lim­its but Ram­say, as he seems to do, says what he’s think­ing.

“You’ve just got to be there. You have to stay strong, strong for every­one in the fam­ily, and try and take the pos­i­tives.”

It’s clear that be­neath the global dom­i­na­tion plans and fu­ri­ous out­bursts, Ram­say is very much a fam­ily man. A wolf pro­tect­ing his pack, per­haps spawned from a dis­jointed up­bring­ing and a yearn­ing to en­sure his kids don’t go through the same.

His fa­ther was an al­co­holic, his mother a cook and nurse. The in­sta­bil­ity of his dad meant they moved a lot and Ram­say went to no less than 17 dif­fer­ent schools. It’s not sur­pris­ing he con­stantly ref­er­ences the im­por­tance of home life.

It’s mid-morn­ing when Ram­say hob­bles in on crutches (fol­low­ing surgery on a rup­tured achilles ten­don) to his Union Street Cafe in South­wark, Lon­don. The eatery re­flects the new ethos of the Gor­don Ram­say Group since it re­booted in 2011. It’s a smart, ca­sual res­tau­rant in a re­gen­er­ated ware­house us­ing pro­duce sourced from lo­cal bor­ough mar­kets and given a Mediter­ranean kiss.

“Every­one is fed up with the stigma at­tached to the for­mal­i­ties of din­ing,” he says. “I was asked the other day whether I’m fine with peo­ple tak­ing pho­tos of their food in my restau­rants. Of course they can – who are we to say don’t take f***ing pic­tures!”

In per­son, Ram­say is gen­uine and open, but has no time for BS. Sure, there’s an ego and drive beyond com­pre­hen­sion. Dur­ing a marathon last year in Hawaii, where he com­peted along­side son Jack, Ram­say col­lapsed and woke up in the med­i­cal tent.

“I bloody swal­lowed too much sea­wa­ter didn’t I, f***ing hell.” He’s Mr 150 per cent, and some. One of only four chefs in the UK to main­tain three Miche­lin stars (he’s been awarded 16 over the years), while his Res­tau­rant Gor­don Ram­say is Lon­don’s long­est-run­ning to hold the award. He has an OBE, 27 books, five TV shows, 31 restau­rants, wife Tana and four chil­dren, Me­gan, Matilda and twins Jack and Holly, and di­vides his time be­tween South Lon­don and LA.

“My life is planned 15 months in front,” he says. “Three weeks of in­ten­sity, four days in lock­down with my fam­ily to recharge, then re­peat.”

In the modern world there are two types of celebrity chef: TV chefs and chefs of in­flu­ence in the haute cui­sine world. Ram­say strad­dles both spheres.

“The haute world would never dream of do­ing TV and hates the chefs that do,” he says. “And when you are like me, with one foot in each camp, you’re hated by both. Dis­loyal to haute cui­sine and pros­ti­tut­ing your­self on TV.” Ram­say is no fool; he un­der­stands that his brand of en­ter­tain­ment is mar­ket­ing gold for the restau­rants.

“We have 4000 seats to fill glob­ally ev­ery day. TV helps,” he says.

“The truth is, I am gen­uinely f***ed off on these pro­grams be­cause they’re a bunch of f***ing mup­pets,” he adds. “I’m there to wake them up and make them re­alise what’s at stake. Some­times the res­tau­rant shouldn’t be func­tion­ing and there’s this mup­pet with their name above the door say­ing they’re the best res­tau­rant in the neigh­bour­hood. And they’re boil­ing f***ing burg­ers! Peo­ple think we set that sh*t up on these shows, but we don’t!” He punc­tu­ates that with a laugh. “In my restau­rants, I get caught with a cracked tile or an in­gre­di­ent that’s been out of the fridge for five min­utes longer than it should and it’s ma­jor f***ing news.”

Ram­say seems to al­ways be mak­ing head­lines and long-lived feuds with Jamie Oliver and Marco Pierre White never abate.

“It’s just boys and their egos. It’s no dif­fer­ent to foot­ballers or box­ers. If Jamie Oliver walked in for lunch we’d shake hands and have a laugh. Marco made me the man I am to­day – I have no doubt about that. But I feel he threw the towel in too early just when I had the chance to knock him out. I’d al­ways dreamt of us both hav­ing three Miche­lin stars at the same time and go­ing toe to toe.”

As we fin­ish up, I ask when he will be back in Aus­tralia.

“Masterchef is dy­ing for me to do something. Maybe we’ll open a res­tau­rant – something ca­sual,” he says. “I think we’ll be down there spring or sum­mer 2017. There’s an amaz­ing iron­man in Syd­ney that I’m in­ter­ested in do­ing. There’s a three-week win­dow in my sched­ule then too, so we’ll see you there!”

Put it in your di­ary.

“I am gen­uinely f***ed off on these pro­grams be­cause they’re a bunch of f***ing mup­pets”

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