Head of the House

He’s one of the world’s most widely recog­nised chefs and the owner of 26 restau­rants on four con­ti­nents. Melissa Twigg meets the fa­mously foul-mouthed Gor­don Ram­say to talk about his lat­est Asian ven­ture

Hong Kong Tatler - - Faces -

raf­fic has ground to a halt and I’m late for my in­ter­view with Gor­don Ram­say. Hav­ing spent the morn­ing watch­ing clips from Kitchen Night­mares and Hell’s Kitchen, I’m wor­ried the fa­mously fiery Bri­tish chef is go­ing to call me a “f--king don­key”, “a f--king dis­grace” or just a plain old “id­iot sand­wich.” I fi­nally make it to Lon­don House, his new Hong Kong restau­rant, but in­stead of get­ting the tor­rent of abuse I prob­a­bly de­serve, I find a smil­ing, af­fa­ble and very charm­ing Ram­say, hap­pily chat­ting to his staff while eat­ing one of his leg­endary sausage rolls. “Ah, Tatler,” he says, with a twin­kle in his eye. “I should have known you’d be late. You’re far too posh to own an alarm clock.”

Be­ing shouted at by Ram­say is a priv­i­lege most young chefs would gladly put their hand in a vat of hot oil for. Not only is he one of the most fa­mous tele­vi­sion chefs in the world, he’s the proud owner of 26 restau­rants spread around the globe from Las Vegas to Sin­ga­pore that possess seven Miche­lin stars among them. Pretty im­pres­sive for a man born on the wrong side of the tracks in Glas­gow and who es­chewed the kitchen for the foot­ball pitch un­til the age of 19. An in­jury in 1985, when he was train­ing with the Glas­gow Rangers squad, forced him to re­think his fu­ture. “No­body, and I mean no­body, ex­pected me to be­come a chef,” he says. “My mum sort of un­der­stood but I could never have told my dad, so I went off to make it on my own.” And make it he did—13 years later Gor­don Ram­say in Chelsea opened to rave re­views and earned three Miche­lin stars.

Hun­dreds of col­umn inches have been ded­i­cated to dis­sect­ing Ram­say’s colos­sal suc­cess. Yes, he’s a tal­ented chef, but that’s not usu­ally enough to make the £40 mil­lion Ram­say is re­ported to be worth. I think it has more to do with his charisma, his charm and that sexy-ugly thing he’s got go­ing on that makes women go weak at the knees. And, of course, he’s bril­liant at in­sult­ing peo­ple, some­how strik­ing the per­fect bal­ance be­tween scorn, warmth, vol­ume, ad­vice and hu­mour. Many of Ram­say’s in­sults have gone vi­ral—“my gran could do bet­ter. And she’s dead,” “This omelette looks like a bi­son’s pe­nis”, or “I wouldn’t trust you run­ning a bath let alone a restau­rant”—but on this sunny Satur­day in Hong Kong, he’s on his best be­hav­iour.

Ram­say is in town to pro­mote his new pub-like ven­ture in East Tsim Sha Tsui, Lon­don House, a branch of his hugely pop­u­lar Bat­tersea-based orig­i­nal. It’s his fourth restau­rant in Asia (he al­ready has Bread Street Kitchen in Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore and Dubai) and Ram­say has had to ad­just his Bri­tish pub-fare menu for the lo­cal palate. “The first thing I learned was not to un­der­es­ti­mate the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of Asian din­ers. All my dishes have had to be tweaked out here. You up the ante on the sea­son­ing, make ev­ery­thing more in­tense, switch black pep­per for cayenne pep­per—just gen­er­ally make ev­ery­thing more in-depth in terms of flavour. The op­po­site of what I have to do for my Amer­i­can cus­tomers,” he says with a wink.

Al­though Ram­say is yet to open a restau­rant that serves pre­dom­i­nately Asian cui­sine, he does in­cor­po­rate our lo­cal flavours into his cook­ing back home too. “I really ad­mire the food in this part of the world. At my flag­ship in Lon­don [Restau­rant Gor­don Ram­say] we serve a few Ja­panese ap­pe­tis­ers, and that came about af­ter I went to Ky­oto and was to­tally blown away by the meals I had. The same with Viet­nam and Malaysia— the restau­rants and the street food are in­cred­i­ble, and I think all the best Western chefs can learn so much from them. But am I go­ing to open a dim sum restau­rant in Hong Kong? Of course not. I’m not a com­plete f--king id­iot.”

Ram­say’s lib­eral use of the f-word is ar­guably the most mem­o­rable as­pect of his tele­vi­sion ca­reer, which be­gan in the UK in 1998 with the fly-on-the-wall doc­u­men­tary

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