GOR­DON RAM­SAY’S IS­RAELI PRO­TEGE

Meet the lat­est star in Gor­don Ram­say’s sta­ble — Is­raeli chef, Gi­lad Peled

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

GOR­DON RAM­SAY is famed for his colour­ful lan­guage and un­for­giv­ing at­ti­tude in pur­suit of culi­nary per­fec­tion. When he ap­points a young chef to head up the kitchen at his new­est restau­rant, you can be sure that the chef’s skills will be top class and they’ll be a tough cookie.

Three months ago, Is­raeli Gi­lad Peled took up the reins at Ram­say’s lat­est open­ing, Le Pres­soir d’Ar­gent, at the Grand Ho­tel de Bordeaux and Spa.

“This is the first po­si­tion where I re­ally feel I need to be with­out even think­ing about my next move,” says Peled.

The 31-year-old has been doggedly de­ter­mined in his ca­reer path since he started his for­mal train­ing. How­ever, it wasn’t un­til af­ter his mil­i­tary ser­vice, plus three ad­di­tional years as an of­fi­cer, that he even de­cided to fol­low his real pas­sion.

“I’ve been in­ter­ested in food and cook­ing since I can re­mem­ber. It was my great pas­sion. As a boy I cooked with my mother. For my 16th birth­day I asked for a pasta ma­chine. Peo­ple barely knew about pasta mak­ing in Is­rael then.”

So in 2006, he in­vested his en­tire army sav­ings in a full-time pro­fes­sional chef’s diploma at Lon­don’s Le Cor­don Bleu where he packed in the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I did a Cor­don Bleu course in patis­serie while also study­ing for the full-time diploma. I knew I would need those skills if I were to be a chef; and I worked week­ends at Le Gavroche. In France most ap­pren­tices start in the kitchen at 16 and I was al­ready in my early twen­ties so I felt I needed to make up for lost time.”

It was gru­elling but when his stu­dent visa ex­pired his non-EU pass­port pre­vented him from work­ing in Lon­don’s top res­tau­rants. So he did it for noth­ing.

“I did a se­ries of un­paid place­ments at res­tau­rants in­clud­ing The Square, Petrus — un­der Mar­cus Ware­ing — and Gor­don Ram­say’s Royal Hospi­tal Road.”

It was at Ram­say’s flag­ship, three Miche­lin-starred restau­rant that Peled got the chance to cook for Ram­say and his chef pa­tron, Clare Smyth — the only fe­male chef in the UK to have achieved the ac­co­lade. Peled clearly im­pressed. “Af­ter three days, they said they’d ar­range my visa. It was an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to work with Clare and Gor­don. I’d never seen any­thing like it be­fore. I loved the en­ergy and how se­ri­ous they were about food. Clare took me un­der her wing and taught me. I re­ally felt I be­longed there.”

How­ever, at the end of that year, he couldn’t ex­tend his visa and was forced to leave.

“I was dis­ap­pointed, but stayed in touch with them and vis­ited when­ever I could.”

Was Ram­say as fierce as his rep­u­ta­tion? “Gor­don is an amaz­ing chef and very in­spir­ing. He’s about pas­sion and strength — when some­one is strong like that it’s be­cause he’s a per­fec­tion­ist. It was a priv­i­lege to work with him.”

Back home in Is­rael in 2008, Peled built his own rep­u­ta­tion, win­ning plau­dits in his first head chef role — at glam­orous, oli­garch-funded restau­rant Pushkin. “It was lux­ury like I’d never seen be­fore in Is­rael.”

Af­ter a few years there, feel­ing he needed to grow more, he moved to Prague, where he headed the Belle Vue restau­rant — “I had a lot of chal­lenges there. I had to train peo­ple, man­age a big team and we served about 120 cov­ers a night. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence but I knew it wasn’t for a long time.”

A stint at a five-star Re­lais and Chateaux ho­tel, Les Sources Des Alpes, fol­lowed. “I got good ex­pe­ri­ence of 24/7 ho­tel cater­ing,” he says.

And then came the phone call he’d been wait­ing for. “When Gor­don called in spring 2014, I didn’t hes­i­tate for one sec­ond.”

Sur­pris­ingly, he talks English with a French ac­cent, al­though he terms his French “rus­tic”. De­spite this he runs his kitchen ser­vice in French and trains his pre­dom­i­nantly French-speak­ing chefs in their na­tive lan­guage.

His ex­cite­ment for the role is pal­pa­ble. “I’m in one of the best re­gions in France for foie gras, truf­fles, caviar and many fruits and veg­eta­bles. Around 95 per cent of the food we serve comes from the lo­cal area. Even the fish comes from the wa­ter that day. I’m in di­rect touch with all of my sup­pli­ers — this is how it should be.”

Like most nice Jewish boys, he cites his mother as one of the best chefs and a huge in­flu­ence on his cook­ing. “She’s a strong woman — my great­est fan and my great­est critic. I ar­rived where I did be­cause of two women — her and Clare Smyth.”

He laugh­ingly ad­mits that when he vis­its home he doesn’t cook. “My mother is a se­ri­ous bal­a­boosta. It’s too com­pli­cated for me to cook, al­though I will lend a hand even­tu­ally.” Some of her dishes have even made it onto his menu. “She makes a rich root veg­etable ragu, which takes a lot of work so she gen­er­ally only makes it for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. I’ve picked up some of the flavours from that. Her cook­ing is not rich or heavy — it’s pre­dom­i­nantly about the veg­eta­bles. That way of eat­ing is in my DNA; light food like fish, veg­eta­bles and olive oil not heavy cream or but­ter.” When his mother, Ad­ina, vis­its this au­tumn, you can bet that she will be one proud Jewish mother.

Top left: Peled with men­tor and boss, Gor­don Ram­say and ( right) some of the dishes he seves at Le Pres­soir d’Ar­gent

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