GORDON RAMSAY’S ISRAELI PROTEGE
Meet the latest star in Gordon Ramsay’s stable — Israeli chef, Gilad Peled
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