Chef Gordon Ramsay may be best known for his trademark aggressive kitchen antics, but the 51-year-old is more fighting fit than F-off these days as he turns over a new (salad) leaf. ANTHONY HUCKSTEP reports
No more plate throwing, no more antics. He’s fitter than ever and has his ‘S**t sorted out’. Who is the new Gordon Ramsay?
He’s tougher than a $2 steak and has an uncanny ability to lob F-bombs from 50 paces and find his target. Gordon Ramsay was schooled in the galley of tough-nut cookery and his approach to excellence has always been served with a side of expletives. But there’s a very different F-word that’s driving his life these days.
“My father [Gordon James Senior] died of a heart attack at 53 and now I’m 51,” says a more considered Ramsay.
“Just the thought of leaving the family in two years’ time scares the sh*t out of me to be honest,” he says.
Fear, with a capital ‘F’, took hold of the man who normally eats wimps for breakfast. Now he’s drinking nourishing smoothies. It’s a change that started three years ago and it has completely transformed the controversial chef.
Heading into his 50s, Ramsay realised he needed a spring in his step. His age combined with the brutality of the kitchen – the odd hours, travel and inconsistent diet – were all catching up with him.
“I felt I was getting sluggish,” he says. “I realised I needed to change my habits.”
A disciplined regime sees him moderate his food consumption, and although he’s the fittest he’s ever been, his increasing appetite for health has at times bordered on self-destruction.
In 2016, he ruptured his Achilles tendon, then, while competing against his son in Hawaii Ironman, he collapsed and ended up in the back of an ambulance suffering dehydration.
“I’m perhaps pushing myself a bit too hard, but as a chef, I need to find that point of balance. If I stopped running, walking and swimming today, I’d blow out to 19 stone in three months.”
Ramsay says the stress of the job takes a physical and mental toll. “Raymond Blanc has had three heart attacks, Bernard Loiseau blew his brains out because he was concerned about losing the Michelin star,” he says. “I saw the effect of the drug epidemic in the industry.All that façade of a rock ’n’ roll image is bullsh*t,” says Ramsay, who believes it’s time for a new horizon.
“It’s clean cut, that’s the position of the chef today.You have to be like an athlete to survive,” he says.
Fear may have driven a change in Ramsay, but the outspoken chef hasn’t lost any of his appetite for success, rather he’s altered how he reaches the end goal.
“I’ve sustained that level of impact in the industry by being on my game, being a real chef with no bullsh*t, and – most importantly – I challenge myself. I just haven’t sat back, got a big gut and thought ‘f*ck it ,I’m going to disappear and drive my Ferraris’,” he says.
Ramsay hasn’t technically been behind the line and on the pans professionally for 15 years, which he now concedes he is grateful for.
“I have an amazing young Australian chef at Gordon Ramsay at Hospital Road [in London] who is going to be the next big thing – Matt Abe, from Sydney.
“If I didn’t have that delegation I would have been on my third or fourth heart attack by now for sure,” he says.
As part of Ramsay 2.0, he’s launched a new grey colour to his casual dinner range with Royal Doulton – Union Street Cafe (pictured), which he was here in Australia to promote – that is centred around sharing food at the table, as well as a new cookbook, Ultimate Fit Food, which encourages a healthier lifestyle.
“Let’s get this right straight away,” demands Ramsay.“This is not a book for dieters. It’s not a diet book. It’s what I cook on weekends and a couple of nights a week at home. It’s being smart with cream, butter, eggs – never cutting them out but reducing your intake.
“For me this is a go-to lifestyle, whether it’s the baked chicken, or breakfast smoothies. There are indulgent dishes in there too, providing you find that balance between what you eat and moving your body,” he says.
The life of a chef is all too often about excess, so how does Ramsay stay on top of his new-found health?
“I eat smaller portions, but what I do eat is always decent. I changed milk to almond milk and dropped milk in my coffee altogether,” he says.
He also has some simple tricks anyone can implement at home. “I drink sparkling water before dinner so I feel fuller,” he offers.
Ramsay is adamant even small changes will alter your entire perspective, but the hardest part about losing weight and getting fit is starting.
“It’s a head f*ck trying to get out of first gear. It’s horrible, sluggish, and a change from what you’re comfortable with,” he says.
“Walk away from a dish when you’re full, even if it’s amazing. Don’t sit there every afternoon and drink more coffee. Try getting out of bed early and going for a walk. It’s starting a new routine that’s the highest hurdle.
“On the plus side, when it’s 6am and you get off the bike after 60 minutes, you can eat whatever you want, trust me,” he says. “If you want to make a change, you should be aiming to move like a f*cking ballerina!” Yes, chef!