Star Chef on Passion, Pressure and Perfection

When Gordon Ramsay was a child, he never dreamed of becoming a star chef with restaurants around the world. "Soccer was my first love," says Ramsay, who hoped to play professionally.

But after he was recruited by the professional club Glasgow Rangers and a stint on the Scottish national team, an injury drove him from the field into the kitchen.

"That's how I got into cooking, through soccer," he said. "At the age of 18, I had a horrendous accident when I smashed my cartilage."

He says after his injury he hit "rock bottom" but "decided to get off my butt and do something about it."

He says he's "somebody on a mission."


"There's no script," he said. "I don't like looking back. I'm always constantly looking forward. I'm not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I'm too busy looking for the next cow."

Ramsay spent time in France, where he says he submerged himself in the history of cuisine and "found my feet in terms of odd cuisine, trained my palate to the absolute extreme and got my butt kicked in sort of the best restaurants in Paris."

"[To] become a great chef you got to work with great chefs. It's as simple as that. And there's no recipe that you can read and you will happen to become a talented chef if you read books, nothing of the sort. "

In October 1993, he became the chef at Aubergine, and in 1998 opened his first London restaurant, Gordon Ramsay. He is now the author of countless cookbooks and the owner of 19 restaurants from Paris to Prague that have, as he says, "a collection of stars across the world."

It was the "excitement," "liveliness" and "boisterousness" of restaurant work that attracted Ramsay to his culinary career. He says that food isn't a job, "it's a passion."

"It's an amazing journey," he says. "So at each and every kitchen, I pinch myself. And with 1,500 members of the team now, we are an incredible force."

Ramsay's favorite food? He says he has a weakness for chocolate. "I absolutely adore it. I have a sweet tooth; I love the most amazing fondue chocolate with milk ice cream. And everywhere I go, all I want to eat is chocolate."

The self-described "control freak" is known for having an abrasive personality and vocal fireworks on the hit TV shows "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" in the United Kingdom and "Hell's Kitchen" in the United States.

"I'm firm, but by God, I'm fair," he said. "So I don't give a damn what individuals think -- 'Oh, my God, how can he be so rude?' No, I'm not rude, I'm honest. Mate, when it's crap, it's crap."

Ramsay says he resents it when his restaurants are judged according to preconceptions about his personality.

"Unfortunately, today at the age of 41, my persona gets judged over my substance, which is really frustrating," he said. "I've been cooking for 21 years, and it shows on the wrinkles of my face. But here's the scenario: I'm now being judged by individuals that know less about food than I do. But yet, you have to take it like a man. Well I don't want to take it like a man anymore. I'm fed up with the sarcasm, the damn right rudeness and more importantly, the arrogance of food critics. Have they actually spent a 16-hour shift cooking 70 to 80 lunches, 120 to 150 dinners short staffed, fish cook is not turning in, produce inconsistent because of the weather?"

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