Accepted journalistic practice dictates that changing the quotes in a celebrity interview is entirely unacceptable; the fast track to career suicide. Nevertheless, in all honesty, almost every quote you are about to read has been doctored, for the simple reason that the interviewee is Gordon Ramsay, a walking, talking swearbox in a chef’s hat. Watching him go into expletive overload on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (in which he struggles to rescue failing restaurants, and which returns this month), it’s easy to assume that it’s all done for the benefit of the cameras. It’s not. This man effs and blinds the same way most of us breathe. If swearing was an art form, he’d be Da Vinci, Monet and van Gogh rolled into one. If Michelin gave out stars for bad language, he’d have a fistful of them, too. When he arrives rather late, in the dining room of his restaurant at Claridges, he’s not the only one ready to do a bit of swearing. However, he’s so apologetic, courteous and solicitous, it’s impossible not to warm to him. He offers tea, coffee, orange juice, and a full English breakfast from the kitchen, while staff bustle about ironing the tablecloths onto each table. It’s tempting to imagine poached plover eggs, organically-reared Wild Boar bacon, sausages flown in direct from Cumberland, and truffles fresh from Tuscany. But conducting an interview is difficult with a mouth full of meat, while egg runs down your chin. Ramsay, however, takes the refusal as a sinister sign. “I’m not sat with a vegetarian, am I?” he scowls. His relationship with our herbivorous brothers and sisters is a notoriously volatile one.

He has been the bête noir of the vegetarian community ever since he confessed in an interview to having fed a dish to a vegetarian party that contained chicken stock. He has also been known, on the odd couple of hundred occasions, to make scornful pronouncements about vegetarianism, so what he says next is something of a surprise.

“We have the most amazing vegetarian menu here. For me, the biggest frustration about vegetarians is that chefs don’t look after them enough. They oust them as if they’d been diagnosed with leprosy.

They don’t treat them as normal customers. Here, we make sure they have just as exciting food.” Not that every dish meets with their approval. “We always get the trendy student vegetarians protesting outside here when I put a new Foie Gras dish on the menu. The General Manager says ‘Oh, your mates are here again.’”

He does, however, insist on acquiring meat that has been ethically reared and collected. “That’s absolutely paramount. We have traceability across the board, where we have a certification of whether it’s organic beef, or whether it’s a hand-picked scallop or a line-caught sea bass.

We’re anti-fish farming. We have a problem with our waters in this country where everything is over-fished because we’ve been so indulgent. No one’s understood the preciousness of cod.”

Sourcing food, and buying the correct ingredients, is one of the key fundaments of running a restaurant. It was the first thing Ramsay discovered that chef and restaurant owner Alex was getting wrong at La Lanterna, an Italian restaurant in Letchworth that is the subject of the first of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

He recounts their opening discussion. “’So, it’s a local Italian restaurant. Where do the peppers come from?’ ‘Tescos’. ‘Where do you get your courgettes from?’ ‘The butcher’ ‘Where did you get the ‘Lazy Lemon’ juice in plastic bottles?’ ‘Oh, Cash & Carry’. ‘So what’s Italian about your restaurant?’”

It didn’t end there, as the appalled Ramsay discovered. Food was left to defrost under running water, while Alex ate Pot Noodles for lunch. Vegetable platters were prepared and then left sitting all over the kitchen, and sauces pre-prepared from packets.

Meanwhile, the business was losing £1,000-a-week, Alex had re-mortgaged his house, and hadn’t slept in months. “At that stage, I was just more upset for the customer,” says Ramsay. “It was them that were getting the mickey taken out of them.

I’ve never seen anyone so far removed from the reality of what it takes to get a restaurant right… All that horrible brown glue and white béchamel sauce. I wouldn’t even serve that to my kitchen porters if they hadn’t turned up to work for three weeks. It was just gunk. It wouldn’t even go down the sink.”

Hygiene, too, was somewhat lacking. “I was horrified. There was a microwave that looked like it had come out of a Harry Potter movie. It was like someone had sprayed it with glue, doused three kilos of porridge oats inside, then shaken it up and lined it with things dripping from the inside. He said it had been on the floor, tucked away and forgotten about. I asked how long he’d had it. He said two years, so I asked when he’d last cleaned it. He said ‘I don’t think we have’.”

Alex was out of his depth, and more intent on playing golf than putting in the hours of food preparation. There was also a distinct lack of culinary know-how.

On one occasion, Ramsay prepared three pasta dishes, to test which one a blindfolded Gavin (the Maitre d’) and Alex thought would best complement grilled swordfish. “They both went for the third one as being the most textured and best to go with Swordfish. They took the blindfolds off, and they’d chosen the Curry Pot Noodle.”

One more surprise awaited the astonished Ramsay; Alex’s luxury new car with the number plate reading A1 CHEF. “I came out of the kitchen and saw it and was absolutely gobsmacked. If I saw a car like that outside Claridges, I’d stone it with eggs,” he says, showing a healthy disregard for the need for stones to be involved in a stoning.

“He was so carried away with the cosmetic and glamour side of cooking. And there’s nothing glamorous when you’re busting your nuts off.”

It will surprise nobody to hear that Ramsay is unimpressed by such an approach to cooking, and had no qualms about conveying his disdain in a more than forthright manner. But he refutes claims that he is an unpleasant man to work for. “Everyone thinks you’re an arsehole to work for because you get straight to the point. I’ve the most amazing relationship with my guys, and yeah, if things go wrong, they have to take it.

But I expect just as much from myself as I do from them.” The fact that he’s still got 85 per cent of his staff from 1993 working with him in some capacity seems to indicate a degree of loyalty that few would expect from employees of such a reputed tyrant.

The truth behind the headlines, as is so often the case, is somewhat different. In truth, Ramsay comes across as something of a softy. He talks tenderly about his family, from his social worker mother who runs a refuge in Taunton to his brother, who is recovering from drug dependence. There is real pride in his voice when he announces: “On June 1st this year, my little brother is clean for a year”.

But the real centre of his moral compass is his own young family. Unlike in the kitchen, here his wife is in charge of discipline. “Tanya’s a schoolteacher, so I’m very lucky there. They sit on the naughty rug. I think I spend more time on there than they do… I leave that side to her – I’m quite chauvinistic about that, because she’s better at it than I am. The one thing I don’t do is bring any problems home. I lived with that throughout my childhood, and I saw how much humiliation and pain my mum suffered because my dad brought all his problems home.”

He doesn’t smack his kids, and rarely raises his voice to them. He doesn’t see them as much as he’d like during the week, but insists “weekends are special. Saturday mornings is Jack and football on Wandsworth Common, and the girls go to ballet. A few months ago, Jack wanted to go to ballet too, and I said: ‘Mate, no! I loved Billy Elliott, but you’re not going to ballet!’”

This is said in jest, but you wonder if Ramsay has invested some of his own (failed) football ambition into his son. He was released by Glasgow Rangers Football Club at the age of 18, in 1981, shattering his dreams of a career as a professional. He says he was “mortified for ten years. So,” he continues, “I hid myself in food”. He studied for years, learning his trade under chefs including Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux, Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon, and a culinary star was born.

Just as well, then, that he didn’t take the advice of his school careers officer, who suggested he become a police officer. “I’d have been the most bent copper in London,” he roars. He would also have had to re-sit O Levels. It seems unfeasible, given his articulacy, entrepreneurial ability, hard working nature and fluent command of French, but he only passed two O Levels, English and Maths.

Ramsay’s kids are not allowed to watch dad’s programmes, largely on account of the agricultural nature of his language. The eldest, Megan, who is approaching six, is dimly aware that her dad is famous, thanks to questions from friends at school. Indeed, Ramsay’s reputation seems to precede him here; when he takes Megan to school “all the mothers bolt back into their 4x4s in their tracksuits”.

On the subject of school, Ramsay is hugely supportive of Jamie Oliver’s recent campaign to improve the food we give our children there. “The guy opened a can of worms… and I think he helped create a level of guilt in every parent in Britain, and rightly so, in the sense that they had taken for granted what their children were being fed was adequate, and he shone the light on inadequacy beyond belief. A tremendous campaign, absolutely brilliant.”

At the other end of the scale from Oliver’s popular campaign is chef Heston Blumenthal’s own, rather more exclusive food revolution. What does Ramsay make of The Fat Duck, Blumenthal’s unconventional restaurant that some consider to be the world’s best? “He is definitely the Willy Wonka of cookery. We’re mates. I always say to my customers: ‘Go, but don’t go to eat, go and have fun. Go and watch an egg-white being poached in liquid nitrogen – just stand back if the wheel falls off the trolley, because your fingers will fall off with it.’

It’s very clever and diverse. The smoked bacon and egg ice cream sounds revolting, but it tastes phenomenal. And there’s a chocolate fondant that’s like Space Dust – you put it in your mouth and there’s a snap, crackle and pop taking place on your tongue. It’s hilarious.”

The Fat Duck is a far cry from the restaurants Ramsay visited for the filming of Kitchen Nightmares. If anything, things became even more desperate after the first programme. In a restaurant called D Place, Ramsay arrived on Valentine’s night, the trade’s busiest evening of the year, to find six bookings for the evening. “I took a picture of the wife with me, and sat it opposite me at the table. I sat there like Nobby Nomates talking to her all night.”

The dining experience offered little relief. “I asked for the watercress soup, and the waitress came back saying the chef had only made three portions.” The main course was, he says, awful, while the Crème Brulee was liquid. The chef, Philippe, later admitted: ‘I was in trouble today, so I went to Tescos and bought them, but I forgot to cook them’.”

That, though, was nothing to a later incident, which we shall call Potatogate. Potatogate erupted when Ramsay gave instructions about preparing a potato salad for a wake. The next day, he enquired of Philippe how he’d cooked the potatoes, and was told they’d been roasted. Ramsay suggested they’d been deep fat fried. “He argued that he hadn’t deep fat fried them, so I flipped my lid. He was clearly lying. From a cook’s point of view, working with a liar is worse than working with a guy who can’t cook, because you’ve got no form of trust.”

“I punched a hotplate and said ‘You’re going to tell me the truth’,” says Ramsay. Eventually, another member of the kitchen staff was questioned about how the potatoes had been cooked. “There was an air of silence for about five minutes, then he turned around and said ‘Philippe deep fat fried them’. And then it all kicked off.” Just verbally? “I don’t know about that! That’s not for me to say. I’m going to get into trouble here!”

He could be forgiven for just playing at Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares; he’s busy enough as it is. He runs three top restaurants, has interests in a further four, with two more opening. He’s published six books, writes newspaper columns, runs a scholarship for trainee chefs, and has several different food ranges on sale commercially. But to hear Ramsay speak, or to watch him tearing strips off Philippe in a kitchen, it becomes apparent this is far from playtime. He means it. All of it.

Indeed, he says that the programme he filmed in Brighton for this series was an extraordinarily emotional experience for him. The restaurant was run by a woman who had a heart as big as the kitchen at Claridges. “This woman’s amazing! She reminds me of my mum. She fostered 35 children. She’s an absolute sweetheart.” Too nice to tell her staff off, she was being taken for a ride by her employees, who left her to do all the work. Enter Gordon Ramsay, exit niceness.

It would spoil the series to give away the endings of any of the programmes, but suffice to say, there are plenty of fireworks along the way. In the end, it is up to the individuals themselves to stick to the regime introduced by Ramsay. “They’re given a database of information and recipes. It’s like a passport, like a bible that they get given with everything in there. So we’re not setting them up with something they can’t maintain after we’ve gone. So much work goes into it. It’s far more normal for me to do that than stand in a kitchen with Edwina Currie [as he did in the series Hell’s Kitchen].”

After what seems like a few minutes, but turns out to be an hour, our time is up. Ramsay is already late for about 312 appointments. He is quickly bustled out, and the austere dining room seems much quieter and emptier without his presence. In the background, his highly-trained staff are working diligently, as the occasional gentle hiss of an iron confirms.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares starts on Tuesday 24th May at 9pm on Channel 4

Accepted journalistic practice dictates that changing the quotes in a celebrity interview is entirely unacceptable; the fast track to career suicide. Nevertheless, in all honesty, almost every quote you are about to read has been doctored, for the simple reason that the interviewee is Gordon Ramsay, a walking, talking swearbox in a chef’s hat. Watching him go into expletive overload on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (in which he struggles to rescue failing restaurants, and which returns this month), it’s easy to assume that it’s all done for the benefit of the cameras. It’s not. This man effs and blinds the same way most of us breathe. If swearing was an art form, he’d be Da Vinci, Monet and van Gogh rolled into one. If Michelin gave out stars for bad language, he’d have a fistful of them, too. When he arrives rather late, in the dining room of his restaurant at Claridges, he’s not the only one ready to do a bit of swearing. However, he’s so apologetic, courteous and solicitous, it’s impossible not to warm to him. He offers tea, coffee, orange juice, and a full English breakfast from the kitchen, while staff bustle about ironing the tablecloths onto each table. It’s tempting to imagine poached plover eggs, organically-reared Wild Boar bacon, sausages flown in direct from Cumberland, and truffles fresh from Tuscany. But conducting an interview is difficult with a mouth full of meat, while egg runs down your chin. Ramsay, however, takes the refusal as a sinister sign. “I’m not sat with a vegetarian, am I?” he scowls. His relationship with our herbivorous brothers and sisters is a notoriously volatile one.

He has been the bête noir of the vegetarian community ever since he confessed in an interview to having fed a dish to a vegetarian party that contained chicken stock. He has also been known, on the odd couple of hundred occasions, to make scornful pronouncements about vegetarianism, so what he says next is something of a surprise.

“We have the most amazing vegetarian menu here. For me, the biggest frustration about vegetarians is that chefs don’t look after them enough. They oust them as if they’d been diagnosed with leprosy.

They don’t treat them as normal customers. Here, we make sure they have just as exciting food.” Not that every dish meets with their approval. “We always get the trendy student vegetarians protesting outside here when I put a new Foie Gras dish on the menu. The General Manager says ‘Oh, your mates are here again.’”

He does, however, insist on acquiring meat that has been ethically reared and collected. “That’s absolutely paramount. We have traceability across the board, where we have a certification of whether it’s organic beef, or whether it’s a hand-picked scallop or a line-caught sea bass.

We’re anti-fish farming. We have a problem with our waters in this country where everything is over-fished because we’ve been so indulgent. No one’s understood the preciousness of cod.”

Sourcing food, and buying the correct ingredients, is one of the key fundaments of running a restaurant. It was the first thing Ramsay discovered that chef and restaurant owner Alex was getting wrong at La Lanterna, an Italian restaurant in Letchworth that is the subject of the first of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

He recounts their opening discussion. “’So, it’s a local Italian restaurant. Where do the peppers come from?’ ‘Tescos’. ‘Where do you get your courgettes from?’ ‘The butcher’ ‘Where did you get the ‘Lazy Lemon’ juice in plastic bottles?’ ‘Oh, Cash & Carry’. ‘So what’s Italian about your restaurant?’”

It didn’t end there, as the appalled Ramsay discovered. Food was left to defrost under running water, while Alex ate Pot Noodles for lunch. Vegetable platters were prepared and then left sitting all over the kitchen, and sauces pre-prepared from packets.

Meanwhile, the business was losing £1,000-a-week, Alex had re-mortgaged his house, and hadn’t slept in months. “At that stage, I was just more upset for the customer,” says Ramsay. “It was them that were getting the mickey taken out of them.

I’ve never seen anyone so far removed from the reality of what it takes to get a restaurant right… All that horrible brown glue and white béchamel sauce. I wouldn’t even serve that to my kitchen porters if they hadn’t turned up to work for three weeks. It was just gunk. It wouldn’t even go down the sink.”

Hygiene, too, was somewhat lacking. “I was horrified. There was a microwave that looked like it had come out of a Harry Potter movie. It was like someone had sprayed it with glue, doused three kilos of porridge oats inside, then shaken it up and lined it with things dripping from the inside. He said it had been on the floor, tucked away and forgotten about. I asked how long he’d had it. He said two years, so I asked when he’d last cleaned it. He said ‘I don’t think we have’.”


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  1. by rach 07th Jan 2008 15:05

    love Gordon to bits!! He's so great at what he does and takes no crap from anyone... Keep it up!

  2. by cheyenne 09th Jan 2008 21:25

    i love the show

  3. by Diane Connell 18th Jan 2008 15:06

    I really admire all that you do Gordon keep kicking ass.

  4. by April 18th Jan 2008 21:30

    I love the way he restores a kitchen: Gordon give more time to telling staff to get a HAIRCUT & brush fingernails !

  5. by Alexandra 22nd Feb 2008 07:28

    I would just LOVE a guy like you around Gordon. But I live in Perth Western Australia a place far far away from your lifestyle. LOVE Kitchen Nightmares... Laugh to myself how you express yourself...

  6. by -.-'' 15th Mar 2008 10:24

    Do Mr.Ramsay had to hate vegan? -.-'' What wrong with VEGAN!!!

  7. by lew 24th Mar 2008 12:27

    What is ur number plate on ur bentley? coz i fink i saw u at the dawchister yesturday, is it ' my chef '

  8. by Alison 07th Apr 2008 13:39

    It's so refreshing to see a chef so dedicated to his craft! He's allows shows people how hospitality is a career, not a part-time job. Too many chefs talk themselves up yet produce "foo... Read More

  9. by Scot 29th Apr 2008 11:56

    Hey, Gordon. Keep it up. You're great, man! Love ya Gordon!

  10. by Scot 22nd May 2008 12:59

    I love Gordon - and not just because he's a great chef but for the way he is with his adorable kids. It's obvious he loves his kids to bits and revels inm the time he gets with them. K... Read More

  11. by james 02nd Jun 2008 01:18

    Hi Gordan,

    I THINK YOUR GREAT, I WOULD LOVE TO WORK FOR YOU,JUST TO BUCK MY IDEAS UP. PEOPLE LIKE YOU MAKE MORE MOTIVATED TO DO WELL.
    EVERY FIGHT IS A FOOD FIGHT,WHEN YOU RE A CAN... Read More

  12. by Scot 14th Jul 2008 11:28

    I really like Gordon - not just because he's a brilliant chef - but for the way he is with his adorable kids. It's obvious he loves his kids to bits and revels in the time he gets with ... Read More

  13. by rob 02nd Aug 2008 12:10

    hi i just want to say gordan your an amazing chef and that your the reason i became a chef your a great rollmodel for young people to aspire to
    and anyone is lucky to meat and to get ... Read More

  14. by nathan baldwin 10th Sep 2008 19:00

    hi gordon i think ur fantastic and ur cooking is fantasctic and the reason why i am writing this message is because i want you to teach me how to cook i had a course on machanics but i ... Read More

  15. by Aaron Patrick 02nd Oct 2008 19:38

    Mr. Chef Ramsey Inspires me some day I can only hope to be half as good as you are. Great food makes people feel great nothing is better than cooking for people.

    You are an inspiration to all.

    Aaron

  16. by rameen 09th Apr 2009 21:41

    gordon is an excellent chef but i have to say that many of his dishes are bland!

  17. by Rachael Fremling 15th Apr 2009 18:58

    Chef Ramsey is the reason my fiancee' has decided to go back to school! He loves cooking, but never had the courage until he started watching those shows! He has a dream now and I plan ... Read More

  18. by Sam 03rd Jul 2009 17:18

    HI i am only 13 years old but I love cooking. I always new I wanted be a chef. But Gordan Ramsey is my biggest inspiration. When i am done with school it is my dream to fallow in his fo... Read More

  19. by Andreac 12th Aug 2009 07:14

    Gordon Ramsay is amazing. and he doesnt take rubbish from anybody. the thing i love most is that he takes food seriously. and buggers up anybody who doesnt. Chef Ramsay rocks!!!!!