By Shep Morgan
When Others Can’t Stand the Heat, Gordon Ramsay Stays in the Kitchen
Star chef Gordon Ramsay refuses to wilt when the stress level threatens to boil over—in fact, the hotter it gets, the better he likes it. And the better we like what comes out of the kitchen of this multiple-Michelin Award winner, whose salty tongue and spicy temper are forgotten in the sweetness of his cuisine.
Ramsay is one of the world’s great chefs, but his award-winning cuisine is only part of what’s made him famous. The salty-tongued Scot, who’s known for losing his temper in the kitchen when things don’t go well, has built an international food empire that counts a string of successful restaurants honored with multiple coveted Michelin stars; three popular Fox TV series—with another on the way—and 18 books. It’s all driven by a pursuit of perfection, he says.
At 45, Ramsay thrives on being at the top. “I don’t wake up and worry,” he says. “Chefs are competitive. We want pressure. I’ve likened it to being a sports star or playing in a rock band. I love that unsafe scenario where I walk into situations that are packed with jeopardy. I’m definitely a pressure junkie. It only gets stressful when you can’t handle it. If I relaxed too much, I’d probably die.”
Vegas: A New Frontier
After conquering New York and London, Ramsay is about to unleash a culinary assault on Sin City with his newest restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak, at Paris Las Vegas. “First, I had to prove myself in the Big Apple,” he says. “It’s true that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, and I did with my place at the London Hotel. We won two Michelin Stars in six months. Now I’m ready for Vegas, where it seems nearly every top chef in the world has a restaurant. I get excited when I think of the thousands of guests we’re going to cook for. You’ll experience London in Vegas with a bit of Parisian chic thrown in. My steakhouse is an eclectic, modern European-style restaurant.”
Ramsay knows that Vegas is the place where fun begins. “I really love the shows. My first was seeing Céline Dion at Caesars. I went there with an attitude like, ‘OK, this is not going to be like watching Coldplay,’ but I was blown away.”
Ramsay knows times have been tough in Las Vegas, like they are everywhere else. “It’s been a #^@* time for everybody the last couple of years. Now, we’re sort of navigating our way out of this recession. I’m just glad to see Vegas bouncing back. The city represents that feel-good pick-me up destination where you can go and completely relax whether you’re gambling or having a bloody-good dinner.”
Ramsay, who had his heart set on being a professional soccer player before he was permanently sidelined by a knee injury, credits his mum with igniting his love affair with food. “She was an amazing cook in a little bistro in Stratford-upon-Avon right next to William Shakespeare’s theater,” he remembers. “I would drop in after soccer practice and go, ‘Can I lick the spoon?’ My talent for cooking came from my love of eating. It helped me identify what was good and what was bad.”
He continues, “Now, when a young chef comes to work for me, I never begin by teaching them how to cook. First, they need to learn to taste. How can they expect to cook a dish perfectly if they don’t know exactly how it should taste? So I blindfold them—which is a little bit ridiculous, I admit— and bring a plate and have them try to identify everything on it. You have to train your palate.”
Audiences are entertained by his top-rated TV shows, from Hell’s Kitchen to MasterChef and Kitchen Nightmares— especially when he directs a profanity-laden outburst at some unfortunate contestant. But Ramsay, who hosts and is executive producer, hopes the shows encourage audiences to explore cooking in their own kitchens.