Gordon Ramsay here. This is my first time doing a reddit AMA, and I’m looking forward to answering as many of your questions as time permits this morning (with assistance from Victoria from reddit).
This week we are celebrating a milestone, I’m taping my 500th episode (#ramsay500) for FOX prime time!
About me: I’m an award-winning chef and restaurateur with 25 restaurants worldwide (http://www.gordonramsay.com/). Also known for presenting television programs, including Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, Hotel Hell and Kitchen Nightmares.
How do you like your eggs?
Very good question.
I have to say, scrambled.
Over a slice of sourdough bread that has been grilled, and then sort of doused with Worcestershire sauce.
Now scrambled eggs, I did a video a few years back with my youngest, Tilly, showing how to make scrambled eggs, and I think it has 10-11 million hits?
And the nice thing about scrambled eggs is that they don’t have to just be breakfast – you can have them in the evening, with some nice mushrooms, some tomatoes. You can have them as a snack at midnight, or at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
I’ve wanted to know what is your opinion on Michelin rating system?
That’s a very good question.
One thing we need to REALLY understand about Michelin is the stars are awarded to the restaurant.
So, you know, if there’s one thing I’ve come to admire with the Michelin is that it’s consistent. It’s a guy who is judging you incognito. We have a lot of guys in this country, and Europe, who are a bit too familiar, too chummy with chefs, and they overindulge – food editors, they’ll know, and tip off the chef. With a Michelin guide, you have no idea when they’ll be in, or when they’ll review you. And that’s why they’re the most feared and respected by chefs.
Now I’m always asked – you’re a hands-on chef, you’re on TV, how come you’re still with these stars? Who does the cooking when you’re not there?
When I’m not there, I have trusted proper chefs – like Clare Smyth, the chef de cuisine in Chelsea – even when I’m there, she’s still running the ship. She’s been running it there for 10 years.
So the stars are awarded to the restaurant. And sometimes the chefs think the stars belong to the chefs, but they belong to the restaurant. The service is just as important. Michelin’s had a hard time in America, because it was late coming to the table. But if there’s one thing I respect, it’s consistency. They manage to identify consistently, and it’s all there for the customer.
So when people ask me “What do you think of Michelin?” I don’t cook for the guide, I cook for customers.
Do ALL the kids on Master Chef Junior really know the techniques off the top of their head for every challenge, or do you give them a quick overview/rundown before the challenge starts. For instance the crouqembouche challenge?
That’s a really good question.
So across the filming procedure, we get the chance to spend time with them, with basic culinary lessons. So they won’t know exactly what they’re doing, but we’ll show them basic techniques a few weeks prior. And also, things like the croquembouche – we’ll do a class in sheet pastry, but we’ll do sheet pastry BUNS, as opposed to actually doing a croquembouche.
When it comes to the more serious elimination challenges, they’ll have insight 3-4 weeks out. We are halfway through shooting season 5 of Master Chef Junior, and I am staggered by the level of competition. We start taping tomorrow morning, but based on the standards of the first few seasons, the level is just amazing – they are coming in better, stronger. And for kids to have ballet lessons, soccer lessons, that’s something we’ve grown up with. And I’ve never known kids like we’re having now, who are having cooking lessons outside of school hours.
What do you normally eat as an everyday meal?
So I don’t really sit down and do lunch. I certainly don’t sit down and eat dinner.
I have a breakfast with oatmeal, that’s the first thing, and that sets me up for the rest of the day.
It’s very hard to sit down for a 3 course meal, and I’m very easy to please. If i go out to dinner, I’ll share an appetizer, enjoy my entree, and enjoy my dessert. It’s very hard for me to enjoy a full meal, because I taste every 2 minutes in the kitchen.
I’m not very good at sitting down for 3 hours to enjoy a meal. I’d be lying if I told you “I sit down 4 nights a week and have a 3 course dinner.” I do nothing of the sort.
And also, there’s nothing worse than eating dinner at 5:30 and then having to get up and cook for 3 hours. So I like to keep on my toes, and eat small bits. Almost like in Hong Kong – 4 or 5 times a day, small bowls of food.
And also, it keeps that little bit of, you know, appetite there, and that keenness to perfect what you’re cooking.
Someone said to me last night “Never trust a skinny chef.”
And I said “That’s bullshit, never trust a fat chef.”
And she said “Why?”
And I said “Because they’ve eaten all the good bits.”
Is there any food that you won’t even try?
Ehm – any food I won’t even try? That’s a good question.
I think, being a chef, the first thing that I set out to do was to make sure that I almost got to taste every ingredient anywhere in the world. I wanted to learn so much about ingredients that I’d never know what NOT to do with an ingredient.
So I’m an open book. Whether it’s a beating cobra heart from a snake in Cambodia, or a deep-fried tarantula, or a Beef Wellington, I’ll eat absolutely anything.
The only thing I draw the line at, Victoria, is eating overcooked food. There is NOTHING worse than an overcooked brussels sprout. The smell is disgusting.
What did you have for breakfast mate?
Earlier in your career, did anyone handling the media aspect ever try to convince you to change your persona? Do you swear just as much in everyday life (please say yes)?
I’ve never really worried about the sort of media profile, early on in my career? I’m a chef. So I, you know, we don’t get taught how to handle the media properly! And as you can probably understand, chefs when they start out make some pretty big mistakes in terms of saying things in the heat of the moment that get taken out of context, but I’ve always said that’s passion.
Do I swear? Two weeks ago, I was at a parent’s meeting for my school. And my daughter said “Daddy, please don’t embarrass me.”
SO I get to the school and the first thing that happens – there’s all these mums and dads there, and all the teachers are there, with the names on the table, and I see the head-mistress, and my daughter Holly was there, and it’sincredible – I went straight up to the head-mistress and asked for a selfie! Which I thought was fucking brilliant.
My daughter dived under the table in embarrassment. But it just broke the ice. These things are just so formal.
And the head-mistress said “Oh my LORD, I’ve never had a selfie before! What do we do!?!?”
So I said “Put your head up and fucking smile!”
I tweeted it out. God bless ‘er.
Have you ever literally gotten sick from a horrible hotel in Hotel Hell?
Ehm – you know, sometimes it doesn’t happen until 2-3 days later. No, I’ve never really got sick, but i was in a hotel last year in Vermont, and I didn’t realize until I got home that I caught nits in the hotel.
And I did something really bad- because I thought it was my daughter. I thought it was my youngest daughter, Matilda, and then it turns out it was ME with the nits. So I had my hair checked by my wife Tara, and I traced it back to the pillowcase in Vermont! So I apologized to Matilda. Because, you know, she’s young and quite often kids get nits, and then my wife said “Listen, you’re wrong. Tilly didn’t give you nits.”
Are there any really strange food combinations that you enjoy?
I had an amazing doubled pork chop with rhubarb. Now rhubarb is something we literally eat with desserts, but this dish was incredible. It was in Spain. It was a double pork-chop that had been slow-roasted over an open pit fire with rhubarb. Absolutely delicious. This was one of my mates that was trying to show off cooking in his back garden in Spain when we were out filming for KITCHEN NIGHTMARES. I didn’t think it was going to work, to be honest.
And then when I started tasting, I thought Shit! This is delicious!
You obviously have a talent for witty insults. Do they come naturally or do you think about them and then say to yourself: “I’m gonna use this one next time I get angry”?
Heh! Witty insults? Ehm… it just happens sort of spur-of-the-moment. I see red, I get frustrated, I let it go. I’m not very good at editing myself. I have to get things off my chest. If there’s one thing my mum taught me, it’s speak your mind, be firm, get things off your chest. I think it’s a good way to work, and quite healthy to have that attitude. Do I think about it previously? No, they just come to me in a flashpoint. And sometimes even I sit back and think Did I just say that?
After watching your show I want to try jellied eel. I’m going to London in a few days, any recommendation about where to have it?
You’ve got to go to the East End of London, and get the most amazing Malt Vinegar. They’re very healthy, packed with protein, and bloody delicious. And the River Thames now, in London, is TEEMING with eels – so some of the best eels in the world now are from London! They’re delicious.
What’s your favourite Disney movie?
My favorite Disney movie.
Ehm, come on?
It has to be RATATOUILLE.
I was very close, last year, when we had Bradley Cooper in the kitchen cooking up a storm for his new ADAM JONES movie coming up the end of this year, and understand his level of excitement about service, being on the line – he didn’t want to tiptoe, he wanted to be in there, from first light to the last plate leaving the kitchen, and it was so nice to see how he respected the team. He didn’t want pampering, he wanted to roll his sleeves up and dive in there.
He said “Gordon, I just want you to teach me to put food on a plate, because it’s really magical how you put food on the plate the way you do.”
So I’m very excited for this movie, coming out, called ADAM JONES. It’s very exciting to see an actor understand what you do, and knowing that he can’t learn how to cook in a few months, but absolutely nailing it when it came to the level of presentation.
Outside of your own restaurants, where are some of your favorite places to eat? What dishes do you order?
I’ve become a big fan of Vietnamese and Cambodian food. Because they cook with very little dairy. SO everything was tasty, but incredibly healthy at the same time. Great use of spice, broth, pork, a way of eating well but also JUST on the cusp of trying to stay healthy at the same time.
So, you know, when I travel across the US, I always try to get off the sort of main “foodie” – the main, sort of high streets, and get into little foodie quarters. If it’s South New Orleans, or Austin Texas, I’m going for the latest little thing that’s just opened. So I’m pretty low-key like that. I like going into some sort of off the beaten track areas.
How the hell do you manage your time? You are everywhere, you have at least 200 shows, a family, restaurants etc. How do you balance all that?
I…I multi-task very well.
And I am never in one place too long.
I think now with, you know, my own production company, I’m very lucky the schedule works around my diary. I work my ass off – you know, 15, 16 hours a day. I quite enjoy the time difference when I finish, for instance, last night we were taping MASTER CHEF until 9 or 10 PM at night, I’ll have a quick bite to eat, and then I’ll call the UK at midnight – because come midnight LA time, West Coast time, it’s 8 o’clock in the morning. I’ll say good morning to the kids, I’ll catch up with my business in London, and then from 2-5 o’clock, I sleep, get up, go to the gym, and then start my day again.
So that’s my daily slog.
So I stand by my convictions – when I opened up the restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, back in September 1998, I decided I was going to work my ass off. My flagship restaurant in Chelsea has never been open on a Saturday and Sunday – it’s never been open on a week-end, because I thought if we’re going to do this, I’d like to do this properly, so my staff needs time off. So I work hard, but I give myself time off on the week-end. I cut it off, and power down for 48 hours.
Regarding food, what guilty pleasure do you have that most people would be shocked at? Fast food fries, frozen fish sticks, etc. Mine is spaghetti in a can. It’s repulsive and I know I shouldn’t eat it, but I can’t help it.
Well, first of all, you need help.
Spaghetti in a can!!?! That kind of shit we grew out of on our 8th birthday. I still remind my mum that she taught me how to spell with alphabetical spaghetti in a can.
You need help, big time.
My go-to sort of fast food snack… it would have to be In-N-Out Burger.
Oh my god, honestly, it is, when I eat Double-Doubles. I am terrible. And I always bring it back on the airport when I’m flying from LA to London, I’ll sneak it into the first class lounge at BA!
I’d like you know how you got into running and triathlons?
Good question! I got into running & doing triathlons – first of all, I’ve run over 15 marathons and doubles (ultra-marathons) in South Africa. So I needed a bigger sort of commitment, to spend a little bit more time to myself. So – listen – I love running, but it’s given me quality time to spend on my own. SO I got into triathlons about 3 years ago, and it’s helped me to stay even more focused in my day to day job.
Also, I have to say in a HUUB wet-suit, I look like I’ve got a fucking 8 pack. Which is unique about a chef in a wet-suit. It’s incredible how toned you look.
I recommend every chef put on a wetsuit. It makes you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Do you have any food recommendations for a college student on a budget?
That’s a really good question.
I would recommend that you get adventurous with pulses – chickpeas, beans, lentils. And you know, cooking these is incredible. Brown rice? Phenomenal. You don’t need expensive proteins. Just make them incredible with how you cook them, or prepare them – a pressure cooker is a great way of making these foods go a long way, is to cook them deliciously. Chilis, garlic, definitely.
Do you have a favorite cocktail?
I have an amazing cocktail, which, you know, we’re in Atlantic City currently, because we just launched the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill here, which is where we’re calling from now.
It’s with Tanqueray Gin, and it’s called “Wake up you Donkey!” I mean, hahahahaha – it is incredible. And also, it’s quite sort of spicy, and fragrant, and it’s absolutely delicious.
What is the best meal you have ever had? And what about the worst?
Wow, that’s a great question.
Well, negative – the WORST meal? There’s been too many of them to tell you about, because the last ten years, working on KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, I’ve eaten a lot of crap. I think I’ve drank about THREE and half litres of Pepto-Bismol! And in terms of, you know, good meals – I had an incredible meal at the Black Liquor Market in Studio City. The most amazing Scotch eggs, deviled eggs, and then these short ribs that were braised in beer.
Incredible, just incredible.
Have you had any contact with Amy’s Baking Company since their Kitchen Nightmares episode? How do you feel about the fact that they basically became a meme?
Heheheh! Are you mad?
I haven’t. I just… I dunno. I get inquiries on the daily basis, in order top pick up on some of the press, and some of the stuff they continue to do. I think it’s absurd. And I’m now on the verge of actually feeling sorry for them, because it’s not correct.
They’re one of a kind.
I have no desire to come back. It was the only time I ever threw the towel in – where I physically can’t do any more.
We tried so hard for that program, you know. We left them with descriptions to get the business back successfully, and even if restaurants don’t follow your recommendations, you still get blamed for it.
I’m frustrated with them. And I just wish they’d listen.
You know, them becoming sort of big online – I’ve seen some of the stuff they’ve been doing and saying, and it’s quite embarrassing. It’s quite embarrassing, in terms of what they’re doing.
I just wish they’d put their heads down, and let their business, you know, think for itself, rather than trying to react to every little sort of negativity.
So, yeah… they seem to go out on a limb to attack people, and take great pleasure in attacking people.
It’s a bit weird. They’ve become so successful, for being so bad…
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give a young, aspiring chef?
Ehm, good question. The biggest piece of advice – you know, cooking is about character. It’s about different cuisines. And I think sometimes we go into it a little bit blinkered-vision. Learn a second vision – I thought I really knew how to cook when I worked for Marco and then when I went to France, it really opened my eyes. So learn a second language, and travel. It’s really important to travel. That is fundamental. because you pick up so many different techniques, and learning a second language gives you so much more confidence in the kitchen.
I’ve been pretty severally allergic to dairy and eggs my whole life. I’ve learned to cook with them at work, but obviously I don’t use them at home because they would kill me. Do you feel that it’s worth trying to find and fabricate milk, cream, egg, and cheese substitutes? Or do you think that those things would be impossible to truly “replicate” and that I should focus on developing recipes that are delicious without needing those elements?
Very good question. First of all, you know, you can’t find a substitute for such incredible ingredients. It’s very, very difficult. So, you know, a lot of difficulties in terms of trying to find substitutes, so you have to develop recipes with great alternates. I was recently sent an amazing array of sauces, and dishes, by a company that didn’t use eggs. The company was called “Just Mayo” but it was done without eggs yet it tasted ABSOLUTELY incredible. So try to figure out a recipe without eggs, because when it’s that dangerous, the backlash could be incredible.
How do you feel about being a meme on the internet?
I don’t really get a chance to sort of look at the internet. D’you know what? I love that level of connection, and I try to show as much as I can, who I’m with, where I am, and giving people inspiration, so I don’t really think of myself as a phenomenon on the internet.
I’m a cook. Who happens to be the luckiest cook in the world.
I’m working in a Michelin kitchen right now, toiling away, hours after hours, days after days. My hopes and dreams are nowhere to be found as I scale and portion salmon after salmon, shelling pods after pods of broad beans. My body is calling for maintenance nightly when I hit the sack. I need to eat more, put in a little more weight training, need a little massage to sort out the neck and the lower back. My home life, it’s a fucking disaster, like all cooks. The closing thing I have to a father is the menacing figure prancing around at the pass, barking commands and bollockings when needed. He won’t have the time to listen to my shit, because all the other cooks around me are in the same shit. Some have come from council houses, some are recovering addicts, one has been in jail. There’s only one guy who has a still happily-married parents, and he’s the Cordon Bleu-graduating white boy who helps on the larder section. Sometimes I look out the tiny window and I can see people walking around the streets, enjoying the sunlight, while I’m here, questioning my dedication to this art as I rotate stock in the cool room, getting frost bitten, but the fear of the chef stops me from stepping outside to warm up. When a waitress walks in to clear plates, I sometimes would look up just in time to see a beautiful room full of happily-fed and merrily drunk people. They actually look happy, like, what the fuck? How can anyone be as happy as our diners are? I have a fucking deadbeat father living on the other side of the planet, calling me up for money once every six months. Friends, women, any kind of company, I can only dream about. The closest thing to feeling any kind of joy I get is those rare moments when I walk through the dining room near the end of service to get some coffee for everyone, and there will be a few diners, left, idly sampling those little petite fours that we’ve painstakingly ensured are all perfectly round, identical and just plain delicious. Then, one of them will stop the conversation they’re having with their company, look up from their food and say, ‘thank you chef. this is delicious’, and making the previous 14-hours of sweat and tears kind of worthwhile. My question is, how did you deal with it? How the fuck did you deal with all the bullshit, Gordon? Because ‘thank you chef’ is nice and all. Very nice in fact, that sometimes I have to hold back the tears and let them lose in the cobweb-filled staff toilet like a fucking degenerate, crying over a compliment because it was the closing thing to being happy in months.’Thank you chef’ doesn’t end my mother’s misery and help her deal with my little sister’s whoring ways. ‘Thank you chef’ doesn’t make my dad grow some balls and start taking charge of his life. ‘Thank you chef’ didn’t help your brother stop being a junky and lifted your family from poverty. It doesn’t fucking help any of us in the grand scheme of things, for heaven’s sake, so you tell me, Gordon. Whatever you tell me, I’ll listen.
That’s an amazing question.
First of all, I’ve been in your shoes, and what you need to do is take a break.
So I came out of my training in Paris, after getting my ass kicked in some of the best restaurants in the world. I took some time off, and got aboard a boat, and was a private chef on a yacht. And those 6-9 months off allowed me to regenerate.
I’d run myself into the ground, as you described.
Cooking at this level is so intense. So don’t give up. Be honest with yourself, and take a month out.
Now if that month out – just stepping back – if there’s one thing I’ve taught my young chefs today it’s to work hard, and not get disillusioned with the bigger picture.
That’s the most important thing about cooking – you may be working down the road for me here in Atlantic City, but you could travel the world and still get a job in the kitchen, and still get time off in the same time. So that’s what i would suggest, stepping back for a month, shutting everything down, and then starting up again in 4 or 5 week’s time.
Listen – if you send me your resume, I could look at putting you into one of the restaurants as a work experience, if you want to see something different, in order to make sure you don’t come off the rails, to see something different, to create that level of interest.
Never give up. But don’t be scared to take a break. I did it myself, traveled the world, through Sardinia, Sicily, and had the most amazing time, and what i learned after that experience was that I could do in 1 hour on a boat what i was doing in 14-15 hours in the professional kitchen. It confirms what you’ve learned, when you walk into a new establishment. It shows how strong you are.
Have you ever tried Indian food? If so, what do you think of it?
My parents had a one-bedroom flat here in the Midlands, and my parents’ landlord was Indian. And we got to LOVE great curries from an early age. Mum and dad never owned a house, and they were sort of, almost… in honor of their landlord, because he taught my mum how to make the most amazing curries. So I was 5, 6 years of age when I started learning about the most amazing curries. Now to perfect it, I did a trip where I spent 3 months in India, from the North to the South, from the outskirts of Bombay to Kerala, I had an amazing time traveling across India and perfecting what I learned at an early age.