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TCA Tour: Gordon Ramsay

During Fox’s session to promote Gordon Ramsay’s three series on their network, we enjoyed a rare bit of interactivity between panelist and audience, and…oh, wait: if you’re a Ramsay fan, then you probably noticed that I said that he has three series on Fox. Well, okay, you’re right, he does only have two at the moment, but come December 15th, you can say “hello” to his latest endeavor, “Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live.” To celebrate this development, Chef Ramsay led us all through an attempt to whip up some topping for Baked Alaska, promising that the person who did the best job would earn themselves a table for four at Hell’s Kitchen.

Sadly, I did not win…and when I say I didn’t win, what I mean to say is that it wasn’t even close. I added too much of the egg-white mixture, resulting in a topping so pitiful that Chef Ramsay took one look at it and said sadly, “Oh, mate…” But I took comfort in the fact that it still had enough substance to it to be browned a bit when he took his pocket blowtorch to it, and when I met up with him post-panel, it definitely seemed to be a case of “no harm, no foul.” (What, like he’s not used to dealing with the occasional sub-par chef…?)

I just want you to know that your sad delivery of the words, “Oh, mate,” about my Baked Alaska will ring in my ears forever.

Oh, shit. Really? Was it that bad?

No, thankfully, there were others that were worse. But it was just the way you said it…

Well, I just wanted to have a little bit of interactivity…and it was fun doing it as well!

I had the added bonus of Fox’s photographer snapping a picture of me when you were hitting my Baked Alaska with the blowtorch.

Oh, really? Even better.

So, Gordon, when do you sleep? You’ve got three shows now on Fox, and that’s not even counting what you’ve got going in the UK.

Yeah, good question! Chefs aren’t very good at sleeping, anyway. Guy Savoy said to me 20 years ago, when I was in his kitchen and said, “Sorry, Chef, I’m a little bit tired,” he said, “Tired? How many hours sleep did you have last night?” I said, “Six.” He said, “Fucking way too much.” I said, “What?” He said, “Think about it: the average person sleeps for eight hours a day, so when you get to sixty years of age, that means you would’ve slept for twenty years. Does that scare you?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “So shut the fuck up, sleep four hours a night, get to sixty, and only have slept for ten years of your life!” And so that’s ringing in now. That’s in there now.

Is every contestant who appears on “Hell’s Kitchen” really an aspiring chef? Because you get someone like Joseph on there, and he’s too good for TV to actually be real.

If I had to cast for that program, then I would be looking at one-star, two-star, three-star Michelin chefs all day long. Did they try with Thomas Keller? Did they spend time with Jean Georges or Daniel? Did they come out and advertise? Because I want to be surrounded by, sort of, chefs in that environment. Out of respect for them, I never get to see any of their resumes before we meet, and so it’s quite an interesting fact because they all seem excited and motivated on winning the challenge. This year’s responsibility in terms of running that restaurant at the Araxi up in British Columbia, Vancouver, is a perfect setup. 99.9 percent of the ingredients are located within a hundred miles of that radius. So, from a chef’s point of view, it’s a dream come true, even the wine, meat, fish, vegetables located within a hundred miles of that radius. So that outburst was ridiculous because no one could ever foresee what was going to happen. I didn’t realize that he was acting, you know, the way he was behind the scenes of the dorm. I never see any of that stuff going on because it’s unfair for me to judge them on the downtime because that is purely off my limits, and I didn’t know what to do in terms of — I asked him a very simple question three times, and he didn’t want to answer it. It was hard because I’ve been to Afghanistan, and I’ve been out, cooking for the Marines last year for a thousand of them, U.S. and the U.K., and the atmosphere was electric. The banter was phenomenal, and to go and change their view and give them something that they deserve in terms of a decent meal on Christmas Eve was a dream come true. So to have that kind of negativity from him, I think there were issues on a personal front that needed to be solved before he came into “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Which “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant over the years has surprised you the most from when they started to when they finished?

Elsie (from Season 1). Yeah, what, from a Waffle House chef to cooking the most amazing, authentic American food? And then an extraordinary palate like that…? That was amazing. Yeah, Elsie. She’s good.

Are you surprised when people take your comments as personally as they do, given that they’ve gone out of their way to be on your show?

I’ve gotten a little bit sort of surprised, in a way. But I don’t edit it, because I’m a chef, not an entertainer, so I call it as I see it. If you had to come in my kitchen tonight at The London West Hollywood, and things went wrong, of course I’m going to cane someone’s ass! But when things go right, I’m going to equally compliment them! When we’re in the middle of that pressurized environment, getting straight to the point is the healthiest thing. I don’t want it becoming cancerous, where they come into work the next day and it’s still on their shoulders. I get straight to the point. Don’t question me in there; question me after it. When we come out of it, if you want to talk to me and you want insight, fine. Because it’s not that one incident, it’s the 25 chefs behind and 180 people sitting in the dining room as well. So sitting and discussing it at length…? You haven’t got that time. It’s live, and…that’s what I said earlier about the “Cookalong.” For me, it’s how I am, and cooking along…I think it’s going to be a huge insight into what I can really do, because not enough people see me cooking, and that’s been frustrating for the last three or four years! All they say is, “Stop cursing and cook more!” So I’m going to do it!

And, lastly, are you surprised that your shows have taken off as well as they have in the States? Because, y’know, we’re not always necessarily known for embracing the abrasive.

No, I suppose I just try to keep it real. I am somewhat surprised, but, y’know, we work hard at it. That’s the most important thing.

(Special thanks to our man Mike Farley for the questions. Wish you could’ve been here, sir; I know you would’ve dug it.)

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