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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Gordon Ramsay: Chef terrible
Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay's fiery temperament is as celebrated as any of his fine dishes, and his staff are well used to ritual humiliation. Now it is the turn of six well-to-do diners and an amateur telly cook to incur his wrath. Caroline Frost of the BBC News Profiles Unit charts the kitchen sink dramas of this cantankerous caterer.

When six City brokers recently enjoyed a huge coup on the bond markets, it seemed only fitting that they should celebrate with a good lunch at the acclaimed restaurant Petrus, and perhaps a bottle of wine or two.

Several hours and 44,000 later, their palates were replete. But they had reckoned without the publicity that seems to stick to the restaurant's co-owner Gordon Ramsay like treacle sponge.

Gordon Ramsay in his kitchen
Hopefully a cheaper wine this time: Ramsay prepares another fine dish

Although he generously threw in the food for free once they ordered a bottle of Chateau Petrus - a bargain at 12,300 - the price in free advertising for his restaurant will have been inestimable.

The meal is no longer sitting so easily in the stomachs of four of the financiers, belatedly embarrassed by their own excesses, and reports abound of their suing Mr Ramsay for breach of privacy.

The same week saw the broadcast of an episode of Friends for Dinner, where a celebrity chef helps a novice create a culinary masterpiece.

On this occasion, Ramsay invited management consultant Simon Laws to his kitchen. But according to Ramsay, his pupil Mr Laws "wasn't interested in learning and was rude".

At one point, the indignant Ramsay threatened that he would have to withdraw from the show. At another, Laws phoned the chef at his restaurant in the middle of the hectic lunch hour. Ramsay threw the phone against the wall and then into the bin.

Gordon Ramsay tasting the efforts of his staff
Moment of truth: Ramsay tastes the efforts of his staff

Things didn't start well, when Laws asked, "Gordon who?" Two days of mayhem ultimately descended into an icing sugar fight, and the BBC's bleeper to cover swearwords was fully employed.

For Ramsay, confrontations on such a scale are nothing new. This talented and notorious chef's reputation is built on his obsessive perfectionism and an ego inflated to pavlova-like proportions. Along with award-winning menus, these attributes have provided a feast of culinary confrontations.

The documentary series Boiling Point filmed Ramsay regularly and spectacularly losing his temper, verbally and physically abusing staff. But Ramsay doesn't just pick on the underlings. In the press, just about all of his fellow gourmets have been served up a glass of Ramsay's undiluted vitriol.

He has been branded a sexist for saying women should be kept out of professional kitchens. He perhaps over-eggs his argument by claiming there is nothing less sexy than "a woman who's had her hand up a pigeon's arse all day," and that he could never have married a chef himself.

Gordon Ramsay in his kitchen
An all-male domain: Ramsay in his kitchen

Food critic A A Gill, famously expelled from Ramsay's eaterie, described his erstwhile host as "a wonderful chef, just a really second-rate human being".

Ramsay calls chef Antony Worral Thompson a "squashed Bee Gee" who "can't cook to save his life". "I am not a celebrity chef!" Ramsay explodes. "People think the only reason I'm famous is because I kicked Joan Collins out of my restaurant...people don't come here because they've seen me that morning in Can't Cook Won't Cook."

Unlike his peers, Ramsay insists that his books and appearances are not tied into any product placement, but are "about giving something back to the industry". And Ramsay has certainly received more than most.

After honing his culinary skills and abrasive management technique in the kitchen of Marco Pierre White, he moved between Paris and London, before opening his own Chelsea restaurant in 1998. There, he became the first Scottish chef to be awarded the coveted three Michelin stars. Only two British restaurants share this most-prized catering accolade.

I'd rather kiss a cow's backside than kiss a woman who smokes

Gordon Ramsay on how to keep his palate finely tuned

Rejected at 19 as a footballer by his boyhood heroes, Glasgow Rangers, and then by his father for becoming something as "poncey" as a chef, Ramsay remains a driven battle-hardened perfectionist, whose biggest regret remains that his father never tasted his cooking.

Of his upbringing, Ramsay rues, "There was no back up. I had to cut myself off." And in a telling comment about his kitchen leadership, he says, "you become stubborn because you have to. Kitchens are hard environments and they form incredibly strong characters."

His wife admits that when she first met Ramsay, "I couldn't stand him, I really couldn't." But the whisking warrior lets his wife serve him tinned soup, continually helps his younger brother Ronnie fight a heroin addiction, and unwinds by fishing in Scotland. He is vile to his staff, but 46 of them followed him to his new restaurant.

His wife says, "There is a perception of him, and then there is the real Gordon Ramsay, charming, caring and decent."

Maybe the man on the receiving end of Ramsay's most recent lashing deserves to have the last word. In the eyes of Simon Law, "he may be a vicious git in the kitchen, but away from all that, Gordon is actually a very nice guy."

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