By Daniel Denehy
On June 1st, FOX held a conference call with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, inviting news outlets to ask questions regarding the new seasons of Hell’s Kitchen
and Master Chef
. Doing well after suffering a back injury at a charity soccer event two days prior, Ramsay called in with an elegant and gracious attitude.
Questions were varied but fun, with outlets asking Ramsay things like whether the experienced chefs of Hell’s Kitchen
or the amateur cooks of Master Chef
frustrated him more. “Master Chef
gives me…I suppose mentoring aspects and then Hell’s Kitchen
always reminds me of the first day when I opened my very first restaurant…when the air conditioning went down and every customer was complaining about how hot it was, the food was taking too long to come out of the kitchen, and then I caught a maitre d’ – a maitre d’
…walking past a customer swigging out of a bottle of water. I flipped my lid.” An amused Ramsay responded before adding, “Both of them have different identities; two completely different chefs, one amateur, and one professional, so I’m very lucky to have both.”
Not all the questions were fun however; one outlet inquired about the unique contestant on Master Chef
this season. “…dealing with Christine, our first ever impaired, blind contestant on Master Chef
, we had to make it clear from day one — it’s a competition. Joe, Graham, and I were judging her basically on exactly what she cooked, but on the same strength of everybody else.” Ramsay said. Many fans of the show are naturally curious as to how well a visually compared cook can compete, but Ramsay proved confident in her saying, “She had an amazing palette. She lost her sight later on, into her teens, and she remembered how to put food on a plate from there, so I was pretty impressed.”
Still others inquired about the future. When asked if he’d ever considered a celebrity version of Master Chef
Ramsay replied that the UK actually had a celebrity version of the show, but that “a celebrity version of Master Chef
, yes, would be extraordinary. Who would I put on there? Kim Kardashian, and I’d show her that eating Indian food doesn’t need to be as bad as she thinks it is. So she would be my first guest. And then David Beckham would be my first guest from the boys because secretly, he knows how to cook.”
Once all questions were answered and everyone was excited for the new seasons of Hell’s Kitchen
and Master Chef
, Ramsay graciously went his way. See Gordon Ramsay and other talented chefs on Hell’s Kitchen
and Master Chef
on Mondays and Tuesdays on FOX at 8/7 Central.
FOX Conference Call Hell’s Kitchen
, Master Chef
June 1, 2012
1:30 p.m. PDT
Ladies and gentlemen, first of all – welcome, good afternoon. Hope that you are all well. Thank you so much for making the effort to be with us today. I will try to answer questions as quickly as possible. I’m obviously grateful for your time. Thank you.
Hi, Gordon. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
Honestly, come on. I would get absolutely panned by FOX if I didn’t do this. You’ve got no idea. Joking!
Listen, more importantly, the support has been overwhelming. I had a tough week this week so to actually sit down for five minutes and answer some questions in the real world, it’s not work for me because you know how hard I work in the kitchen. Both you guys and I know how important it is, so I’m very happy that I’m here alive and kicking.QUESTION:
We’re doing ten seasons of Hell’s Kitchen
now and three of Master Chef
—that’s a lot of TV. So what’s keeps these shows still interesting for you?
What keeps them interesting? That’s a very good question for me. I don’t know, there’s something quite rewarding about becoming vulnerable, and I like being pushed to the absolute limits. I like being under pressure. I like finding talents. I like discovering new things.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last seven years, literally working the way I have been in America is the most cultural aspects. Whether it’s the most amazing Mexican dish, whether it’s Pan-Asian or Japanese-influenced or Californian, East Coast against West Coast, or even a soul food dish. So I get excited when I come across something that I haven’t tasted before.
I think, also, the different levels of character that you find. And Master Chef
has been a big one this year on the back of, I suppose, the overwhelming response – in excess of 30,000 applicants, so that was huge.
, as you know, has been sort of close to my heart—more than any other show that I’ve ever worked on. And this year sees the winner going to Paris, Vegas so highlight of everything. I quite like the sort of un-glamorous side to cooking, where you have to get down and dirty and sometimes in their face. Both Master Chef
and Hell’s Kitchen
do that for me.
Now with ten seasons of Hell’s Kitchen
under your belt, have there been any thoughts about maybe making changes to the format, maybe adding some new challenges, anything like that?
That’s a very good question. In today’s competitive world, anyone getting to five seasons is great. Ten, as you now—11 and 12 we don’t start taping until August/September. Actually, more than anything that makes you more nervous; I think when you’re more nervous you become more creative and when you’re more creative then it creates more pressure so I’m always trying to outsmart myself and I look at these challenges and individuals and prizes as something that is somewhat unique but—they’re smart; we know that. They watch the program. They study everything, and they think by the time they come into Hell’s Kitchen
, they can make a scallop.
It’s great to be more creative, which puts you under pressure all the time. We just celebrated 13 years, that’s back in London, and I’m always asked the question, “So, if you’re such a hands-on chef, then who does the food and cook when you’re not there?” Well it’s the same people who do when I am there.
So I don’t know. The reason why it works, so far, is I continue to teach, but I put myself under immense pressure, and as equal pressure as I do the contestants, I think.
I’ve watched the screeners for both season premiers and you’re well known for your legendary temper. Now you have two different types of chefs in each one. With Hell’s Kitchen
you have experienced chefs and with Master Chef
, you have inexperienced chefs. Which ones, for you, are the more frustrating group?
That’s a very good question. First of all, Hell’s Kitchen
, as you know, is for professionals and the Master Chef
is purely amateur. To be honest, I came across extraordinary talent this year in Master Chef
and amateurs, and that’s what really helps me to almost become better at what I do on a daily basis because the level of integrity, passion, ambition, both this year and last year, were just extraordinary.
, as you know, bugs the hell out of me when I see incompetent chefs that can’t get their head around the word “pressure” and so we’re all cooking a dish for one, but we’re cooking for restaurants. To be a great chef you’ve got to become a great leader, you’ve got to be inspired and you can’t sit still as a chef. So like I mentioned earlier, I’ve maintained … now at age of 45 for 13 years and that’s only on the backup; I never sit still.
gives me that kind of—I suppose mentoring aspects and then Hell’s Kitchen
always reminds me of the first day when I opened my very first restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, back in September, 1998 when the air conditioning went down and every customer was complaining about how hot it was, the food was taking too long to come out of the kitchen, and then I caught a maitre d’ – a maitre d’
- swigging, walking past a customer swigging out of a bottle of water. I flipped my lid.
Both of them have different identities. Two completely different chefs. One amateur and one professional, so I’m very lucky to have both.
In all of your series you talk about passion, passion for what you’re doing. I understand the importance of that, especially when it comes to an art form—any kind of art form. Just somebody has a passion for something – is that enough for them to really be a competent chef?
No. Again, a great question. No, it’s not enough. Passion—desire I think, really. Can you teach someone how to cook? Yes, you can. If you saw what I grew up with when I was with mom and dad and what we didn’t have at the table—trust me, we weren’t spoiled. We didn’t have an appetizer, entrée, dessert. You didn’t get that kind of glamorous life. We didn’t go to restaurants three or four times a month, once a week; nothing of the sort. A takeout was a treat, and if we did get a takeout then it was split.
So you can teach, but you need the desire. That’s what you need. You need the desire. I get asked, whether it’s on Twitter or by email or even the street, “How can I become a great chef?” Get out of your comfort zone. Learn a second language and become vulnerable.
You know, when you’re in a vulnerable situation and you are in an awkward scenario, and you’re not in charge, you’d be surprised at what you learn. Becoming vulnerable makes that mind work ten times quicker when you want to learn something. I like going into situations, still today, not knowing that particular ingredient or that particular dish or that particular culture 100% because I love to discover it. That’s the exciting thing about food, I think, is discovery.
Gordon, thank God you’re back. We’ve been waiting since the last show of last season. It’s such a great show—both shows.
Thank you. That’s very kind. Master Chef
is done with Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot. Graham is just like this magical, huge, exciting character that when the contestants are upset with Joe or upset with me then there’s a shoulder to cry on. Graham sort of wraps them up like a big bear and takes them back to his cave and nurtures them and puts them back out to pasture.
has been a worldwide phenomenon, but there is one area that it’s just breaking through, and I don’t think anything could be considered a huge success unless it works in the States, which I’ve noticed, and I’m finally pleased.
I used to sit back nine, ten years ago, and look at Idol
and look at the thousands of people that auditioned. Well, I think we’re on the cusp of something of equal comparisons. 30,000 individual amateurs applied to get onMaster Chef
. I went to two of the casting calls—one was in Washington, and at 5:45 in the morning I was absolutely dumbfounded, while it was literally minus three degrees and there was a queue 200 meters long of individuals, moms and dads, young girls and guys, standing there holding a dish to go into that audition. For the desire of that individual to fulfill their real natural ambition and cook for a living, as opposed to something that they thought would sound better in their community as opposed to listen to their heart.
You’re the rock star of chefs now, where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever been recognized? Where you were like, “I can’t even believe I’m being recognized here.”
That’s a very good question. I was at a place called Nagaland on the northwest coast of India, literally from the Burmese border, 15 kilometers—Nagaland. The last time a white man was in that village is when literally two weeks after somebody got beheaded and I was there cooking, shooting this little documentary.
You know what I’m like. When things are that good and glamorous and you’ve got everything working for you in New York or LA, I want to get out. I want to go back and beyond a tourist trap and I went to Nagaland, just 15 miles from the Burmese border, and there was a tribe there, and I went to stay with this amazing lady. It was her mother that recognized me from one of the market stands that had a picture of me holding a slaughtered lamb over my shoulders. So I never, ever expected to be recognized 15 kilometers from the Burmese border.
What makes you more upset: when the food’s raw or overcooked? Because raw – we love when you yell, “raw” and you’re really mad.
As you know when food’s raw, you can do something about it. You can actually get it cooked properly. So when it’s overcooked, I get incredibly upset.
Serving raw chicken, pink chicken, there’s no such thing, so it’s unacceptable. Then I’ve been on the other side of things when I’ve eaten pink chicken. I’ve had raw chicken and I’ve seen what it’s done to me and also seen what’s happened to customers. I mean we’re talking about serious, serious ramifications so I get upset because my goal is to stop it, and they don’t understand the backlash of what you can do to a restaurant, to your reputation, by serving something raw. So I get equally frustrated about it to be honest.
Have you ever considered having a celebrity version of Master Chef
? And if so, who would you want to be on it?
That’s a very good question. As you know, Master Chef
is a big one in the UK and they have a celebrity version. They have a junior version as well. To be totally honest—and I’m going to be really honest with you, with some juniors from Master Chef
this year. Graham, Joe and I had a little room packed full of twenty 12-14 year olds. Honestly, I could not believe how good these individuals were and Junior Master Chef
, who knows, potentially next year but for me, they got presented with a mystery box – a steak was in there. The food was just astonishing. I mean, absolute astonishing and let me tell you, I’m not talking little food snobs. I’m talking about girls that want to bake, guys that want great pasta dishes. So that was amazing.
A celebrity version of Master Chef
, yes, would be extraordinary. Who would I put on there? Kim Kardashian, and I’d show her that eating Indian food doesn’t need to be as bad as she thinks it is. So she would be my first guest. And then David Beckham would be my first guest from the boys because secretly, he knows how to cook.QUESTION:
Maybe he could teach you some soccer moves too, right?
Maybe he can teach me some defense mechanism soccer moves so the next time I get taken out on a football field I can look after myself.
You’re feeling okay from that, right?
Yes, I am. Slightly bruised, not the kind of scene that I welcome but hey, at the end of day, just upon $9 million for charity is an amazing night. Ten million viewers. Mike Myers, Woody Harrelson, Will Ferrell, we had an absolute blast and yes, it was exciting. I wouldn’t change it for the world. So if you come out of that slightly bruised, a little bit battered, hey, just remember I’m Scottish. I’m the son of an ox, and let’s be honest I give a lot of flack, so sometimes in life one needs to take it, right?
So this is the summer of Gordon Ramsay. Between these two shows and Hotel Hell
, there’s an awful lot of Gordon out there. Do you have any concern that it might be too much for audiences, or is there no such thing as too much Gordon?
That’s for the audience to answer that question. So far it’s working. Hotel Hell
won’t be starting until the fall. Master Chef
and Hell’s Kitchen
I think are two complete different programs that have a sort of a niche individuality to them. Master Chef
, as you know, is done for amateurs and you get a chance to sort of nurse and nurture that talent a lot earlier.
is a sort of boot camp of professionals that want to become something—once you really see the crap and get rid of the donkeys, then you’ve got the talent there. Especially a nice place to be when you’re in a kitchen with four or five strong individuals and all of a sudden you come from this scenario that you can’t cook for restaurants with 80 guests with two teams in there, and literally six, seven weeks later you’ve got four cooks in there and all of a sudden you want to take on the world because you can cook for that.
So I don’t know, food is apparent. It’s something we do 21 times a week, three times a day, seven times a week, so I think the show will continue to be acknowledged and well watched providing there’s always something to learn.
So Master Chef
is an amazing journey as an amateur and I think as young, aspiring, professional chefs the unscripted drama of running a restaurant is something that I can’t tell you—the what’s going to happen live. You’ve got to experience it at that moment and I think that’s like any restaurant. There’s no script. It’s about a passion, about what’s happening, and of the moment. So, is it overexposure? Is it too much? I’ve got to ask you that question, darling.
Talk about having a competitor on Master Chef
who’s sight impaired.
Yes, I’ve worked with a lot of disabilities in kitchens and I do a lot of work with Scottish Spina Bifida for the last ten years. Giving them a chance to cook in a wheelchair is by no means a disability when you see what they can do.
So dealing with Christine, our first ever impaired, blind contestant onMaster Chef
, we had to make it clear from day one—it’s a competition. Joe, Graham, and I were judging her basically on exactly what she cooked but on the same strength of everybody else.
There were highs and lows for her, I know that. There were times when we were standing in the middle of the competition and no one picked her, and there were times when people wanted her first on their team. So at the end of the day she had her ups and she had her downs, but she cooks like an angel. She had an amazing palette. She lost her sight later on, into her teens, and she remembered how to put food on a plate from there, so I was pretty impressed. Not just with her finesse, but just the way she handled the down side in terms of—she put herself in dangerous situations and she managed to keep her neck above the water.
There are so many food shows and competitions on TV now. Do you think that America is close to tapping out and reaching a limit with these, or do you see this is as a genre that’s going to continue on and even grow more?
Honestly, I think it’s going to continue really. Everyone wants to do better but for less money, whether it’s at home or eating at a restaurant. So the better the great American public become then the harder we have to work in order to continue striving for that level of success. So recently, as you know, ABC is going to be bringing in Nigella, and Bravo with Top Chef,
Food Network, legendary. What kind of households tap into Food Network on a daily basis? I mean it’s just quite extraordinary.
This year we have on Master Chef
- in the latter stages of the competition we invited Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, and Guy Savoy, I mean, three of the best chefs anywhere in the world to come and judge an amateur food competition, you know? Pretty extraordinary. So you know it’s growing and the demand’s there but the appetite from the American public—they are the ones that dictate what they want and I think also there’s a learning process. I think that’s the exciting part. It’s part educational.
Yes, there may be a bit of humor; yes, there may be a bit of drama, but if we can help get that message across educationally. I’m fed up with that blame being built on the youngsters ’shoulders today about obesity, and not just in this country but it’s across Britain as well. And the kids that are picked upon and victimized in a way that they’ve got themselves blamed, well it’s not the children’s blame; it’s the parent’s blame.
So if any of these three shows can send a strong message across to parents to make sure their kids eat properly and set some form of example then the world will be in a much better place.
But I think it will continue to grow, especially with it on this year—when I look back at 30,000 applicants entering a season three of a sort of culinary competition for amateurs, I mean that is pretty major, really.