Not one to shy away from the limelight, Gordon Ramsay is a controversial figure in the culinary world, and a far cry from the squeaky clean stylings of the original TV chefs.
With as many accolades behind him as he has criticisms, he is every bit as successful in the kitchen as he is on screen, and he has amassed a significant following as a result of both.
From his early career in football, to his recent brushes with death, Gordon Ramsay’s career has entertained audiences worldwide for three decades and shows no signs of slowing down.
Ramsay began his early career in food after a knee injury during training for Glasgow Rangers football team proved fatal for his promising sporting dream. Studying Hotel Management at North Oxfordshire Technical College on a sponsorship, he left to take on work as a Commis chef at the Roxburgh House Hotel, before moving to the Wickham Arms and then on to a series of restaurants in London, building on his culinary experience as he went.
He was eventually given the opportunity to work for legendary Marco Pierre White in his London restaurant, Harveys, where he was eventually introduced to a series of legendary chefs that helped to shape his career. Working his way through the kitchens of Guy Savoy, Albert Roux and Joel Robuchon, he eventually returned to a partnership with White in the much acclaimed Aubergine Restaurant where he won his first two Michelin Stars.
His strong drive, determination and pride, coupled with the beginnings of a tense relationship with White, led to Ramsay leaving and setting up on his own. His first enterprise, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, was opened in Chelsea in 1998 with the financial aid of his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. He has since amassed a collection of restaurants around the globe, including Dubai, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles, and not to mention the considerable number on British shores.
But success sometimes comes with a price, and whilst there can’t be many people on the planet who haven’t heard of this renowned chef, few will be able to list his many successful businesses, accurately recount his number of awards and Michelin Stars (he is one of only four chefs in the UK to maintain three Michelin Stars), or give an account of his life’s history. What he is, in fact, best known for is his use of language, which is every bit as colourful as his cooking.
Temperamental and animated on screen, Gordon Ramsay’s foray into the public eye began in 1999 with a five part documentary style programme called Boiling Point, following the opening of his Chelsea restaurant. The programme served to highlight his skills as a chef, as well as demonstrate his flaring temper and abrupt nature, and it is telling that the following television programmes that involved Ramsay focused as much on his intimidating style in the kitchen, as on the food he produces.
Programmes like Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares were first aired in the UK, but went on to be snapped up by American broadcast stations where they have become a huge success.
His controversial show, The F Word, saw him name a variety of animals he was rearing after other famous chefs and celebrities. The animals were eventually due for slaughter and this created an outcry amongst animal rights groups, some vegetarians and seemingly one or two disgruntled celebrities as well.
Ramsay seems content to court controversy, however, and it would be harder to count the number of bleep edits that appear in his pre-watershed shows than it would to be count the number of times he’s appeared in the media for career bleeps of another kind, not to mention the number of personal conflicts he has off screen.
Born to an alcoholic father and an abused mother, and growing up with an addict brother, it’s impressive that Ramsay had the strength of character to make such a remarkable change, but this success also came after an early caution for public indecency, a warning for alleged drink driving, and his dodgy dealings involving the theft of the reservations book from Aubergine Restaurant in 1998.
His first Glasgow restaurant, Amaryllis, closed after the death of Ramsay’s protégé chef, who allegedly fell to his death while attempting to break into a block of flats, under the influence of drugs. Then there was the very public sacking of his father-in-law from the company after the much reported marital crisis, and the report to the Federal Parliament of Australia regarding his language after his repeated outbursts on their television networks.
More recently, in a television documentary about illegal farming of shark fins from live animals, Ramsay was doused with petrol and held at gunpoint when he uncovered a large scale operation in Costa Rica in early 2011.
Between that and nearly drowning in the icy waters off Iceland a few years ago while shooting a programme about puffin hunting, it seems that Gordon Ramsay is one tough celebrity chef that can take anything life throws at him, and has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.