TV's omnipresent and foulmouthed chef gets mad at overcooked artichokes, lazy sommeliers, diners who are too shy to complain, overweight colleagues, drug addicts and anyone dumb enough to invite him to a dinner party
PLAYBOY: Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you really an asshole or do you just play one on TV?
RAMSAY: Listen, I’m a passionate guy, and sometimes that gets misconstrued. When something’s good in my opinion, there’s praise. When something’s shit, people get told. The pressure inside a professional kitchen is tremendous. It’s not rocket science, but you have to fucking keep up. I’m not saying there’s no clever editing going on. For a show like Hell’s Kitchen we shoot 110 hours to get 42 minutes. It’s not all going to be happy-go-lucky chef Gordon coming on to demonstrate how to dress a salad. I’m the happiest chef in the world when things are going right. But when it’s going tits up and my name’s on the door or I’m standing there conducting the kitchen on TV, there’s no way on Earth I’m sending out crap, and contestants shouldn’t either.
PLAYBOY: But is the best solution to call someone a “fucking donkey” for overcooking artichokes?
RAMSAY: You’re asking the wrong person. It’s an industry language, and it’s my language in the kitchen. If my wife overcooks artichokes or burns a pizza, do I turn around and call her a stupid bitch? Of course not. But when I’m standing there—whether it’s on MasterChef or Hell’s Kitchen—and a quarter-million-dollar prize is being offered, and you’ve got some jerk who can’t cook an artichoke and wants to call himself an executive chef at a four-star hotel somewhere, you can bet I’m going to take the piss out of him.
PLAYBOY: Has anyone actually hit you?
RAMSAY: There was a situation years back on an early season of Hell’s Kitchen in London. A lady had had too much to drink and was showing off and went to punch me. But no. I have a black belt in karate. I love boxing. I can look out for myself. Do I want to fight? No. Let’s finish cooking first. We’ll fight after. Do I really come across that angry?
PLAYBOY: Sometimes. Don’t you watch your shows?
RAMSAY: Never. I don’t want to get self-obsessed and start thinking about putting makeup on and watching the way I walk. “Oh, did I really say that?” Fuck it. It is what it is. I’d rather watch Deadliest Catch or go out for dinner.
PLAYBOY: What’s something a restaurant owner never wants a customer to know?
RAMSAY: That customers should complain more. You know, food is expensive nowadays, and these fucking sommeliers come along with their thousand-page wine list and practically throw it in your lap. They know customers will be intimidated and buy something overpriced. I say you should always put them on the spot: “Come back to me with a red wine at $30 or $40. Come back to me with a choice. Don’t give me an encyclopedia I have to bury my head in for 20 minutes while I’m trying to entertain guests. That’s your job.”
PLAYBOY: Aren’t you and Mario Batali supposedly in some kind of feud after he called your cooking outdated and you called him Fanta Pants?
RAMSAY: That’s cow shit. People fuel that crap because they want to see me go on Iron Chef against him.
PLAYBOY: Would you ever go on Iron Chef America?
RAMSAY: Would I go on? [pauses] Yeah, I think I would, to be honest. Definitely. Would I lose? Put it this way: Give me one ingredient or five ingredients, and give those same ingredients to 10 chefs from around the world. I fucking guarantee I will come up with the best dish across those ingredients, hands down. Everything I’ve ever learned from a culinary perspective has come from getting knocked down and fighting my way back. You brush yourself off and come right back swinging, right back with a better recipe or presentation. I’d win Iron Chef, guaranteed.
PLAYBOY: How do you not weigh 300 pounds?
RAMSAY: I like the Chinese ethic of eating four or five small bowls a day. I don’t think chefs should be fat. I was a fat chef once. I think it’s the most disgusting trait for any chef to walk into a dining room at 450 pounds and expect people to eat his or her food. My father died of a heart attack at the age of 53. I’ve never smoked in my life. I love keeping fit. I don’t like sitting around.
PLAYBOY: Clearly not. You have more than two dozen restaurants around the world, three TV shows here and three in the U.K., cookbooks, promotional tie-ins, four young kids. Do you ever worry you’re spreading yourself too thin?
RAMSAY: Oh, come on. Do you think Wolfgang Puck has spread himself too thin with Puck Express and a $400 million company? Fuck no. For a guy with 127 restaurants, he looks great and he’s cool as a cucumber. I can only hope to continue at that level at 62. But he does it the same way I do it and the same way Thomas Keller or Joël Robuchon or any other great chef does: You hire great people.
PLAYBOY: But your restaurant customers pay a lot of money to have a meal by Gordon Ramsay. Aren’t they entitled to a meal by Gordon Ramsay?
RAMSAY: I’ve been listening to that shit for the past 30 years. If you buy an Armani suit, you don’t ask if Giorgio stitched it himself. Did Hugo Boss personally make that T-shirt? When I bought my Ferrari 458, I didn’t ask Enzo to put the fucking wheels on so I can go 222 miles an hour. No way. Give me a fucking break.