The ballroom at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California, was set up for the arrival of Master Chef Gordon Ramsy. Every TV critic was given a bowl containing two egg whites, a whisk along side of a smaller bowl holding sugar, so that we could attempt to make a Baked Alaska sauce.
Before Ramsey was introduced, clips from his successful series Hell’s Kitchen were screened, which consisted of familiar scenes of him berating and screaming obscenities at a group of devastated chefs-to-be. In a Jekyll and Hyde move, Ramsey also stars in two other TV series, one called Kitchen Nightmares, where his softer side is revealed as he travels around the country helping to keep failing restaurants afloat, and the other Cookalong Live which I guess we were going to be doing with him later.
One of the journalists seemed stunned that the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen appeared to be so stupid each season, to which Ramsey replied, “First of all, mate, count yourself lucky you don’t have to eat that sh*t.”
My friend and fellow reporter, Margie Barron, couldn’t resist raising her hand and telling the smug chef, “I love Hell’s Kitchen, but Mr Pottymouth, what is it with the ‘Get the F out of here? This F-ing tastes like crap?’”
Ramsey stared at her with an amused smile and replied, “Can you get your ass up here and say that to me?” He laughed and continued, “That’s a good question. Here’s the thing, I get very nervous when I listen to my wife, mom, sister or close friends who say, ‘You were way out of order on that one.’ The problem in kitchens today is the lack of discipline. Working with a chef that tells you lies is actually worse than working with a chef that can’t cook. Because when you have that kind of ignorance where they send their mistakes [out into the public] for the sake of getting home earlier, or pissing off to the pub, it’s a completely different ballgame. I’m not making excuses for the lack of my management skills. Jesus, at 25, I got my ass kicked in some of the best restaurants in Paris with a salary that didn’t even cover my rent. So do you honestly think I’m going to pussyfoot around and say, ‘Pleas be so kind, don’t screw up the sea bass next time around?’”
I asked him what the reaction is when he turns up at a restaurant unexpectedly. “It’s pretty hard because sometimes when I go into restaurants, nothing happens for 45 minutes. So you are psychologically worried in terms of what is happening. Is the chef seeking revenge and putting my food through the dishwasher three or four times, or has the chef bolted? I love eating out but it’s horrible when the chef comes to the table and asks dreadful questions like, ‘Did you enjoy it?’ And I say, ‘Mate, you know what? You shouldn’t ask me that question because if you weren’t happy with it, you shouldn’t have sent the food out.”
Wasn’t there any food that made him happy? “Do I really come across that grumpy?” he asked. “Holy mackerel. Honestly, In-N-Out burgers. I’m not just saying that because they are here in California. They are extraordinary.”
With the Q & A segment we all began to make our sauce for our Baked Alaska, and were instructed by Ramsey to start whisking our egg whites, adding the sugar in little by little. No matter how hard I whisked them I couldn’t get them to thicken. When we were handed the ice-cream to cover with our thick, white sauce, mine was runny and yellow. One by one we approached Ramsey on stage, who was toasting each Baked Alaska with his small blow-torch. He looked at mine and shook his head in disgust. I asked him, “If I was on the show, would you yell at me now?” He responded immediately, “If you were on the show you’d be going home.” In mock devastation, I replied, “You mean my dream of becoming a Top Chef is over?” He laughed and vigorously nodded his head – at least he has a sense of humor!