Why Gordon Ramsay’s approach to his craft, his business and life itself is confrontational and committed, yet utterly compelling.
Read up on the great philosophers or listen to one of our astute thinkers of the modern era, and most will tell you arrogance is a shield to a lack of knowledge and some deep-seated insecurities.
That makes understanding Gordon Ramsay something of a conundrum. Even the chef and restaurateur’s greatest admirers recognise a sense of haughtiness in the make-up of someone who has persistently hunted down the next challenge.
Arrogance, or just belief and control, the most decorated chefs are where they are because of their ability to perform, manage and excel in one of the most stressful work environments imaginable.
“I’m the same as anyone else,” says Ramsay. “I’m the product of discipline, bloody-mindedness, passion, being organised, being clear in my goal, and perhaps even a bit of selfishness. You know, success won’t just fall onto your lap – you’re going to have to work hard for it; but I will guarantee you that with the right amount of effort and a basic requirement that you’re not an idiot, you can get somewhere… anyone can.”
Of course, the Gordon Ramsay we encounter away from the pressured atmosphere of the restaurant is very different to that bullish, bulldozing, bombastic character who stomps, swears and curses his way through various globally distributed television series and concepts.
Without for a moment suggesting the 56-year-old Scot is softening in his middle years, in conversation he is reflective, grateful for what he has, loving and funny… although still unapologetically brash.
“My advice on this one has always been the same,” he says, addressing his love of an expletive. “If you don’t like it, turn over. You have to appreciate the pressures of the kitchen and that environment. It looks like a lovely serene, woolly, fluffy place front-of-house and that’s the whole point – you wouldn’t want to keep turning up for meals where the staff were ripping shreds off one another; but it needs to be high pressure out the back. And only when you’ve seen that situation do you really appreciate what it is we go through.
“It’s stress – pure, unadulterated stress. It’s not pleasant for anyone, and someone being offended by an expletive is really going to be the least of someone’s worries!”
Through all his crudeness, in 2023 Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous empire is a meticulously curated, globally renowned brand. Much of that is down to its founder’s measured pursuit of what he is good at – never allowing the lure of expansion to divert him into areas outside his comfort zone, he’s always acted quickly when challenges approach.
The chef displays a passion, a determination and almost child-like giddiness that will always keep Ramsay at the top. For all his impassioned speeches, rants and dressing downs when in the kitchens of others in his reality shows, when it comes to gauging his own survival prospects, the chef is self-assured in his poise.
“I have always had confidence in myself when it comes to work, largely because I’ve achieved everything I’ve set out to. I can’t afford to worry.
“As you get older and become wealthier, you have more to fall back on, but still it amounts to the same thing whether it’s a big investment or a small one – you don’t want to fail, and that fear of failure, combined with the motivation for the next ‘thing’, is what galvanises me more than anything else. I love the feeling.”
And the temper?
“A temper? Me?” he chips back, with a wry smile. “I think the big thing is wanting a job to get to the point where you sit back and savour it.
“The fact is, if you have some idiot stood in your way, preventing that, then of course you’re going to get mad!”