'Bloody delicious': Why Gordon Ramsay fell in love with Singapore

Behind the kitchen doors with Gordon Ramsay
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Story highlights

  • Gordon Ramsay says he fell in love with Singapore 15 years ago
  • The celeb chef adores the family atmosphere and authenticity in Singapore's hawker markets
  • The arrival of the Michelin Guide to Singapore will lift the quality of its food even more

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(CNN)Gordon Ramsay may only have introduced his Bread Street Kitchen to Singapore eight months ago, but the British celeb chef and restaurateur has a much longer and deeper connection with the city-state.

"I fell in love with Singapore 15 years ago," Ramsay tells CNN of his first visit, when Raffles Hotel invited him to cook dinner with three other Michelin-star chefs.
    He's also spent the last decade working with Singapore Airlines to develop inflight menus.
    "This is my third visit in the last six months -- so I've been here umpteen times."

    Singapore's authentic hawker markets

    As a veteran Singapore tourist, Ramsay's had plenty of time to sample the local cuisine.
    His favorite dining spots are the hawker centers, especially the Newton Food Centre, where he famously lost in a cook-off against local hawkers in 2013.
    But the renowned street food markets remind him of more than just delicious cuisine.
    "I love that family environment," he says.
    "I grew up in Birmingham and so our first landlord was from Pakistan. The level of cooking was extraordinary.
    "The landlord taught mom how to make the most amazing curries and mom taught me, so that's quite a fun memory I have when I'm down in Newton.
    "You don't really see that in London... All that authenticity gone, here we still have it."
    Ramsay says he usually goes for the "bloody delicious" chili crabs when he's in town.

    Michelin is coming

    A Singapore edition of the hallowed restaurant guide is due to publish in the second half of 2016.
    Ramsay says the city is a competitive market -- even more so now that the hallowed Michelin Guide is planning to publish a Singapore edition in the second half of 2016.
    "It's a tough town to make it," he says.
    "Singaporeans are impatient. They're incredibly knowledgeable. They've an amazing culture of great food."
    Ramsay says the arrival of the guide puts a stamp of approval on the city as a foodie destination.
    "It's such good news to see such a reverent guide come to Singapore and lift the standards even higher," says the 49-year-old chef.
    "There's now a big international scene of chefs from the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia, making big names here. You'll see it getting a lot busier."

    Second restaurant in Singapore?

    Bread Street Kitchen is one of the more casual dining brands in Ramsay's restaurant group.
    Its menu, offering primarily British flavors, has adapted to the local palate by going spicier than other global Bread Street Kitchens.
    "Bread Street Kitchen was sort of dipping its toe into Singapore without trying to put its neck in a noose," the chef explains of his reason for entering the market with that particular brand.
    In a recent interview with The Straits Times, he expressed a desire to bring Restaurant Gordon Ramsay to Singapore.
    A fine-dining London restaurant, it's held three Michelin stars since 2001.
    "I welcome that kind of pressure," says the chef, who once disclosed he cried when he lost stars.
    "I think from an actor's point of view you want to win an Oscar; footballers wants to play in the World Cup; and chefs want the Michelin star."
    Ramsay currently holds nine Michelin stars across his few dozen restaurants.
    "I remember winning my first third star in 2001," he recalls.
    "The week before the guide was published the senior inspectors from all over the globe sat me down and said, 'In this year's publication we are happy to announce you got your third star.'
    "And then just that moment where everything stopped for 30 seconds and you think 'Wow, that's it.'
    "But it's not -- because you got to keep it there; because when you go down from three to two, it's catastrophe in headline news."
    Watch more of the interview with Gordon Ramsay on Talk Asia this month. Air times: March 3 (Thursday), 4:30 a.m. ET, 11:30 p.m. ET; March 4 (Friday), 10 p.m. ET; March 5 (Saturday), 12:30 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. ET; March 12 (Saturday), 7:30 a.m. ET; March 13 (Sunday), 12:30 a.m. ET, 11 p.m. ET