Gordon Ramsay says with the "dysfunctional hand" he was dealt, he never should have become one of Britain's most successful chefs
He recently traveled around Asia on $100 a week to escape the unreality of Hollywood
Ramsay lived in 17 houses before he was 16, and couldn't afford to train full-time as a chef
“I should never have made it this far.”
Humble admissions are not the trademark of explosive, expletive-spouting Gordon Ramsay.
The British celebrity chef and restaurateur – whose Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, in London, has held three Michelin stars since 2001 – is better known for his bombastic confidence.
But with his 50th birthday approaching this year, a reflective, philosophical Ramsay seems to want to explain himself – to explain those years of rage, his complicated roots, and why he is “the real deal”.
Backstreets of Britain
“My childhood was tough,” Ramsay says, in an interview with Talk Asia, in Singapore. “I started with nothing and was dealt a dysfunctional card. My father was a severe alcoholic and my mom worked as a cook, and a nurse at night.
“We moved around … I went to 17 different schools between the ages of 5 and 16.”
It was his upbringing in the “backstreets” of Britain that, he says, put the fire in his belly to succeed.
That hot-tempered fire first earned him notoriety in “Boiling Point” (1999) – a four-part documentary about Ramsay launching his now-celebrated London restaurant.
“Of course, I regret it,” Ramsay says of his outrageous behavior in the show. “My mum couldn’t go shopping for six months.
“But I’ve never done drugs in my life – I have a brother who is still addicted to heroin – and very few chefs get far without substances, it’s rife in our industry. So it was raw, brutally honest, and it was desperate.
“Because I had to make it. I had sold my house. Everything I had went into that restaurant.”
He did make it, of course. The coveted third Michelin star came within two years – that was a “chilling moment”, Ramsay recalls – and has been followed by cheerfully titled TV shows such as “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen “, books, a TV production company, and an empire of restaurants, which has recently expanded into Asia.
A ‘blonde-haired blue-eyed lump’
Today, the married father-of-four admits his life is “very glamorous”.
“With three Michelin stars, 35 restaurants, 1,500 staff and any car you could ever want to drive, you never get those chances to go back to basics,” he says.
“So I needed to draw back.”
Shooting “Gordon’s Great Escape” in Asia last year gave Ramsay the chance to retreat from the world of extravagant Hollywood budgets.
“For me, it was a great chance to recharge my batteries … and live again … Live with a [local] family, depend on $100 a week, experience a monsoon, celebrate the harvest.”
Those who met Ramsay along the way, he says, mostly just thought he was a “big, 16 stone blonde-haired, blue-eyed lump”.
With little more left to achieve, the chef has mellowed. What does he want people to take from his story?
“You know, if I could come from a council estate in Stratford-upon-Avon and live in 17 houses before I’m 16, and then win three Michelin stars, if anybody wants to use me for inspiration, then you know this:
“I am the real deal.”
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
CNN’s Manisha Tank, Michala Sabnani, Sol Han and Jenni Marsh worked on the report.