When the world-famous British chef Gordon Ramsay blindfolds you and thrusts a spoon at you with a mysterious food in it, you fervently pray his kitchen knives are out of his reach.
We wouldn’t want a blind food tasting session at his new glitzy outpost Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen in Caesers Palace Bluewaters to heat up and boil over to the nasty side if he resorts to flinging one of those sharp objects at us in sheer disappointment at culinary ineptitude.
But the local media — who were divided into blue and red teams inspired from his hit TV show ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, needn’t have worried. The chef with a scalding temper on television and who’s notorious for making grown chefs cry was a portrait of amicability.
Making cooing noises, the father-of-four got this journalist’s palette perked with a spoon of pureed peas, followed by slivers of beetroot. But if we got it wrong, he didn’t let us off the hook easily. Case in point: “I want to know where you get your potatoes from?” roared Ramsay when this journalist misidentified peas puree as potatoes.
But you don’t take his snide remarks to heart, because he had just won our soul over with a decadent three-course meal filled with his signature dishes including beef wellington, pan-seared scallops on a bed of peas puree and pickled fennel and a divine sticky toffee pudding.
But the fun wasn’t limited to the blind tasting as Ramsay, 52, gamely answered questions from the local media. Here’s his take on critics, his fitness regimen and more…
Q: What’s your fitness routine like?
A: I have a new trainer who is a Swedish Viking. We train in the morning around 4am to 5am from Monday to Friday. There’s also bike rides on a Sunday. I have been on that programme for the last seven weeks. It’s bizarre, but fitness is an absolute way of relaxing and an amazing way to switch off. I want to be in that zone. On June 6, we have Ironman 70.3 coming up and in October, we will be heading to Barcelona Ironman.
Q: Out of all the food that you have tasted from the Arab world, which one do you prefer and why?
A: There’s not one single food, but I think Moroccan food is amazing. I was with the National Geographic filming a series in Morocco and I loved how their food had a variety of Arabic influences in it. Up in the mountains, we were in an amazing farm foraging wild mushroom and truffles. So, I loved the overlap of the Arabic influences. There’s no cuisine which is my favourite, but if I had top pick one it would have to be Vietnamese because there’s no dairy in them. Every chef should try to cook with no dairy and lots of fresh produce because it’s the dairy-filled paste and the broth that makes it heavy.
Q: When you are in Dubai for work, what do you do that isn’t work-related?
A: Diving in the sea. The children were taught to dive and had Padi licenses by the time they were ten or eleven years old so that they get to appreciate the importance of the sea and get them culturally up to speed. We are coming back here for Easter, so we will be diving again. The visibility is incredible here and you don’t need a wetsuit because the water is warm. Also, diving helps them become better at managing under pressure. They are not on iPads either.
There's no cuisine which is my favourite, but if i had to top pick one it would have to be vietnamese because there's no dairy in it.
Q: Has there been a culinary experience that has surprised you?
A: It was in Alaska working with the Tinglit community. I went to meet the heads of that community and one of them was with his ten year old daughter. While I was talking to him, I looked back and she was plaiting her hair. But she was plaiting the testicles of a seal. She wasn’t plaiting them, but smoking it for dinner. Some may think it is vulgar, but that is how they get through their winters. I was blown away by everything out there. There were islands that were more populated with bears than human beings. Brown bears were attacking the white bears and it was in the middle of the winter. I was amazed at how nothing goes waste — from blubber of a seal’s testis smoked for dinner. That blew me away.
Q: If one of your children wanted to be a chef, would you send them to your kitchen to work under you and would you treat your children in the same way as you treat other chefs?
A: I am very honest with my chefs. The one thing that I have never done is send my son and daughters to my kitchen. It puts too much onus on my team who feel they can’t put too much pressure on Ramsay’s son or tell him off. If my boy tells me he wants to become a chef, then I will say go learn from somebody else and bring something new to the table. Don’t learn under me because I am fair on my staff and I don’t want them to feel that they can’t tell off my son or daughter for me. Matilda has her own cooking show and she has never been in my kitchen. Megan is doing criminology at Oxford Brooke and Holly is in a fashion school in London.
Matilda who is 17 wants to be a doctor one day and a scientist, the next day. Speaking of future, I want one of them to take up cooking — maybe my child who will come in a week’s time. Right now, there’s no one although they were all cooking since the age of two. Think scrambled eggs. They have also cleaned up turkeys and pigs so that they know where everything comes from and realise that not everything is always wrapped in clean cling wrap. They have looked after turkeys and bred sheep. With that experience, they won’t waste anything. If they came back to the fold, I would speak to them in the say way as I would speak to any of my staff — straight to the point, with no bullshit.
Q: There was a chef in Dubai who banned an influencer from his restaurant because she gave a negative review. He claimed it was a vendetta because he wouldn’t give her a free meal. What are your thoughts? Would you ever ban anyone because of a bad review?
A: Every influencer, if they pay, has every right to write whatever they wish. The social media influence and intrusion has been a massive benefit to the chefs. Some chefs just can’t get their head around it, but anybody walking in with a phone is a critic. I could be sitting in Las Vegas and have a picture of our beef wellington sent to me and within seconds I can identify whether it’s overcooked or undercooked. I love that tension. But what you need to understand is that everyone who comes into your restaurant is a critic. So yeah, I would welcome that feedback right there and then and not a week later in a [leading] publication.
Q: Have you ever been threatened by an influencer or a reviewer?
A: We wake up every morning with the intention of pleasing everybody. What you need to understand is that you are not going to make everybody happy. Everyone is a critic. My daughter has criticised my burgers. Everybody who walks into my restaurant is a critic, but I have never walked in fear. If somebody writes about my meal which is bad or when I have made a mistake, then it should be written about. If it is a good meal and they are unhappy with it, then that’s their choice.