There's no one more associated with food on television than Chef Gordon Ramsay. With Hell's Kitchen
, Kitchen Nightmares
and the upcoming Hotel Hell, Chef Ramsay has become FOX's face of its culinary programming - and polarized audiences with his public persona, that of an expert who's not to be trifled with.
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When the cameras are off and people aren't ruining scallops left and right, however, Chef Ramsay is completely different from what you see on television: he's an affable and articulate man, who's extraordinarily pleasant to be around. He even took time out of his very busy schedule to chat recently about ten seasons of Hell's Kitchen
and the new season of MasterChef
.Hell's Kitchen Recap: When Scallops Lead To Disaster
"What keeps them interesting?" he said, just before HK
started airing its tenth run and MasterChef
its third. "There's something quite rewarding about becoming vulnerable, and I like being pushed to the absolute limits. I like being under pressure. I like finding talents.
"I like discovering new things. If there's one thing that I've learned over the last seven years, [it] is the cultural aspects, whether it's the most amazing Mexican dish, whether it's Pan-Asian or Japanese-influenced or Californian, East Coast against West Coast, or even a soul food dish. So I get excited when I come across something that I haven't tasted before.
"I think, also, the different levels of character that you find. MasterChef
has been a big one this year on the back of the overwhelming response - in excess of 30,000 applicants, so that was huge. Hell's Kitchen
has been close to my heart, more than any other show that I've ever worked on.
"I quite like the sort of unglamorous side to cooking, where you have to get down and dirty and sometimes in their face. Both MasterChef
and Hell's Kitchen
do that for me."Hell's Kitchen
's ten seasons outpace even Bravo's Top Chef
(which has nine), and FOX has already renewed the series for eleventh and twelfth installments. That's a lot more time on the air than even scripted TV shows, and a lot of time to be doing the same thing, so I asked Chef Ramsay if we would see some changes this year to keep the show fresh.
"In today's competitive world, anyone getting to five seasons is great," he explained. "Actually, more than anything that makes you more nervous; I think when you're more nervous, you become more creative and when you're more creative, then it creates more pressure.
"I'm always trying to outsmart myself and I look at these challenges and individuals and prizes as something that is somewhat unique, but they're smart, we know that. They watch the program. They study everything, and they think by the time they come into Hell's Kitchen, they can make a scallop," he added with a chuckle, which ended up being a little foreshadowing considering last night's scallop disasters.
"It's great to be more creative, which puts you under pressure all the time," he continued. "We just celebrated 13 years, that's back in London, and I'm always asked the question, 'So, if you're such a hands-on chef, then who does the food when you're not there?' Well, it's the same people who do when I am
there. So I don't know. The reason why it works, so far, is I continue to teach, but I put myself under immense pressure, and as equal pressure as I do the contestants, I think."
The pressure has paid off: Monday's premieres of both series gave FOX the ratings victory for the night, with Hell's Kitchen
raking in 5.4 million viewers and MasterChef
5.17 million.MasterChef Recap: Gordon Ramsay's Wild Kingdom
's amateurs are less experienced and sometimes out of their element, Hell's Kitchen
has proven that even career cooks can present Ramsay with a headache. Is one class of talent more compelling - or more problematic - than the other?
"To be honest, I came across extraordinary talent this year in MasterChef
," he said, "and that's what really helps me to sort of almost become better at what I do on a daily basis, because the level of integrity, passion, ambition, both this year and last year, were just extraordinary.
bugs the hell out of me, when I see incompetent chefs that can't get their head around the word pressure and so we're all cooking a dish for one, but we're cooking for restaurants. To be a great chef you've got to become a great leader, you've got to be inspired and you can't sit still as a chef.
gives me that kind of mentoring aspect, and then Hell's Kitchen
always reminds me of the first day when I opened my very first restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, back in September, 1998. The air conditioning went down and every customer was complaining about how hot it was, the food was taking too long to come out of the kitchen, and then I caught a maitre d' walking past a customer swigging out of a bottle of water. I flipped my lid.
"Both of them have different identities, one amateur and one professional, so I'm very lucky to have both."
He's certainly got a full plate, as Hell's Kitchen
air back-to-back beginning at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX, and Hotel Hell
airs later this year. You can also follow Chef Ramsay on Twitter at @GordonRamsay01
. But if you can't stand the heat...stay out of his kitchen!For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my BuddyTV writer page, and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
(Image courtesy of FOX