In a bizarre turn of events, Gordon Ramsay spent lockdown being yelled at, rather than doing the yelling.
“I had my daughters filming, shouting, screaming and kicking,” says the 54-year-old merrily over Zoom.
The Scottish-born chef, who splits his time between LA and the UK, used the pandemic-induced pause to get creative, reassess and try to “imagine we’re going into the ground for the first time, and how we pop up when we come out of this thing”.
To aid that, he started cooking live at the weekends on Instagram, all the while being heckled by his kids who would fine him – in honour of the NHS – every time a dish took more than 10 minutes to throw together.
And instead of winding him up, the buzz of it echoed the adrenaline he was missing and would usually access in his professional kitchens, which “I didn’t have while the restaurants were closed,” he adds.
It’s all in the prep
He’s now turned those Instagram lives into a cookbook, Ramsay In 10 – a collection of swift, resourceful recipes that give an insight into how the Ramsays cook at home.
“I know everyone thinks, ‘Oh it’s easy for you, 10 minutes…’” he admits, but argues it’s all in the prep.
You don’t need three Michelin stars and “the most expensive Japanese knives to chop your carrot or finely dice your onion. Use a box grater and grate it! Things get done quicker”.
Gordon just wants people cooking, and is typically no-nonsense about it, right down to a section at the front called “What this book expects of you,” which includes directions like “Read the recipe”.
The aim though, beneath the directness, is to make sure people know how much fun they can have cooking, if they get the basics done first.
As Gordon says: “90% of the battle is in the preparation, and I hate seeing missed opportunities go by, where things are overcooked because people are not prepping right at the beginning.”
Teaching the kids
Gordon’s kids are never far from his thoughts.
He and wife Tana, 47, have Megan 23, twins Holly and Jack, 21, Tilly, 19, and Oscar, two, and he remembers teaching them the importance of food from the off, including buying his older children pet turkeys as part of Channel 4 show The F Word.
“Tilly must have been three,” he recalls. The turkeys were “to give them the responsibility of understanding how important food is, wasting nothing; from turkeys they went to pigs, from pigs they went to lambs”.
They all know how to cook and host a great dinner party – vital now his eldest are starting to fly the family coop and get their own flats.
“Meg’s always asking me to pop round,” says Gordon, “and I did pop round and the fridge seemed to be 90% alcohol in there and very little greens.
“So she said, ‘Well I haven’t shopped yet, so think of something’. I whipped up a butternut squash, roasted it and then turned that into a beautiful Goan-style curry.”
Pride and joy
Tilly Ramsay has been taking part in the current series of Strictly Come Dancing, during which Gordon himself was caught on camera tearing up after his daughter’s Charleston.
“She preps herself, every morning it’s either toast or porridge, and then for lunch, it’ll be like a chicken salad.
“And then for dinner, it’s either some pasta or carbs to load up, but trust me, she’s a little firecracker, she knows how to look after herself,” says Gordon, the pride palpable in his voice.
“She can stand on her own two feet,” he adds, describing the Tupperwares Tilly’s been stacking in the fridge the night before training, labelled “11 o’clock, four o’clock, and seven o’clock; super disciplined”.
World’s worst eaters
Gordon spent his own 20s working 18-hour shifts with Marco Pierre White at legendary London restaurant Harveys.
“The only thing we’d have on the way home in the taxi – because we could eat before we fell asleep in the back of that thing – was a Lucozade and a Mars Bar. And that was that, because the last thing you can do at that time of night, is eat,” he says.
At work, he and fellow chefs and housemates Steve Terry and Tim Hughes would snaffle leftover pigeon and beurre blanc sauce “and make our own tagliatelle with this sort of oyster cream sauce and then feed ourselves from all the leftovers that Marco didn’t sell”.
“Everything was so fresh,” he remembers, but “the only thing we’d do when we got home was literally crash, man”.
“You don’t really eat before service,” Ramsay adds. “Any chef would be lying if they told you they did, because you can’t fill up. You need to stay agile; you need to stay on your toes, and you need to have that hunger to constantly perfect – so we’re the world’s worst eaters.”
Giving Greece a look-in
Usually, Gordon can be spotted in reruns of Hell’s Kitchen and Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours To Hell And Back, screaming at woeful restaurateurs and chefs.
But more recently he has been eating, as well as larking about, with Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix in their buddy-holiday ITV series Gordon, Gino & Fred.
They were in Greece together last and “there’s some bloody good chefs on those islands,” recalls Ramsay.
“We never give Greece the look-in it deserves. It’s almost the ugly sister of France and Italy and Spain.
“Athens, some of the ingredients there, and what they do with octopus – there’s no restaurants anywhere on the planet that are as creative with octopus as they are in Athens.
“The food was sensational, but of course D’Acampo and Sirieix were a nightmare. I mean a real nightmare.” He shakes his head.
“We make it look fun in the edit but my goodness me, you should see what we have to do to get there.”
Gordon Ramsay’s blackened steak with kimchi fried rice and pickled radish
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 2 x 175g bavette (flank) steaks
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 140g kimchi, from a jar, plus 1 tbsp of the juice
- 250g cooked jasmine or basmati rice
- 2 spring onions (scallions)
- 2 eggs
- 6 breakfast radishes
- 2 tbsp black sesame seeds or nigella seeds
- 1 tsp chopped chilli, from a jar
- Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place a griddle (grill) pan or frying pan (skillet) over a high heat.
- Put the hoisin and soy sauce into a bowl and mix together. Add the steak and stir to coat.
- When the griddle or frying pan is smoking hot, drizzle over a little oil and cook the steaks for two to three minutes.
- Meanwhile, place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a little oil. While the oil is heating, roughly chop the kimchi, then add it to the pan. Add the rice and stir to combine.
- Slice the spring onions, reserving the green tops for serving, and add to the pan with the rice and kimchi.
- Flip the steaks over and cook for a further two to three minutes.
- Place a second non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a little oil. When hot, crack in the eggs and fry for two minutes, until the whites are firm and beginning to crisp around the edges.
- Finely grate the radishes into a bowl. Season with salt, then stir in the kimchi juice.
- Divide the hot rice between two bowls. Put a fried egg on top and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, followed by salt and pepper. Finely slice the steaks across the grain and place alongside the rice.
- Sprinkle over the chopped chilli and reserved spring onion greens before serving with the radish salad on the side.
Ramsay In 10 by Gordon Ramsay is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £25. Photography Jamie Orlando-Smith. It is available now.