Contrary to the 1982 cookbook, Real Men Don't Cook Quiche, real men apparently do. A prominent example is Scottish-born Gordon James Ramsay, OBE, entrepreneur, restaurateur, ex-professional soccer player, dedicated family man, philanthropist, and feisty London chef par excellence.
Ramsay, 39, admits that he didn't have a backup plan when his professional footballer career (soccer in America) with the Glasgow Rangers was cut short at age 19 by a knee injury. Fortuitously, he returned to culinary school to complete a Higher National Diploma in hotel management in 1987. His education was a springboard to success, and he has never looked back.
Early on, Ramsay realized that an apprenticeship with the best of the best would be the perfect complement to his education. He joined Maxim's de Paris in London as Chef de Partie. He subsequently studied under the tutelage of fiery tempered chef, Marco Pierre White and then moved to the renowned Le Gavroche to work with top British chef, Albert Roux. Within a year, he headed to Paris for three years of study in the kitchens of legendary French chefs, Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon.
Following a year as personal chef for an Australian media mogul, Ramsay returned to London as chef and part owner of Aubergine. His management and culinary brilliance elevated the restaurant to Michelin stardom before he left in 1998 to debut his first independently owned restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, which has been awarded three Michelin stars. Ramsay currently owns or has launched an impressive list of restaurants that include:
- Petrus, with protégé Marcus Wareing (1999)
- Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's (2001)
- Verre in Dubai (2001)
- Menu at The Connaught, with protégée Angela Hartnett (2002)
- Gordon's Boxwood Café (2003)
- The Savoy Grill, with protégé Marcus Wareing (2003)
- Maze (2005)
- Cerise and Gordon Ramsay at Conrad Tokyo (2005)
In 2004, Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd. showed a profit of Â£4.3 million and The Sunday Times 2005 Profit Track ranked GRH fourth (out of 100 companies in London) in average annual profit with growth of 103% since 2001. Analysts have predicted that GRH may be worth up to Â£50 million and the man, himself, may be worth upwards of Â£20 million, approximately $35 million. Worldwide, GRH employs more than 800 staff and, despite Ramsay's abrasive personality, the company maintains an 85% staff retention rate.
Ramsay in the Media
Ramsay's unprecedented culinary success has inspired two documentaries: Boiling Point (1988) and Beyond Boiling Point (2000). He followed that up with ventures on the small screen in Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen (UK) in 2004, which was so popular that Fox television snapped up Hell's Kitchen for two seasons in the U.S. A new season of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is currently in the works. Ramsay's popularity has also spawned The F-Word, a British magazine and cooking show. To date, he has authored ten cookbooks and plans to publish his autobiography in November of this year on his 40th birthday.
Ramsay East and West
In the fall of this year, Ramsay heads west to midtown Manhattan where he will open a bar and restaurant for The London NYC/LA luxury hotels. According to Ramsay, "It's the burning ambition of every top chef in the world to succeed in New York. I thrive on competition . . . I cannot wait." His American tour continues as he plans to launch another restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in LA for the luxury hotel group in 2007. It's rumored that Ramsay also has an entrepreneurial eye on Shanghai and Singapore, which would expand his culinary "empire on which the sun never sets."
Ramsay Scholars and Scholarships
His passion for food and his fierce loyalty to employees has prompted him to give back to the culinary arts in the form of the Gordon Ramsay Training and Learning School, which offers courses in:
- Restaurant Skills
- Health and Safety
- Food Hygiene
- Supervisory and Management Training
- Customer Service
In 2001, ever vigilant for new chef talent, Ramsay also established two annual Gordon Ramsay Scholarship awards. These awards provide two categories of scholarships for UK and Ireland applicants: students enrolled in catering school and working chefs from 18 to 25 years old who are currently employed in catering.
In 2005, the twelve Gordon Ramsay College Scholarship finalists attended a week-long catering course at the International Hotel Management Institute in Luzern and competed for the scholarship. The scholarship winner received cash, restaurant placements, and an opportunity to compete with nine working chefs for the prestigious Gordon Ramsay Scholar Award. The 2005 Gordon Ramsay Scholar Award winner, Alex Thain, received a cash prize, several two-week placements in renowned restaurants including the Gordon Ramsay group, a car, and a trip to Singapore to shadow the head chef at Raffles in The Plaza Hotel.
In the Final Analysis
Is he abusive and rude? He can be. Does he use creative and colorful language? Absolutely. Is he diplomatic? Not a chance, and he would counter, "If you can't stand the heat, you shouldn't be in the [bleeping] kitchen." But, does he have an absolute passion for food? Is he a champion of the customer, an exacting and inspiring mentor, and a bulldog about quality? No doubt. In the final analysis, Gordon Ramsay is a masterful blend of culinary genius, dedication, and education. The end result is a culinary career nothing short of superb.