Will Gordon make good his escape?
The programme’s been set up as an escape from the last 12 or 18 months of being targeted by the tabs. It’s also an attempt to ditch the Glasgow hardman image that’s become a bit of a millstone, and show a softer side to the chef who’s recently spoken again about a troubled upbringing dominated by a violent father .
People have been urging Gordo to get back in the kitchen for some time now. but the message was rather more to leave the cameras behind. He doesn’t seem able to turn down the exposure (and presumably, the fees are pretty persuasive in troubled times ) but in an attempt to salvage his reputation, he’s turned to a different style of programming akin to the Stein or Oliver culinary travelogue / personal journey model. As his production company, Optomen, has it. we’ll gain insights into the real Gordon Ramsay. We’ll see a very different side to the nation’s favourite chef: more thoughtful, confessional, and open-minded .
We’ve become used to seeing Ramsay in charge, that hectoring macho caricature he’s become thanks to Hell’s Kitchen. Kitchen Nightmares (particularly the USA version), even, to a lesser extent, the F Word. so this format is quite a departure for him – and for us.
He approaches a subject he admittedly knows little about with some humility, apprenticing himself to various Indian chefs, first on the Mangalore Express train throwing in references to his early days, as he remembers starting out 20 years ago, chopping onions – now I’m back there and struggling to cook a vegetable curry through a bout of travel sickness, where he admits conditions are tough for for this weak-bellied Scot (although the inner macho man can’t resist challenging the other chefs to pull ups on the train).
He takes orders well, from legendary chef, Imtiaz Qureshi. constructing an epic goat biryiani – an egg, inside a quail, stuffed in a chicken, inside the goat – and, despite glimmers of that rather manic Ramsay in the introduction to the great man – the King Korma, dog’s bollocks, dog’s nuts, Yes?! – it’s more refreshing than I imagined watching him working under someone, showing respect, reminding us he’s done his time over the years, earned his stripes. When Qureshi isn’t happy, Gordon, remembering, perhaps, the formidable wrath of an old boss. quips, In situations like this you keep your mouth shut and finish the job.
Later, when cooking for Seema Chandra, he’s even more out of his comfort zone, struggling to cope in an unfamiliar kitchen, merely the subject of amusement, rather than terror, to chefs he cannot scream at. You can feel the panic building as he struggles to communicate, pointing upwards and doing star jumps in an attempt to mime a need for star anise. In the end, the dishes are not finished with the trademark, DONE! , rather, his attempts at pumpkin puree and the like were sampled with encouraging comments such as promising and has possibilities . Not really what the big man is used to and, to be fair, he accepted the criticism so graciously I, surprisingly, found myself, if not exactly rooting for him, at least hoping his finished dishes would be a success.
But what to make of this new, gentler Gordon (you’ll be able to tell him yourself on February 1 when he starts tweeting )? Will it last? Are the glimpses of a more human Ramsay enough to prick our interest in him again? In other words, is this attempt to shed the hardman image going to work?
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