Gordon Ramsay wants to make one thing clear: the only reason he didn’t witness the births of his first four children was that his wife banned him from the delivery room. “Tana didn’t f*cking want me there!” says the 53-year-old celebrity chef. “And all of a sudden [I’m] denounced as this oaf.”
When the couple’s fifth child arrived last April, however – 17 years after their fourth – Gordon wasn’t taking no for an answer. “I said, ‘F*ck it, I’m going to be there’,” he says, and Tana happily gave in. Now Gordon wishes she hadn’t – because he was out cold within seconds of Oscar’s arrival.
Gordon remembers putting on some calming Ed Sheeran in the operating room, but then the bloody reality of a C-section proved too much for him. He fainted for the first time in his life, just as the nurse was handing him his newborn son.
“It was hot in there, there was no air-conditioning, and the floor looked like the middle of a f*ckin’ abattoir,” he recalls. “I’m not good at that stuff. I know my strengths and that was my weakness.”
It seems a rare moment of humility from the king of culinary TV, a chef who has trained under some of the world’s best, and built a global empire of eateries from England to Italy and the US, collecting Michelin stars with his talent, drive and formidable perfectionism. “I’m a control freak,” he says. “I put my white jacket on and there’s no compromise.”
It’s his foul mouth and fiery temper, though, that have scored him fans on reality TV, starring as gastronomic adjudicator on shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares – entertaining and appalling viewers in equal measure.
Squeezing in a chat with The Weekly during his six days filming the upcoming series of MasterChef Australia in Melbourne in January, he waits less than eight minutes to launch his first F-bomb. No, he hasn’t mellowed with age, he insists, despite what anyone says. “I call it as it is. Some people embrace that, some people find that offensive, but what I do is get results. You can’t please f*ckin’ everybody.”
Wisecracks and withering putdowns are part of the Gordon Ramsay brand, which might explain the reaction when he made his first appearance before the contestants on MasterChef Australia: Back to Win, the latest serving of the hit show, featuring favourites from the past 11 seasons. “There were a few gasps,” says Gordon, revelling in his take-no-prisoners persona. “Was I straight to the point this week on MasterChef? I had to be, because [otherwise] they’re going to say, ‘Now you’re not being true to you’.”
The big MasterChef Australia news, of course, is the changing of the guard, after the unceremonious exit last year of judges George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston, when contract negotiations with Network 10 broke down. Gordon introduces the top 24 to the new trio: food writer Melissa Leong, three-hatted chef Jock Zonfrillo, and 2012 MasterChef Australia winner Andy Allen.
“It was sad to see the three guys go, but I think change is good,” says Gordon. “They got so comfortable that it was a home run for them every year. When you reach that level of success sometimes you feel you don’t need to strive for it, so it’s quite nice working with three hungry, focused, new judges.”
Popular overseas, especially in the UK and India, MasterChef Australia has piggybacked on the rising international profile of Australian food, he says, fuelled by a fascination with its multicultural influences. “Everyone used to think it was a nation of beers and barbecues,” says Gordon, who raves about recent meals at Melbourne’s Supernormal and Hobart’s Fico. “It’s way more sophisticated than that and has been for many years.”
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