An Open Letter To Gordon Ramsay
I tried, chef, I really did, and on numerous occasions. But I just can not sit through an entire episode of Hell’s Kitchen. Invariably, after or during one of your obscene and belittling rants, I tell you to shut the f#@k up, consciously using one of your favorite expletives.
Why do you do it, I wonder? It can’t be the money and fame because you seem to have had both before these shows began. You’re an extremely accomplished chef whose restaurants carry a combined total of something like 12 Michelin stars, and you’ve trained under some of the greatest of our time: Albert Roux, Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon…these names read like a who’s who list of the culinary world. And let’s not forget Marco Pierre White, the original enfant terrible of the kitchen.
Don’t you see what you are doing? There will be a whole legion of young culinarians following behind you thinking this is how a chef is supposed to act, perpetuating the myth of the temperamental chef. This is a hard enough image to break in real life, but your on-screen persona takes it to a new level…you’ve become a caricature of a temperamental and belligerent chef. You’ve made a skewed reflection of our fine and noble profession. I really cannot believe that you don’t see this.
On one recent show, after you nearly brought a cook to tears she apologized to you saying she was sorry. Your response was that you were sorry too…you were sorry she was there. I recently read this quote by the poet, Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Years from now that cook may not remember the actual words that you screamed at her, but she will undoubtedly remember how you made her feel. I cannot believe that your heart is so hardened that you would say this to a person (on television, nonetheless) and mean it.
Given the caliber of restaurants in which you’ve trained you know better than I the pressures a chef faces on a daily basis, and that we all “lose it” now and again, but you must also know that it is more effective to develop a strong team and teach and nurture, than it is to divide, intimidate, and pit one against the other. I’d guess that acting in a more caring and pedagogical manner probably would not bring high television ratings, but apparently screaming like a tyrannical lunatic does.
Being classically trained I’m sure you’re aware of the reputation of August Escoffier, a Frenchman by birth he spent more of his life on your home turf than his own. His shadow is just behind you every step you take in your hometown. Not only did he develop the brigade system, which we of course now call line cooking (the very same system that you use on your show), but he was also said to be a true gentleman in the kitchen. Supposedly, when he felt like he was going to lose his temper he would go for a walk, lest he lose his composure in front of his staff.
I recently saw a guy waiting in line in Starbucks actually wearing a chef’s jacket patterned after those on your show. My heart sank. It’s actually happening, I thought to myself…they’re idolizing him (you). Standing a few people behind him in queue I almost tapped him on the shoulder to ask him wear he worked, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
As you know, Marco Pierre White recently published a memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen, and he’s going to be starring in a British version of Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t know if hell exists or not, though you guys seem to be preoccupied with it. But if it does exist, I’m pretty sure it will entail working in your kitchen for all of eternity.
Yield: 4 portions
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 anchovy filets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups tomato purée
1/2 pound linguine
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and cleaned
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepot. Add the onion and garlic; sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the anchovies and hot pepper; sauté for 1 minute, mashing the anchovies with a wooden spoon. Stir in the parsley, basil, salt, and red wine. Simmer the wine for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato puree. Simmer the sauce slowly fore about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente, rinse it and set aside.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Pat the shrimp dry and carefully add them to the skillet. Stir and toss the shrimp in the hot oil for a minute or two, then add the sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the shrimp for just a couple minutes. Make sure the pasta is drained well and add it to the sauce. Cook just long enough to reheat the pasta.