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Chef Gordon Ramsay: The good, the bad and the star

By: Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Gordon Ramsay is one of the few star chefs who have been successful for decades. And this in spite of ongoing, major criticism of his behavior. Why do people really love this “bad boy” among chefs so much?

Currently distinguished with seven Michelin stars, with an impressive 17 over the course of his career. The owner of dozens of restaurants around the world, from the USA to the UK to Singapore. A television personality on numerous shows who runs his own TV production company. Bearer of the Order of the British Empire.

In short: Chef Gordon Ramsay.


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Although we should be wary of hyperbole in this fast-paced world of ours, describing Ramsay as one of the most successful chefs of our time is by no means an exaggeration. After all, the Brit has achieved what was very rare in the world of high-end cuisine: He has been consistently successful for many years, not to mention a household name even for people who normally don’t know much about fine dining. This is because Gordon Ramsay is not just a chef, book author and entrepreneur. He has also been a television star for over two decades now, which is why he is familiar to a wide audience. However, one question still remains: In a world full of interchangeable influencers and social media stars, how can anyone remain so successful for so long?

Career despite difficult childhood and personal setbacks

To find the answer, you have to take a look at the past of today’s star chef. Born in 1966 in the small Scottish town of Johnstone as second of three children, Gordon Ramsay did not have a very happy childhood. In his 2006 autobiography Humble Pie he talked about his violent father, an alcoholic who abused his wife and children. His mother was repeatedly battered by her husband to the point of being hospitalized. Because of this, his father was sent to prison – and Gordon and his two siblings were placed in an orphanage. “No child should ever have to live in fear in their own home,” says Gordon Ramsay. “A home should be a place where you feel safe and loved. When I was a child, our home was anything but that.” Because Ramsay Senior often lost his job, the family moved around a lot until they finally ended up in England. For the children, this unfortunately meant no friends, no stable environment and no roots.

At a young age, Gordon eked out a living as a dishwasher. Then, a silver lining appeared on the horizon: He got an offer from his favorite club, Glasgow Rangers, to follow his true passion for soccer on their youth team. It seemed like a dream come true. Even his father was proud. He was a “ruthless” defender, says Ramsay. “They might have passed me once, but never a second time. And I was fast.” However, his dream of becoming a professional footballer was abruptly crushed when the then teenager suffered a serious knee injury. What followed was a new lack of prospects and moving out of his parents’ home at just 16.


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Ramsay: All or nothing

However, the young Gordon Ramsay was not only interested in soccer; the native Scotsman was also passionate about cooking. He started his training as a hotel manager at 19, which he completed two years later. But even his first job made it clear thatGordon Ramsay is definitely not someone who flies under the radar. As Commis de Cuisine at Wroxton House Hotel in his home town of Banbury, he started an affair – with the owner’s wife. He then quickly left not only the hotel, but also the city, and headed off to London.

At this point at the latest, anotherGordon Ramsay trait emerged: He goes all the way. In London, where he worked with the first British Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White, Ramsay decided to study French cuisine more closely. A choice that followed the motto “all or nothing.” Of course, he didn’t just study it anywhere. He headed directly for Paris to Joël Robuchon, among others. That’s right, the legendary Joël Robuchon, who was named “Chef of the Century” by Gault Milleau, to name one of his honors. But that’s not all. Ramsay was also fascinated by Italian cuisine, which he explored on site in Sicily and Sardinia.


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From dishwasher to star chef

In 1997, the time finally came: Four years after the then 26-year-old was brought in as head chef, his restaurant, Aubergine in London’s Chelsea district, was awarded two Michelin stars. Just a year later, the now-starred chef opened his first restaurant just a few minutes’ walk from Aubergine, which would lay the foundation for his empire: Gordon Ramsay restaurant. The rest is history – a story based on a difficult childhood as well as everyday life in restaurant kitchens. Where, to put it mildly, a very harsh tone is often the rule and not the exception. In 1989, Gordon Ramsay himself quit his job at Harveys in London under Marco Pierre White because he could no longer stand “the outbursts of anger, bullying and violence”, as he himself explains. For many, this statement may seem downright ironic, since Ramsay is well-known for not mincing his words.

Bad boy image

Ramsay swears, raves and curses. He demands perfection in the kitchen and puts down everyone and everything that doesn’t meet his standards. For around 20 years, the now 57-year-old has been presenting himself on television to millions of people around the world. With him, it’s not mainly about his cooking, or even about cooking at all. His outbursts have become his trademark.


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Gordon Ramsay is not the nice boy next door, nor the ideal son-in-law. Gordon Ramsay is no Jamie Oliver you would invite to your home to cook for a child’s birthday party. Gordon Ramsay is a bad boy. Someone who asserts himself, who stands out and does things all the way or not at all. He comes from the rock bottom and makes no secret of it. He does not deny its roots, and his fans love him for that. Gordon Ramsay is one of them.

Gordon Ramsay – more than just a chef

The resourceful businessman is of course fully aware that the bad boy image is his trademark, his recipe for success, and as such needs to be cultivated. Agitators simply sell better than bores who never offend. Why do you think Simon Cowell has been the star of shows like “Britain’s Got Talent” or “X-Factor” for years as the “nasty” judge and not his nice, but always interchangeable colleagues?

People want drama – today more than ever. Ramsay knows how to use this to his advantage. This is why he plays with his image, as the title of one of his earlier TV shows makes clear: “The F Word” says it all. Every criticism of his character increases his popularity – and his popularity is huge. In 2008, even the Australian parliament addressed one of his programs: The excessive use of strong language was a thorn in the side of some MPs. They even called for new guidelines on the use of “indecent language” on TV…

When it comes to the “soft” side of Gordon Ramsay

Away from the public eye, however, you don’t see much of the bad boy. Gordon Ramsay has been married to his wife Tana since 1996, and the couple has five children.

Gordon Ramsay with his wife Tana

Gordon and Tana Ramsay Ramsay | Image: shutterstock

Their 22-year-old daughter Tilly is already a star chef in her own right and regularly appears together with her father. Her parents are involved in activities such as Women’s Aid, an organization to combat domestic violence against women and children, and the children’s hospital Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). “We know how important family is – especially in difficult times,” say Gordon and Tana Ramsay. “We want to support the thousands of children and their families who are hospitalized every year, at a time when they need our support the most.”

And there they are again, those roots Gordon Ramsay has never forgotten despite all the scandals, criticism and bad boy image.

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