Gordon Ramsay wants to be judged on his food, not his foul mouth
By Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 9, 2011 10:13PM EDT
MONTREAL - The man who put the spicy "F" in food says he's a little tired of being recognized only as the bad boy of haute cuisine.
"I don't get judged enough for what I put on a plate," said a soft-spoken Gordon Ramsay, using none of the scorching profanity that so often reduces his TV tirades to a series of bleeps.
"I get judged more, I suppose, as a persona from TV, which is a pain in the butt, to be honest," he told The Canadian Press on the eve of Wednesday's opening of his first restaurant in Canada.
"I have three Michelin stars, which was my first-ever ambition in cooking. Today's media, it has its good parts and its bad parts but judge me on the plate, not me on the TV."
The Scottish-born Ramsay is internationally renowned through a string of acclaimed restaurants and is a familiar face staring down at Canadians from the covers of his popular cookbooks in stores.
He's also known for his volcanic demeanour on high-rated cooking shows such as "Kitchen Nightmares," "Hell's Kitchen," "Master Chef" and "The F Word."
In Britain, he's also been in the spotlight for a toxic feud involving his father-in-law. Ramsay fired him as the chief executive of his restaurant empire last fall, alleging he was financing a double life with company funds.
Asked about that Tuesday, Ramsay gave a slight smile and remained silent.
He was much more forthcoming about the Montreal restaurant, which has been a local favourite since 1936 when it opened as Rotisserie Laurier BBQ. Its new name: the Laurier Gordon Ramsay.
Ramsay, 44, said it was natural for him to choose Montreal as his first Canadian stake.
"Montreal in many ways chose me," he said, comparing Montreal to Paris. "I fell in love with the place literally five years ago."
He had come to Quebec to shoot a documentary on wild geese and found "a stunning foodie culture evolving here. It's quite unique."
Ramsay, who has a reputation for putting flagging restaurants back on their feet, acknowledged he felt like he'd been taken to a retirement home when he was brought to Rotisserie Laurier BBQ for lunch two years ago.
But he saw "huge potential."
"Businesses don't survive on nostalgia," he noted, saying he's confident old customers as well as new clients will be thrilled with what he's done.
The two-storey dining hall has been given a newer, brighter look, with clean cream colouring throughout which Ramsay says gives it a "nice, bright, happy appeal."
The staple comfort foods like chicken and ribs and steak familiar to several generations of clients are also all there on the menu.
"Good comfort, done with a twist," was how Ramsay described the establishment's offerings.
And he'll keep serving the legendary moka cake that has been a staple at the restaurant. There will be one difference, however: he won't honour the tradition of popping it into the microwave before setting it before the customer.
He said that may have been popular when the delicacy was first served back in the 1970s but Ramsay pointed out it's now 2011 and "there are very few restaurants anywhere in the world that will allow customers to microwave their dessert."
He said customers would have to compromise because "the beauty is in the taste, not after it's been heated in the microwave."
He praised head chef Guillermo Russo, a Montreal native who has worked at such eateries as Toronto's Black Hoof and Lucien and Ottawa's Aroma, saying he was "very keen to push the boundaries out."
"He cooks with vision."
Russo said he found Ramsay to be "inspirational."
"Definitely I think what I take most from him is just the work ethic and the standards and the finesse and the refinement and the respect for the product," Russo said.
"It's something I always wanted to do as a young chef and he's given me the platform."
While Ramsay says he's just as excited opening his Montreal restaurant as he was opening his first eateries in London and Paris, he isn't looking at setting up in any other Canadian cities just yet.
"I'm a control freak so I want to get this one right first, focus on this one, silence the critics, let them know we haven't damaged their goods," he said. "Judge the food, don't judge me."
While he's got lots of irons in the fire, Ramsay says he doesn't see slowing down and resting on his laurels anytime soon.
"I haven't achieved everything I've wanted to do. What's next? Keeping the critics happy here. That's next."