Gordon Ramsay: Five of the chef’s funniest moments

Screen star: Gordon Ramsay  (Getty Images)
Screen star: Gordon Ramsay (Getty Images)

Gordon Ramsay has long divided his time between Los Angeles and London, but his star is increasingly global — and stretched in all sorts of directions.

His latest UK show, Next Level Chef, available on ITVX in the UK, has hardly been the talk of the town, but the moment he stepped in to defend family friend Brooklyn Beckham’s choice of career as a “chef”, he hit headlines across the country.

Despite his ill-fated foray into straight gameshow TV — his critically-slammed show Bank Balance was cancelled after a single season — it seems that Ramsay and cooking will forever be fated. He is a byword for fine-dining and to that end, his flagship three Michelin-star restaurant on Hospital Road in Chelsea remains his culinary epicentre. But the chef’s immutable rise to worldwide fame has been about much more than cooking talent, however remarkable his food. That he opened an excellent restaurant in The Savoy hotel a year ago, and it hasn’t splashed across news pages — or been reviewed by even one big-name critic — shows the shape of his fame today.

On a recent edition of James Acaster and Ed Gamble’s hit podcast Off Menu, the comedian Kathy Burke recalls one of her experiences with the chef. Burke appeared on another of Ramsay’s shows, The F Word, which first aired in 2005. Provocation and disarray was always the order of the day, and Burke’s steadfast refusal of a risotto — a dish she intensely dislikes — resulted in a tense exchange. Ramsay instead cooked her a dish of mushroom pasta. She loved it. But that Burke’s story talks about a show that aired more than a decade and a half ago says something about the era that helped made the chef a star. He’s tamer now, but here are five moments that helped propel Ramsay to notoriety on screen.

Order a Currie

In 2004, Ramsay fell out with the former Cabinet minister Edwina Currie on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. In an increasingly frenetic service, the ex-Tory MP disobeyed the chef’s orders to cook her signature guinea fowl, which Ramsay had dubbed “very good” earlier in the show. At that point, two years had passed since Currie had revealed her affair with the former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, but Ramsay reached for it nonetheless: “You crack me up. One minute you’re shagging the Prime Minister and now you’re trying to shag me from behind.”

Currie did not relent and used her previous role as a junior health minister — a position from which she resigned due to controversial comments about eggs — as an excuse to step away from the stove: “I wanted to cook a nice light dish but it’s been ruined by the fat. If you measured the amount of fat in it compared to a large hamburger from a big company there would be a hell of a lot more fat in mine, and as a former minister of health I’m not having it.”

An apple a day

Before Gordon Ramsay became a household name, he was a chef who sometimes appeared on TV. In 1999, he was hunting for his coveted third Michelin star, and his ambitions — long since realised — were laid bare in Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Boiling Point. One standout moment involved the Bramley Apple Growers Association (BAGA). Having apparently been given £5,000 — apparently it was actually £3,500 — to promote the fruit, Ramsay branded the association’s chairman a “plonker” before being filmed switching the Bramleys for Granny Smiths while preparing an apple tart for a group of food writers. When BAGA found out what happened, the group took legal action. Spokeswoman Jo Rimmer told The Independent: “He was very quick to take our money and very quick to stab us in the back. We feel we have been cheated. It might not mean much to him but to hard-pressed, cash-strapped apple-growers who have faced a couple of very difficult seasons, it is a big deal.”

Stuffed to the Gills

The late AA Gill (Getty Images)
The late AA Gill (Getty Images)

Ramsay famously ejected in 1998 the then Sunday Times critic AA Gill, his wife Tana, and their friend Joan Collins from his flagship Chelsea restaurant. Why? Ramsay claimed Gill had insulted one of his waiters, who had offered to take the writer’s coat.

“Don’t you have one of your own?” Gill was believed to have quipped. Of course, many supposed Ramsay asked the party to leave due to an earlier review of the Aubergine, his previous stomping ground, in which Gill had described the chef as a “failed sportsman” who “acts like an 11-year-old.” For some time after, both exchanged blows in the press. Ramsay said he “loathed Gill” and wrote that he “didn’t respect him as a critic.” Gill retorted: “Ramsay is a wonderful chef, just a second-rate human being.” The pair later reconciled at a GQ magazine party.

Idiot sandwich

One of the internet’s most overused memes is the “Idiot Sandwich”, which sees Ramsay place talk show host Julie Chen’s head between two slices of bread before asking her: “What are you?” Chen duly replies: “An idiot sandwich.”

Arguably not Ramsay’s most outrageous and expletive televised moment, it wasn’t even real. Rather, the scene originates from a parody skit filmed for The Late Late Show with James Corden, a man, somewhat ironically, who hasn’t always fared well in restaurants. At least according to the restaurateur Keith McNally.

Have I Got Stews For You

Back in 2006, Ramsay hosted an episode of the BBC’s enduringly popularHave I Got News For You. The chef was not the smoothest presenter, missing the autocue more than once and mistiming his answers. Before filming began, Ramsay had even promised the studio audience a free dinner at Claridge’s — his name was above the door there at the time; no longer — if he made too many mistakes. He later had to retract the offer. In fairness, show regular Paul Merton had been heaping on the pressure with an assortment of quips. “Where do you keep your Michelin stars? Do you sew them on your pyjamas?” was one. In the end, Ramsay lost his cool, and in classically irate style branded guest Andrew Neil a “fat bastard.”