PHOTO: Gordon Ramsay Group
Gordon Ramsay is more than 30 minutes late for this interview. This is a celebrity chef who doesn’t hesitate to slag someone off on TV - in the most crushing manner possible. Suddenly, we hear excited shouts of: “Eh, Gordon! Gordon!” from passers-by scurrying for a closer look outside his week-old restaurant in Marina Bay Sands. The 48-year-old Scotsman strides in purposefully, tall and buff, his blonde hair artfully tousled, smelling impossibly fresh with expensive cologne. He is only here for three days and will return in September. And he looks exactly like he does on telly. The only difference? He’s pretty pleasant. Charming, even. But we do get a (mild) taste of the famed Ramsay sarcasm when we take a photo with him after our chat. “Is the pic good?” we foolishly ask the PR rep after she helps to snap it. “Is it good?” interjects Mr Ramsay loudly, to our embarrassment. “Of course it’s good. You look gorgeous! Good lord…” he half-jokes in exasperation.
One of the most demoralising experiences in my life was when I worked at Jamin restaurant by Joël Robuchon in Paris, when I was 23. There was this beautiful roasted duck sealed with pastry — it was my job to seal it after the duck was browned, seasoned and stuffed. I was in such a rush. So I sealed it, put it in the oven and let it rest. One hour and 15 minutes later, it was served to eight Japanese food critics. I was so proud. The waiters sliced the pastry, lifted it, and showed them the dish. But there was no duck in there. The saucier who gave it to me screwed up and I got a bollocking. Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever been told by an employer when you’ve done something bad… and times that by 10. I’ve never forgotten that. The saucier had been with Robuchon for 15 years — it was his responsibility to make sure the duck was in there. I should’ve checked before I sealed it. I didn’t think I had to, because I was just the little cook at the end of the line.
I think the biggest disappointment in our industry is that, sadly, anybody can open a restaurant. It’s not like being a doctor where you have to go through medical school. I will be at a dinner party and someone will say, ‘Hey Jane, you’re an amazing chef, open a restaurant! This was [expletive] delicious!’ They’ve misconstrued cooking for eight guests once a month with cooking for 100 guests for lunch and 200 for dinner [daily].
I didn’t start off with a fine-dining restaurant named Gordon Ramsay in Singapore because there’ve been issues with chefs putting their names on the door here and failing. Bread Street Kitchen is more family-oriented. I didn’t want to shoot myself in the foot and offer a restaurant that was just for special celebrations because it has three Michelin stars. I want to break into Singapore gently. Singaporeans are demanding. When it is not right, they’re going to tell you instantly. But someday, I’d love to do a proper 40-seat restaurant on the top of MBS. Is it Justin [Quek’s]? It’s stunning. He doesn't know how lucky he is. I may steal his restaurant... (chuckles).
I got my first telling-off at Bread Street Kitchen Singapore today. A gentleman said: ‘The pork is delicious, but I can’t cut it with this knife, I need a steak knife’. Ooh la. We don't serve steak knives with our pork in London, but I love feedback from customers, it’s really important.
The guidelines in Singapore are thorough and it’s [a country that’s] disciplined beyond belief. No gum, no drugs — it’s incredibly clean. It has the perfect scenario. I was buying groceries in [the West] and a lady in front was getting vegetables while her son was buying a gun. What would I change about Singapore? I think you should lighten up the laws for cars — I can’t believe how much it costs to get a decent car here. One of the young cooks said to me, ‘Chef, will you be bringing your Ferrari over?’ I said, ‘No [expletive] way. If it costs me a million pounds in the UK, it will cost me 10 million to bring it here.