Possibly the most sought-after celebrity chef these days, participants of a culinary competition held at Bread Street Kitchen in Marina Bay Sands were in for a treat when Gordon Ramsay himself showed up as surprise judge.
The busy chef had served a lovely dinner for Elton John and his Aids Foundation for the Oscar Party earlier in the week, before heading to Hong Kong and finally arriving in Singapore for a quick stopover.
Though he had a hectic schedule to keep to, Ramsay was quick to brush aside any signs of fatigue by joking that “the best way to get rid of jetlag is to make yourself tired”.
With countless appearances to make, restaurants to manage and shows to star in, the 50-year-old still insists there is no better time to be a chef than now. “It is a very exciting time,” he says.
Here, he shares his top tips on how his keeps his head in the game.
Believe in hard work
Disciplined and hardworking, Ramsay started out as a commis chef and worked his way up before finally opening Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 1998. The restaurant, located in Chelsea, earned its third Michelin star in 2001.
“In Asia, there is a super strong work ethic, and I have never had to ask a Singaporean chef to work six days a week. Yet in France, we work 34 hours a week. I work 32 hours in two days,” says Ramsay. “We spend eight to 10 hours a day in preparation for two minutes of magic, so it is important for young chefs to understand the breadth of what they can gain as a career if they put the work in early.”
Get out of your comfort zone
“Cooking is one of the most passionate jobs in the world and it’s important to learn about new cultures. The minute you stop learning and it becomes a mundane job, get out and go and look at different things.”
“Go and spend six months in the best tapas bar in Barcelona; spend three months in Vietnam learning to make fish paste; jump on a plane and go to Mumbai and spend three months learning to cook the best vegetarian cuisine in Kerala–go and learn from somebody’s mother.”
Be your best and worst critic
“You have to be self-critical,” says Ramsay. To maintain the standards of all his restaurants, he regularly hires mystery diners. At the end of the meal, he receives a report card.
“We’re not waiting for a food blogger or the Michelin Star guy to critique us. We want to immediately go through what went wrong at lunch time, not a week or a month later.”
Honesty is the best policy
Above all, Ramsay stresses the importance of honesty, transparency and traceability, especially when it comes to the source of his ingredients. “If a customer wants to know where a lobster or piece of meat comes from, we have all the information on hand,” he says.
He also expects honesty from his staff. “Working with a chef who lies is worse than working with a chef who can’t cook. I cannot allow anyone to send out a dish expecting that the customer not going to notice [if there’s anything wrong]. The worst thing that any chef can do is take a short cut,” he adds.
Photos courtesy of Marina Bay Sands