In a much-anticipated keynote presentation, MIPCOM delegates will hear directly from Gordon Ramsay what’s coming next from the superstar chef, and how he became the first of a wave of TV chefs to win global fame, essentially by being himself on screen.
Superficially, he’s the guy on the television who shouts and swears at anyone who gets in the way of his quest for perfection. At least that’s what the headlines say.
But there’s a lot more to the man. He was destined to become a professional footballer before injury put a stop to that at the age of 17. Switching to things culinary, his ambition kicked-in very early and after working with some of the UK’s leading chefs. He looked further afield, taking himself to Paris where he worked under Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy, the latter becoming young Ramsay’s mentor.
After Paris he “took a sabbatical”, working on the yacht owned by TV magnate Reg Grundy where he got his first taste of what it might be like to work in the world of television. He later returned to the UK, to the position of head chef at the three-star La Tante Claire in Chelsea, under chef-patron Pierre Koffmann. Further prestigious positions followed and led to Ramsay setting up his own restaurants and eventually a global empire.
The TV career that developed alongside his culinary and business successes has lasted 25 years and keeps going, and it is this aspect of his life that MIPCOM delegates will hear about during his Cannes keynote presentation.
“The first big party I had to cater for on the yacht was for Reg Grundy’s MIPCOM guests,” Ramsay said. “I had no idea how powerful he was, he had no idea how good a chef I was but when I got the job we hit it off immediately. I remember being positioned about 400 metres from the beach in Cannes and this little tender kept coming back and forth ferrying all these VIP guests. Then after that we did an amazing dinner. So to come back to Cannes, full circle 25 years later knowing what I know now in TV, it’s quite an exciting trip because I haven’t been back since. And I’ve been hard at it, as you know, pushing myself and pushing the ideas, and staying creative.”
One important lesson Ramsay learned from Grundy was how to switch off, which for a self-confessed workaholic has proved to be an important skill. “Yes, time management. If there’s one thing I learned early on from him, it was just how on-the-clock he was in terms of punctuality,” Ramsay said. “He’d cram meetings in the morning, nice break for lunch, and then an 8pm shut-off and close-down, time to enjoy dinner. He was very disciplined like that and work came first.” He added: “I don’t mind working hard when I’m out on location, but then I like switching off, and I mean switching off.”
When he really does switch on, as his audiences around the world know, is when the camera is rolling. But he insists that he has never constructed an on-screen image or a brand. “Everyone says ‘Oh that’s for the camera!’ but I’m as passionate in business with or without a camera. If you were to mic-up a sports player, a boxer or football player and listen to the dialogue — in the Champions League Final or the Premier League or the FA Cup — it would be no different to what it’s like in the kitchen. Because it’s freakin’ raw, it’s brutally competitive and we should never shy away from that level of competitiveness. That’s the one thing that’s got me where I am today — being competitive is healthy, that’s really important.”
While Ramsay has held three Michelin stars for over 15 years at his Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, television is a growing business for him. With his production company Studio Ramsay, a joint-venture with all3media, he has plans to move into factual and scripted — including Ramsay On Coke, a documentary where he goes deep into the underworld to learn about this destructive narcotic. “You know, everyone thinks it’s great to be a cool, hip chef fucked-up on coke. Well it’s the opposite,” he said.
In the scripted domain, Ramsay is “working with some great writers” on a Modern-Family-style restaurant show. “Fox are behind it and I’m dying to burst into that area.”
And his own family is getting in on the business — with CBBC’s Matilda And The Ramsay Bunch, a cooking show for children fronted by daughter Matilda and featuring the rest of the family, now in its fourth series. “She’s a natural and they all grew up with a love of food,” he said. “While every other parent was buying their kids iPads and iPhones and Xboxes, I bought my kids pigs, lambs and sheep. They learned to understand the work ethic, how to not waste food and, more importantly, where food comes from.”
This and more in the MIPCOM 2017 Preview magazine, which you can read in full here!