We were lucky enough to meet and interview chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay when he was in Manhattan to talk about his latest book, “Healthy, Lean & Fit” (Grand Central Life & Style). Gordon, a Michelin-starred chef (the highest honor), owns 35 restaurants worldwide, is a husband and dad, and even finds time to compete in triathlons.
What are some healthy, on-the-go snacks for busy 10-year-olds?
I have three daughters. And every morning before school we cut up things like carrots, cucumber, apples and pears. Rub them with a little bit of lemon juice, or lime juice. And then we make up like a peanut butter smoothie. A little tub of peanut butter smoothie, and then carrots, cucumber, apples and pears. It’s almost like a little crudité of raw vegetables. Perfect snack for 10-year-olds.
What is your favorite recipe from your book?
That’s a really good question. I believe I would say oatmeal. Breakfast for me is an important one. If it’s not the muesli, it would be the oatmeal, and so we just start off our day with a good breakfast. Get a good breakfast, then we get off to a good day. No breakfast, bad day.
What makes your recipe so healthy and good?
The essence of the recipes in this book for me is all about finding that balance with a little bit of indulgence, a hint of dairy without going too crazy. It’s how I as a chef live and eat, and having four amazing children, how we find that balance between having good food, eating healthily, working hard, training hard and then having a treat at weekends.
How many books do you have, and what makes this one different from the others?
This is my 25th book. This one is so much different from the others because I spent the last three years writing it. And then with such a busy lifestyle, and 35 restaurants across the globe, and seven TV shows across America, my time was getting so congested and super-busy, so I decided to take up triathlon. And about seven years ago I did my first Ironman. And having that time out, away from the business, training hard, swimming, biking and running. An average triathlon would start off with a 3.8-km swim, 180-km bike, and then a marathon. So that kept me on my toes. And while I was doing that, I was writing these recipes down.
Where is your favorite place to cook?
My favorite place to cook would be at home in L.A. with Matilda. Matilda is our youngest daughter. And she’s been cooking now for about 10 years. I would say L.A. Produce is amazing. Everything is so fresh. And the sun shines every day in L.A.
Did you and your daughter, or any of your kids, have a cook-off?
Yes. So we have cook-offs normally on Saturday morning, because that’s a big breakfast for us. Tilly and Jack play water polo and after their two-hour water polo session on Saturday mornings, we all come home and do a big brunch. Tilly is always saying that her eggs are better than mine. I’m saying that my scrambled eggs are better than hers. She doesn’t like her eggs a little bit crispy. I like my eggs a little bit crispy. We have a little debate and we always have a cook-off about once a week minimum.
If you could do it over again, would you choose to be a chef or a professional soccer player?
Oh, that’s a tough question. Playing soccer was amazing. And having really good friends, you know, that are still amazing football or soccer players today. I miss it. But every year I play in a charity match in front of 80,000 people. I’m very lucky to be still involved. To do it all over again, my worry is that soccer players retire in their early 30s. And that’s a little bit too young to retire.
How long did it take you to get so good at cooking? And do you think you are a master at cooking?
I started cooking alongside my mom, who was a chef in a local restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon, where we grew up. And I used to go there after soccer practice and help her peel vegetables. I started around the age of 15 or 16. But then it really came to fruition when I went to live in France. I went to live in Paris for two years and the south of France for a year. And those three years in France for me, at the age of 21, was the most amazing experience ever. And I wish I’d studied harder at school with my French because I never thought I’d ever need it. And so when I got to France I wish I'd focused a little bit more on my French lessons. But I became fluent in French, and France — that was my calling.
Have you ever made something really amazing and then dropped it?
Yeah, I have. I got asked to do a special birthday surprise for a young man, his 18th birthday, and it was a filet beef Wellington. And his name was Simon, and on the top of this Wellington, I had his initials on there, Simon, and "Happy 18th." And I didn’t trust the waiter to go upstairs to take it to the table. I said, Leave it to me, I’ll do it. Now I’ve got size 15 feet, so they trip up quite often. When I got to the top of the stairs, I slipped on a little bit of grease, and then held this tray out, but the tray tipped and the Wellington rolled back down the stairs. It looked like a dog’s dinner. I had to go back upstairs and apologize to him that we did have a Wellington and I spent two days making this thing. That was a disaster for me.
Are you allergic to any foods?
I’m allergic to food critics. I come out in a rash. If there’s a food critic within a hundred-mile radius, I start having not only goose bumps but those red blotches that come all over me. Food critics, that’s the only thing I’m allergic to.
Are you insulted if someone sends something back, and what do you say?
There’s not a chef in the world that would feel unhappy if somebody sent a dish back. We strive for absolute perfection, but one thing we have to remember as chefs is the customer is always right. Even though they may not order the way that we'd want to eat a duck breast, medium-rare, or New York strip, medium-rare. If the customer wants it medium-well, it might not be the way of eating that meat properly, but that’s their decision, so when we get steaks sent back to the kitchen because they’re not cooked properly, yeah, it hurts. It really does hurt.
Melissa Levonick’s fifth-grade class, Wading River Elementary School