Award-winning celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay did his first Reddit Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) on Sunday, offering thoughtful answers on everything from the best meal he’s ever had to his advice for aspiring chefs.
The AMA took a serious turn when a struggling chef asked for Ramsay’s advice on how to cope with the stressful life of a cook in a high-end kitchen.
The chef described his “disaster” of a home-life, his “deadbeat” father, and the few moments on the dining room floor that make “the previous 14-hours of sweat and tears kind of worthwhile.”
Ramsay, who has berated chefs on “Hells Kitchen” for years, seemed genuinely moved by the Redditor’s plea and offered impassioned advice for anyone dealing with burnout, telling the chef: “Never give up. But don’t be scared to take a break.”
Near the end of his response, Ramsay made the chef a potentially life-changing offer: the chance to work at one of his restaurants.
“Listen – if you send me your resume, I could look at putting you into one of the restaurants as a work experience, if you want to see something different, in order to make sure you don’t come off the rails, to see something different, to create that level of interest,” wrote Ramsay.
Fellow cook here, although I’m a little down the road from where you are now. I have a question for you, since you have been there and done that.
I’m working in a Michelin kitchen right now, toiling away, hours after hours, days after days. My hopes and dreams are nowhere to be found as I scale and portion salmon after salmon, shelling pods after pods of broad beans.
My body is calling for maintenance nightly when I hit the sack. I need to eat more, put in a little more weight training, need a little massage to sort out the neck and the lower back. My home life, it’s a fucking disaster, like all cooks. The closing thing I have to a father is the menacing figure prancing around at the pass, barking commands and bollockings when needed. He won’t have the time to listen to my shit, because all the other cooks around me are in the same shit. Some have come from council houses, some are recovering addicts, one has been in jail. There’s only one guy who has a still happily-married parents, and he’s the Cordon Bleu-graduating white boy who helps on the larder section.
Sometimes I look out the tiny window and I can see people walking around the streets, enjoying the sunlight, while I’m here, questioning my dedication to this art as I rotate stock in the cool room, getting frost bitten, but the fear of the chef stops me from stepping outside to warm up. When a waitress walks in to clear plates, I sometimes would look up just in time to see a beautiful room full of happily-fed and merrily drunk people. They actually look happy, like, what the fuck? How can anyone be as happy as our diners are? I have a fucking deadbeat father living on the other side of the planet, calling me up for money once every six months. Friends, women, any kind of company, I can only dream about. The closest thing to feeling any kind of joy I get is those rare moments when I walk through the dining room near the end of service to get some coffee for everyone, and there will be a few diners, left, idly sampling those little petite fours that we’ve painstakingly ensured are all perfectly round, identical and just plain delicious. Then, one of them will stop the conversation they’re having with their company, look up from their food and say, ‘thank you chef. this is delicious’, and making the previous 14-hours of sweat and tears kind of worthwhile.
My question is, how did you deal with it? How the fuck did you deal with all the bullshit, Gordon? Because ‘thank you chef’ is nice and all. Very nice in fact, that sometimes I have to hold back the tears and let them lose in the cobweb-filled staff toilet like a fucking degenerate, crying over a compliment because it was the closing thing to being happy in months.’Thank you chef’ doesn’t end my mother’s misery and help her deal with my little sister’s whoring ways. ‘Thank you chef’ doesn’t make my dad grow some balls and start taking charge of his life. ‘Thank you chef’ didn’t help your brother stop being a junky and lifted your family from poverty. It doesn’t fucking help any of us in the grand scheme of things, for heaven’s sake, so you tell me, Gordon. Whatever you tell me, I’ll listen.
PS – Your tag says ‘Actor/Entertainer’. Yeah, we’re gonna need Victoria to sort that shit out mate.
Edit: Because this comment got too big, I’m afraid of Doxxing…so good bye username!
That’s an amazing question.
First of all, I’ve been in your shoes, and what you need to do is take a break.
So I came out of my training in Paris, after getting my arse kicked in some of the best restaurants in the world. I took some time off, and got aboard a boat, and was a private chef on a yacht. And those 6-9 months off allowed me to regenerate.
I’d run myself into the ground, as you described.
Cooking at this level is so intense. So don’t give up. Be honest with yourself, and take a month out.
Now if that month out – just stepping back – if there’s one thing I’ve taught my young chefs today it’s to work hard, and not get disillusioned with the bigger picture.
That’s the most important thing about cooking – you may be working down the road for me here in Atlantic City, but you could travel the world and still get a job in the kitchen, and still get time off in the same time. So that’s what i would suggest, stepping back for a month, shutting everything down, and then starting up again in 4 or 5 week’s time.
Listen – if you send me your resume, I could look at putting you into one of the restaurants as a work experience, if you want to see something different, in order to make sure you don’t come off the rails, to see something different, to create that level of interest.
Never give up. But don’t be scared to take a break. I did it myself, travelled the world, through Sardinia, Sicily, and had the most amazing time, and what i learned after that experience was that I could do in 1 hour on a boat what i was doing in 14-15 hours in the professional kitchen. It confirms what you’ve learned, when you walk into a new establishment. It shows how strong you are.