He’s the Michelin-starred MasterChef who rose to celebrity in the profanity laden Hell’s Kitchen while creating sinfully delicious food in his signature restaurants. And if that’s not enough, Gordon Ramsay is an accomplished marathoner and triathlete, who is set to take on the 140.6 miles of swim, bike, run at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October.
Ramsay dives into sport with the same passion he exudes for haute cuisine. A budding professional soccer career was cut short by a knee injury when he was a teenager. He trained in the hospitality industry, then turned to food and the restaurant business and has never looked back.
He divides his home time between Los Angeles and London, owns 28 restaurants around the world, stars in four top-rated television shows (Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, MasterChef Jr., and Hotel Hell) that air in more than 200 territories worldwide. In the U.K. he stars in Gordon Behind Bars, Ultimate Cookery Course, Gordon’s Great Escapes and Gordon Ramsay: Shark Bait. His autobiography Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen and several cookbooks are international bestsellers.
Ramsay started running marathons almost 15 years ago and got hooked on triathlon in 2011. He raced Kona for the first time in 2013 and stopped the clock in 14:04:48. Along his training road he has dropped 30 pounds, down to 200 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame. He races at 190.
He heads most lists that pick the world’s top chefs, but the thrill of hearing the race announcer declare: “Gordon Ramsay, You are an Ironman!” provides “a sense of accomplishment you can’t imagine.”
Chef & Triathlete Gordon Ramsay
Born: Nov. 8, 1966 (age 48)
Birthplace: Johnstone, Scotland
Residence(s): Los Angeles, South London
Family: Tana (wife), Megan, 16, Matilda (Tilly), 13, and 15-year-old twins, Jack and Holly
IMPACT got to interview Ramsay for this inaugural Food & Fitness Issue and here’s what he had to say…
Food, like sport, is evolving as a competitive endeavour. What are the parallels in your life between the two?
Both cooking and training require dedication, patience, and stamina. I train as intensely as I run a kitchen. I’ve always been competitive and have to tell myself to slow-down because I’m always going a thousand miles an hour. There’s pressure in both environments, the key is finding the balance. If not, you will burn out or injure yourself.
Sport and athletic pursuits are all about striving. When 1,000 people start a race, only one person crosses the finish line first, but every participant on a personal journey will win in one way or another. Describe your journey.
I’m always thinking about food; recipes and dishes. I work 14-15 hours a day to perfect an absolutely stunning dish and it disappears in two and half minutes. But in that time, you get on that journey and nothing else matters, I get lost in it and it’s the same when I get in the water and I’m training my ass off and then all of a sudden there’s this sunrise. I’m in a completely different world.
Why do you train and race?
This is my way of relaxing and decompressing. I can get my thought process together and get clarity between a hectic service, hectic dish or customer. It’s my escape. Competing in races helps me stay motivated by trying to improve every time.
Describe a typical day/week when you have TV tapings and training? Where do you fit in those brick workouts?
If I have a race coming up I will put in up to 25 hours of training during a week. Up at 4 a.m., in the pool by 4:30 for a one-hour-and-15 minute swim three days a week, followed by two-and-a-half hours on the bike. I get in a 10K and 20K run also during the week. Saturdays I do a long run and long bike ride and then Sundays I do absolutely nothing! I train hard six days, one day off. Right now, I’m gearing up for Kona in October.
Where do you train?
In Los Angeles, I enjoy running and biking through Malibu’s canyons and swimming in the ocean. I have a no-nonsense swim coach, Gerry Rodrigues, very old school authority and I love it! You better show up and be ready to work. In London, my trainer takes me out on the London Olympic course or I’ll run through Richmond Park. When on the road shooting, I’ll take my bike on location with me and ride during filming breaks.
How does your coach motivate you? Does he swear at you?
The most exciting thing about all coaches is keeping it real. Tough love, firm but fair. I dish a lot out, so I can take it.
Many athletes do their best thinking when they are training. Do you have those ah-ha moments?
I’m always thinking about food, it’s how I get through the swims, runs and biking. I’ve come up with three chapters for one of my cookbooks. When you are on a bike for three hours, you have to come up with something to think about.
What is your nutrition strategy when you are training?
My family and I have always had healthy eating habits. We cook often, always use fresh produce in season. I eat five meals a day, small portions. I start my day with oatmeal or muesli and protein-rich dishes such as poached fish and chicken. When training, I typically cut down the dairy — it makes me feel sedated. I still have it in tea, and butter from time to time, but I feel a lot sharper when I cut it out.
So many athletes today are fuelling with packaged protein, making shakes, sucking carb gels and dining on energy bars. What do you think about that kind of nutrition strategy?
People underestimate the importance of food and you need it, especially in sports. When I’m on a long ride or run I fuel with Clif Bars and Bloks. GU has a salted caramel flavour that I really like, but I stay away from chocolate because it doesn’t make me feel good. Everyone is different. I don’t fuel off these when I’m not physically training. I’ll make a green juice with lots of green, leafy vegetables. We’ll make fruit and nut bars from scratch or a tuna nicoise salad, which is one of my post-training go to meals.
You have a reputation as tough and gruff, raging chef, but your TV personality shows off a softer side as well – you really seem to be one of the world’s most passionate people. Describe your passions in life, your personality and the impact sport has had on your life?
I’m a perfectionist and very passionate when it comes to cooking and my work, I’ve always been like that. However, some people mistake my passion for anger, but when it comes to family, I’m the softie. I actually once cried when my 13 year-old got upset over her scrambled eggs! Without the training I would be a wreck. I’ve seen so many chefs crash and burn, training is my release.
What’s your favourite TV story?
At one MasterChef audition, we had someone bring in mac & cheese. Presentation was good, it was topped with cheese and when I tasted it, I thought this is very sweet, I asked, how did you make this thing? And she said, “with breast milk.” I was speechless! Though I have been lucky enough to travel extensively, I’m still occasionally surprised by ethnic dishes that I have never tried before. On this current season of MasterChef, Hethal who has Gurgurati heritage, made Khichdi which is a dish given to Indian kids when they’re feeling under the weather. It’s a gently spiced, mushy split pea and rice concoction. Perfect comfort food. Absolutely bloody delicious!
What’s your favourite race story?
I remember when I did Kona in 2013, being in the water and thinking this is extraordinary, it’s 5:15 a.m., we are about to swim 3.8K. I look under the water and it’s like Finding Nemo: there is this amazing array of fish. I knew then that if I was going to continue to run all these restaurants, I needed to stay fit. This was the way to do it. I can’t wait to do Kona again this year.
What’s your history with Canada?
I fell in love with Canada about 15 years ago when I remember turning up to one of my first major book signings and there were 4,500 people turned out, which was quite mind blowing. The food scene in Toronto, Montreal is excellent and one of my favourite restaurants of all time is Araxi at Whistler because everything is sorted within 100 miles: fish, meat, dairy. And I think my wife, Tana, and I might be retiring to Vancouver one day.
Is your family involved in your training and racing?
Tana has been running for years. We’ve done a couple of marathons together. She always wants to beat me. We recently did a half-Ironman in Staffordshire in June. It was her first. We had a team of athletes compete with us to raise money for our foundation, which goes to helping charities including cancer research and Scottish Spina Bifida Association. All the kids are active. They’ll go for hikes, or surfing. Jack, my son, swims brilliantly; he’s looking to do a triathlon.
What’s your take on sourcing food?
I won’t eat frozen food. We go to the local market and pick up fresh produce that is in season. Our restaurants buy from local markets.
What’s next for Gordon Ramsay?
We’ve recently announced the opening of two new restaurants as part of our global expansion, one in Bordeaux and another in Dubai. We’ll continue shooting my shows in the coming months and focus on training for Kona.
The Chef’s Favourites
Team: Manchester United
Discipline: Swimming, because it uses every muscle in the body.
Kitchen mantra: “If it’s not perfect don’t send it.”
Racecourse mantra: “Don’t chase it, let it come to you.”
Restaurant: Araxi, Whistler, B.C.
Wine: Billecart Salmon Rosé
Book: The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica
First marathon: 2000 in London
First triathlon: 2012 in Las Vegas
Your bike: Specialized, it’s a beast
Your wetsuit: HUUB. Keeps a big chef like me afloat.
Your running shoes: ASICS