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Gordon Ramsay: ‘It’s not in my DNA to sugarcoat things’

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 03, 2021 6:00 am

Last year I was supposed to be part of a media conference call interviewing Gordon Ramsay about Season 2 of his National Geographic show Uncharted, but it was the early days of the pandemic, so the call never happened.

This year we’re on to the third season of Uncharted, a food show in which the multi-Michelin star chef and Ironman athlete, who in his Hell’s Kitchen days was notorious for his brutal honesty and short temper, visits a different country per episode, learns about the cuisine from a local expert, and has culinary adventures in preparation for a final cook-off with that expert, collecting ingredients and usually being humbled in the process.

I had some big challenges at the cook-offs because the chefs had been sharpening their knives for months waiting for me to take them on! 

This season, Ramsay travels through Portugal, Croatia, Mexico, Texas, Maine, Puerto Rico, Iceland, and America's Smoky Mountains. The peripatetic chef is always so busy traveling that he still hasn’t found time to sit down with the media. National Geographic, however, had a Q&A with him, and shared their insider’s perspective.

What is it that people seem to love most about Uncharted?

GORDON RAMSAY: People love the adventure, but I think they appreciate my honesty. It’s not in my DNA to sugarcoat things, so if something tastes terrible, I’m not afraid to say it or in some cases spit it out… sorry to our photographer who was in my line of fire in Iceland.

 In Uncharted’s Puerto Rico episode, chef Gordon Ramsay prepares a red snapper ceviche with avocado for the final cook-off.

You tackle some scary challenges for the show. What’s the scariest and what does your family think?

I think for me, the scariest had to be getting percebes (goose barnacles) in Portugal. No wires, no harnesses, just me, the ocean and some very dangerous rock formations. As for my family, I tend to keep it a secret until after I finish, except for my son Jack. He’s a Royal Marine so this old man’s got to keep up with him somehow! 

Uncharted takes you away from a studio and a set. How do you prepare for the physicality of the experiences and being in the wild where anything can happen and making sure it’s all COVID-safe?

Even when I’m on set, I’m keeping physically fit off of it. Bike rides, runs on the treadmill — it’s my escape and I love it. So when I hit the ground on Uncharted, I love it, because it takes my training to the next level with practical uses.

As for keeping everything COVID-safe, that comes down to our incredible crew, who take it just as seriously as I do with testing, temperature checks and mask wearing. We wouldn’t have 10 incredible episodes if it weren’t for them. 

We’ve all been sheltering for over a year now. How excited are you to introduce viewers to new lands and cultures and cuisines?

I couldn’t be more thrilled and I hope viewers are as well! We were one of the first shows to be back on the road during the pandemic and it allowed us to get access to some pretty incredible places and people.

I think more so than ever, the locals weren’t afraid anymore to share how incredible their culture and cuisine truly is. I had some big challenges at the cook-offs because the chefs had been sharpening their knives for months waiting for me to take them on! 

What were your top three experiences this season and why?

My top three has to be: percebes capturing in Portugal. One of the most dangerous things I’ve done on Uncharted and also one of the simplest ingredients to cook with. Herding cattle in Texas with helicopters and cowgirls. I mean, does it get more Uncharted than that? And my final one would be playing Swamp Football (soccer) in Finland. I love my sports but that was tough!

Are you ever unsure of any of the dishes you put in front of the local judges?

I’m as confident as I can be after taking in everything I learned during the week. Sometimes I think it’s my competition who’s unsure! They can sometimes veer off from the traditional ways to try to impress me, instead of the locals. But it is good for me to lose here and there… makes me stronger in future cook-offs! 

 In his quest to unearth the region’s culinary secrets, Ramsay must rappel down a treacherous waterfall in “The Great Smoky Mountains” episode of Uncharted.

How has this show changed the way you look at not just food, but life in general?

Uncharted makes you appreciate the small purveyors, unique local ingredients and stunning landscapes that the world has to offer. But in general, it makes you see how close the world is and how important family is in it. I mean, I never in my wildest dreams expected to see a Cornish pasty in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!

What were some of the most surprising ingredients you worked with this season?

I think the most surprising ingredient I discovered was the honey ants in Mexico. Most of the time we want to kill ants, but here were these ants coming out of the ground producing the most incredible flavors I’ve ever had. I’d also say cloudberries in Finland. Walking around the marsh and finding these incredibly unique berries was extraordinary and was a must in my final cook! 

What new recipes will be popping up in your restaurants inspired by the tastes you’ve found this season?

You’ll definitely see some tastes of Texas, Puerto Rico and the Great Smokys pop up in the US. I was so impressed with the quality of seafood in Iceland that I hope I can bring some of those incredible scallops and lava salt over. The one thing I won’t be bringing is that bloody wooden plank from Finland! There’s a reason we don’t have that in London! 

 Exploring Lapland: Ramsay learns how to cook like a local in northern Finland.

Why is National Geographic the perfect home for Uncharted?

National Geographic is home to exploration and adventure and I couldn’t think of anywhere else this show could be. The team at National Geographic bring their knowledge to every episode to make sure I uncover every stone and it’s because of that the show is as good as it is.

You had a star turn on TikTok with your daughter during the pandemic. How have you been enjoying that quality time with the family?

Trust me, it was fun for the first month until I became a breakfast line cook every day with everyone’s request. But by the time our first episode of Uncharted was being shot, I couldn’t wait to get exploring.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted S3 is now showing on National Geographic (Cignal: CH 141 SD + CH 240 HD / SkyCable: CH 41 SD + CH 195 HD) every Tuesday at 9 a.m., with an evening primetime repeat at 10 p.m.