Chef Gordon Ramsay has given up on Beef Wellington.
As any fan of "Hell's Kitchen" knows that savory hunk of beef topped with pate and duxelles and wrapped in puff pastry has been the Waterloo for countless otherwise capable chefs.
"I’ve thrown the towel in," Ramsay told reporters on a Wednesday (Jan. 28) conference call. "I’m so frustrated. That dish cooks itself. The battle of that dish, 90% of the organization is done sort of for you. So it’s a dish that is down to pure timing. You don’t even tough it in a way that it’s cooked in a convection oven and then you slice the end, trim it and serve it. It’s a joy and something that I’m going to admit the seat on that front and take off the Beef Wellington. And I suppose that’s the one dish that helps to make me feel less homesick when I’m spending as much time as I am over here. I know how to do it perfectly. And even my children know how to do it perfectly. So when I see these muppets messing around, and all they have to do is prep it perfectly and it cooks itself. You don’t touch it, you don’t sear it, you don’t season it, it’s just done. Put it in the oven, let it go. So yes, hands down, no more Wellington."
But was Ramsay's No More Wellington policy already in effect when the latest group of contestants entered Hell's Kitchen? Viewers will be able to discover on Thursday when FOX premieres the new season of the high-intensity cooking show.
[Other highlights from Ramsay's chat with the press after the bump...]
Wellington failures aside, Ramsay is enthusiastic about this season's contestants.
"By the end of the day, I have to be honest, season five for me is: a) the most competitive; b) I will stick my neck out on this one and the top four contestants this year could have quite easily won in any of the previous years," he says. "So that’s what I’m faced with in terms of talent. Very exciting because it’s just raising the game and the prime time thing, you know, that’s not relevant to me because that’s not what I’m about. But of course it’s of great importance, but more importantly I focus on the talent. And I go through that shit fight for the first six or seven weeks and then I get rid of the sort of donkeys and I focus on the talent."
Ramsay has been doing this show for a number of years in the States and The U.K. but his ability to reduce an otherwise stable grown-up to dears with a well-placed expletive (or 10) never fails to impress. He denied the idea that he's had to raise the level of his own assaults to keep the contestants from getting desensitized.
"I'd have to put myself in a more awkward manner to become tougher on them. I scream for talent I want to challenge everyone, because that’s where I’m at home," he says. "I have that level of perfection that’s been inside for a long time. Passing on that knowledge of making them better individuals is part of the enjoyment, I suppose – the payback for me. But you’re always going to be confronted and you’re always going to get sort of on the spot scenarios, and it’s quite interesting when you look at their individual characters. And of course it gets a little bit busy for the first couple of weeks because there’s so many of them and you’re trying to focus on the good ones and understand the weak points, and I came to help the weak ones, throw them some form of life line and if they don’t respond, then they’ve got to go."
Because Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares" aired on FOX all through the fall (and he's constantly popping up on BBC America), it's hard to imagine the blustery chef becoming even more visible on FOX, but he reports that a long-in-the-works live cooking show is in the works for the network.
"I can’t wait to go live. I suppose the frustration is the sort of cooking shows on air currently that don’t cook," Ramsay says. "It’s one that was prepped earlier by some home economist behind the scenes and that’s not cooking. Cooking is a passion and it’s live and it’s really nice to show that journey from a raw ingredient to an hour later something finished. And for me the confidence levels go up tenfold, a 1000 percent, because you’re following it and it’s changing its texture and the flavor’s getting better and you get more and more confident as you start with a raw ingredient. So, I’m really excited that Fox is excited about the live show and it’s something I can’t wait for."
He pauses, "No cursing, that’s the deal. So I’m f***ed."
"Hell's Kitchen" began as a summer show, one of FOX's most reliable. Naturally, FOX has gradually moves the series earlier and earlier into the regular season. As the fifth installment premieres, "Hell's Kitchen" will have to share the landscape with Bravo's "Top Chef New York" and soon with a new competition cooking show on NBC.
How does Chef Ramsay feel his show stacks up?
"I get told by [my producer] I had one that didn’t get 'Hell’s Kitchen' and ended up on 'Top Chef,'" Ramsay chuckles. "So there’s obviously a huge competitive streak there. 'Top Chef' has done phenomenally well and is doing brilliantly on Bravo. Where I find my frustration with 'Top Chef' is a challenge is a challenge. I put my contestants, my chefs under real scrutiny, that they’re running a restaurant because I’m giving the restaurant away. So the jeopardy is not because they’re a lot more important, but I put them through the paces and understand that it’s more of an entrepreneurial skill as well, not just dealing with the kitchen, the management, the delegations, the level of professionalism, but the overall aspect of it. Chefs today have got to be better than just cooks. They have to be more applicable to the ever changing climate."
But can the "Top Chef" contestants master Beef Wellington?