Close Encounters of the Ramsay Kind
Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. Having only encountered his screen and print personas I was gigglingly exuberant at the thought of a direct encounter with Rammers. Well direct-ish. Just me and 500 other close Ramsay buddies at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney. An intimate lunch for 500, one of whom was GR. I got in on a cancellation so was seated at a back table far enough away to not be able to see the details of his famously battered visage.
I’ve never been much into celebrity. My brushes with fame are rare and usually obscure. I only count three as much worth recounting. Running up to Peter Ustinov in the Forum in Rome and then not knowing what to say to him. Hearing Jacques Derrida speak at the Sydney Town Hall and finally understanding his work on deconstruction in one blinding crystal clear insight. And when John Ralston Saul quoted me in a public lecture that I attended, well, that was swoon material. But other than Ustinov, don’t worry if you don’t know who these people are, I told you they were obscure. I wouldn’t know Paris Hilton if I fell over her, and many people I know wouldn’t have a clue who Gordon Ramsay is either, which just goes to show our fame preferences are all resolutely individual. But I digress.
After some champagne to start and the opportunity to purchase a range of Dymocks’ Ramsay collection, including the new cookbook and memoir, we settled down to have a chat with the people at our table who all seemed similarly buzzed to be there. A hush. Sotto voice. There he is. Where? There. Look. He’s here. Necks craned, eyes darting. GR nimbly waltzing through the tables down to the front. Right. Now we have action.
A few things crossed my mind while contemplating this lunch. Would we be treated to a famous Ramsay outburst? Would there be a tantrum of Krakatoan proportions? Would he drop the eff word every sentence? How much biffo can I expect for my $68.00? The note at the end of the menu reads “please switch off all mobile phones”. A clue for a would-be troublemaker wanting to rile La Ramsay? We’re greeted by Don Dymocks and reminded about the raffle with prizes of Ramsay’s new Royal Doulton crockery and glassware collection. What the heck, it’s for charity, 3 tickets for $10.
Our plates arrive and the De Bortoli Willowglen range flows freely. The menu is from the new cookbook Sunday Lunch. Lamb Rump with Herb Cous Cous and Spiced Aubergine (picture above). A ruddy hunk of meat atop the aubergine, which comes in the form of a puree, and a smattering of cous cous. Bloke food. Cooked just right, pink and tender. Carved thick. Which brings me to another musing. How would you go in the kitchen of a big hotel function department cooking a meal for Gordon Ramsay and 500 of his new best friends from his own recipe book? I bet there are more than a few frazzled nerves out there at the moment. I bet the dealer is doing a roaring trade today.
Some of my suspicions are borne out when Rammers applauds the lamb but is strangely silent on the subject of the lemon tart dessert (pictured left). It’s ok, but a tempered citron hit, cloudy, slightly grainy in texture, shrinking away from the crumbly pasty which is a little too thick on the outside rim and perhaps a tad underdone. Ouch. Someone’s pastry fingers are about to get burnt.
So it’s on to the entertainment, with a few anecdotes and stories about life, food, tempers, empires and how great it is to be back in Sydney. True to form there are the digs at other colleagues (‘never trust a chef with a pony tail’) the media (‘Tracey Grimshaw – can’t we just leave it at Tracey Grim? No part of her body is more than six months old’) and possible new TV shows (‘I couldn’t tell you who we’ve picked for Kitchen Nightmares in Australia … Luke Mangan’s restaurant!’). Then questions from audience members who were predictably heckled by Ramsay for being cheeky or asking tough questions, or just for standing up – all very good naturedly, for sure.
Applause, thank you’s and on to the book signing as the queue grew and snaked around the room. As I waited to ease my way through the queue and the crush of departing diners, I felt two hands on my shoulders as someone squeezed past me, and a soft British accent said from behind “S’cuse me darling. My! Doesn’t everyone look glamorous today?” Touched by Gordon Ramsay. Wow. That might have to go on my ‘brushes with fame’ list next to Peter Ustinov.
But whereas I got the hands-on-shoulders treatment, Julia (who was also there that day) got the business end, so to speak. I totally understand the mumbling, burbling effect it has on you.
Others have alluded to the Mr Darcy effect, but he puts out more of the Rhett Butlers for me.
Ultimately it was an entertaining gig with very decent food. And not that I’m obsessing, but at only $18 more than a certain ‘hands on’ cooking experience I recently attended, exceptionally good value. But enough about that, time to move on.
Oh, and guess what? I won the raffle. A set of Ramsay glassware by Royal Doulton is on its way to me as I write. There’s nothing like celebrity and luck all rolled into one.