Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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.


Blogger Julia said...

That is a BRILLIANT roundup of the lunch, much better than my tipsy musings were. And yes, I picked up on him approving the lamb but not the tart, and it sounds like we all felt the same.

I am SO HAPPY that you won the raffle (when they called out the number I realised it was you as it was the number before my tickets!). What a thrill!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

Why aren't there aany bad girl chefs?

3:17 PM  
Anonymous florizal said...

That was you who won the glassware! We were sitting at table was a good afternoon huh?

3:33 PM  
Blogger PiCkLeS said...

you won? oh wow! that's fantastic!! the rump looked soo delicious!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hi Julia - I never win anything - but you got the kiss so you relly won :)

Good question Ed. Do you count Chris Manfield? But she bats for the other team, I guess. Search is on for bad girl chefs.

Hi Florizal - yep it was me. It was a fun afternoon for sure. Thoroughtly enjoyed it.

The rump was great Pickles - as I said, real bloke food. Good nosh :)

4:13 PM  
Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

ooh hooray for you! lovely lunch, touched by Mr Darcy, winner of the raffle... does it get any better?!?

all this frenzy over GR. it makes you feel like you're 14 all over again :)

4:14 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

What a funny wrap up. I didn't know Mr Ramsay exuded the Darcy effect. I thought Mr Darcy was a nice guy, whereas Mr Ramsay is a lot of swearing.

And yes, who are Ustinov, Derrida and Saul. I've vaguely heard of Ustinov, he's an actor? The name Derrida rings a bell but what does he do?

7:13 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

It's almost as good as it gets Helen, and yes it is a bit like a rock star visiting town.

That's why he's more Rhett Butler for me Thanh. Darcy's just not quite bad enough. And yes Ustinov is (was) an actor and the other two are philosophers/ theorists. I warned you it was obscure :)

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Ellie said...

I can see the Rhett effect - Darcy was cold, but always ridiculously polite (in that standoffish manner). Glad you had a good night, winning the glassware would've just been the icing on this spesh cake!

9:33 AM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

Thats where I have heard the name Derrida. I've just recently taken up reading philosophy books. I must look up his works.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

Christine Mansfield's never done it for me. I don't think she's bad girl but she definately has a bad haircut. Perhaps I shall become a Malcolm McLaren style svengali, discover her working in sone dive cafe – even better KFC – and create my own media bad girl chef.

7:07 PM  
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