Ramsay ‘stokes myth of bullying chef’, says restaurateur Ruth Rogers – Cheltenham Festival of Literature

12 10 2009
October 13, 2009

Gordon Ramsay was criticised by a friend and fellow restaurateur yesterday for stoking the myth that chefs are bullying autocrats who thrive under pressure.

Ruth Rogers, a co-founder of The River Café, suggested that Ramsay is not as short-tempered as he allows himself to appear on television but plays along with it because it boosts ratings. His programmes give an unfair impression of their profession, she said.

Lady Rogers, who is married to the architect Lord Rogers of Riverside was asked at The Times Cheltenham Festival of Literature whether she approved of the portrayal of chefs as dictators. “Are you talking about Gordon Ramsay?” she replied.

“I like Gordon and I know him and he’s not like that. It does upset me that in order to make good television you have to take our profession to a ludicrous idea of shouting and bullying and this very old-fashioned way of running a kitchen. Our kitchen [at the River Café] is in our restaurant so it forces you to have good behaviour — but of course, it would happen anyway.

“I never understand why chefs are any different from writers or architects or designers or doctors or lawyers. To get the best out of anyone in a work situation would be through hope rather than fear. I don’t think anybody would work in a kitchen with somebody stood over them with a [frying pan].”

She said that she had heard horror stories about restaurant kitchens but that they were exceptional. “A chef once told me that she worked in a kitchen where [her boss] stood over her with a frying pan. I said, ‘You should march him to a police station.’ I really don’t think anyone has a right to do that to anybody. We know it’s against the law. And I think that the myth that you get better cooking by being stressed is completely wrong.”

Ramsay, 42, who will appear on television next month in the fifth series of The F Word, responded yesterday that he does lose his temper, but he would not be drawn on the accuracy of his programmes.

“My staff know the real me and as many of them have been with me for 15 years I hope that is a testament to my fairness,” he said in a statement. “That is not to say I don’t lose my temper when things go wrong because I do. But they all know I do it with a mind to improving the business, the standard of our cooking and their long-term careers in the kitchen.”

Lady Rogers, 61, who was promoting The River Café Classic Italian Cookbook, which she co-authored with Rose Gray, said that she did not disapprove of celebrity chefs per se. “If it is the right programme I’m all for spreading the word. I think that television … some of the [shows] are too much about lifestyle and not enough about food.”

She also said that people who bought cookbooks should be able to rely on the recipes to deliver good food and read out the telephone number for her restaurant so that audience members could call if they had any questions.

“We do get phone calls in the middle of lunch with women saying, ‘How do you do this?’ We always stop and help. I guarantee these recipes always do work [if you follow the instructions].

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