The Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour is currently underway in Los Angeles and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay headlined a panel on Tuesday to promote his new National Geographic series “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted”.
In “Uncharted”, the host of such series as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” goes off the grid to visit six global destinations – Peru, Morocco, Laos, New Zealand, Hawaii and Alaska – delving into the connection between exploration, adventure and food.
Ramsay, who is currently in the midst of shooting the new season of “Hell’s Kitchen”, dismissed criticism alleging that “Uncharted” is a knockoff of the late Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown”.
“We took a lot of flak on the announcements with Nat Geo about rivalling Tony Bourdain, and that was incorrect,” Ramsay told the assembled journalists in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, home to the TCA press tour for the next two weeks.
“Judge the program, and the integrity, and the team that’s gone to hell and back to make this work,” he added. “So, to respect what he did and how he did it, I started this journey back in 2004, discovering India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and literally getting away from the three Michelin star setup with 25 chefs.”
According to Ramsay, the driving force behind the show is the notion of “how can you get something magical from two or $3 worth of ingredients? How do you turn that into something beautiful and make a family proud to eat – six of you – and survive on that for the next two to three days? That’s what this is all about and not getting carried away with the sort of highfalutin’ end. It’s scaling it back and unearthing those secrets that sometimes we’ve forgotten about.”
As one journalist pointed out, the perpetually foul-mouthed chef seems to curse considerably less on “Uncharted” than he does in his cooking competition shows, and Ramsay admitted there is a reason for that.
“The curse word is an industry language,” said Ramsay of using salty language in the kitchen. “And when you’re up against it with sort of high-pressured environments in kitchens, then you need to get that little sort of point across urgently. Out and about, on ‘Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted’, it’s not just being surrounded by incredible professionals. I’m not saying it’s easy with them, but they just made it so seamless for me to tap into their world and bed down, I think. But listen, I don’t go out of my way to curse; unfortunately, on several incidents it’s to do with the muppets I have to work with.”
Travelling to far-flung, remote locations alongside local experts also allows Ramsay a sense of anonymity he rarely experiences as a celebrity TV star.
“Going to those unchartered territories and not being recognized is a dream because they’ve got no idea who the hell you are,” Ramsay admitted. “Just this 220-pound guy with blond hair and white skin and doesn’t bend down tall enough to fit in the hut and can barely stand on his knees for longer than 45 minutes.”
And while not knowing the language spoken in the places he’s visiting could be seen as a barrier, Ramsay finds it to be a benefit.
“The fascinating thing about not even understanding their language and talking through food was a massive connect for me,” he explained, adding that working together on a meal offered its own type of communication.
“Because it brought us closer together instantly, without any sort of long-winded chat to explain who we were,” he added. “We got straight to the food, identified the ingredients, focused on the protein, and then tried to work out the mechanics. It wasn’t about having a beautiful Le Creuset or a cast iron non-stick pan.”
“Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” premieres Tuesday, August 27 on National Geographic.