Ramsay is always a great interview, and unlike how he appears on Hell’s Kitchen, he is really patient and interactive. Let’s take a look at what he has to say about the new season of MasterChef.
More after the jump.
On what they expect from contestants, the one thing they expect every one to have
So, the one thing I expected when they walked into the MasterChef kitchen was determination. Determination, with a really ballsy attitude. I think what’s happened over the last 18 months or two years in terms of the disposable income that we haven’t had to go and eat out in restaurants as often as you would like. So, everybody is watching the pennies, everyone is very careful. So, therefore, we’ll be cooking more at home, and on the back of cooking at home more often, maybe, three, four, or even five times a week, what’s happened, naturally, is they’ve got better. They got more competitive, because there’s more TV shows, more magazines, sourcing food is so much more easier. So, they, as individuals came in with a much more so sort of toned ambition. Almost in a way that they wanted to sort of set the bar thoroughly on in the MasterChef kitchen.
[Note from Megan: It’s true, we’re all cooking at home more often. As a mom/wife, I am always looking for better recipes to make my family enjoy their dinner more.]
On the most standout meal they’ve had cooked this season so far
The most standout meal I’ve had cooked was quite early on, and it was was amazing. It was a chicken drum and a chicken leg, and it was done with this homemade garam masala. So, it was like a sort of Southern take on a sort of light Indian spiced. But this lady was a brain surgeon, and she ground her own spice for a living, and she sort of sold it to her friends on the school run. Can you imagine, those little bags of spice being dropped off to parents when they’re checking in with the kids at school. So, it was sort of light Southern Indian spiced coconut chicken dish. Mind blowing.
[Time for my questions! :D]
My question #1: When you work on Hell’s Kitchen, you’re working with professional chefs, and when you work on MasterChef, you’re with amateur chefs; what’s the biggest difference between them? Is it really possible for an amateur chef to possibly be the level of a professional chef?
If you asked me that question three years ago, Megan, I would have said that the difference was night and day. Now, hand on heart, the difference is pretty much insignificant and is quite scary in a way on how good the home cooks are becoming. So, it’s a breath of fresh air, really, that the domestic front can give the professional chefs, me including, a boot up the ass. Why? I’m not saying we got complacent, far from it. But they’re getting good. I mean, they are getting very good. So, they, obviously, had a little bit more time on the hands, but they are obsessed foodies, and I would now confirm that we’re a nation of foodies here. There was one lady in the competition who actually went to have her knives made to fit her hand. She actually went to a specialist that got the grip focused around her hand. I mean, soccer players get their football boots made to measure, models get dresses and shoes made to measure. You’re having these domestic goddesses now that go and get knives made to fit their hands. I mean, Jesus, I’ve never heard of that before.
[Note From Me: I think it’s great how he addresses the person asking the question by their first name, showing that he’s listening. A nation of foodies indeed. Can you imagine getting knives made to fit your hand? A part of me squealed in delight at the prospect. :D]
My question #1: Do you think that perhaps the reason why home chefs are becoming so good is because of all the food and cooking shows on television today?
Yeah, I mean to your question, Megan, I think the exposure with the TV shows in general, and not just the magazines, the Internet, the little quick 90-second YouTube clips. I mean, they’re getting more and more exciting. And of course, look at the kitchens available now: from an amazing stove to amazing pots/pans. So, yeah, it all has a huge sort of effect, and nothing but a plus situation. I mean, there’s so much freedom cooking. You know, and if you are stressed out; there’s one lady, I mentioned earlier, who was this unique brain surgeon, and she used cooking as a way of de-stressing. Well, I know thousands of chefs professionally that think cooking is stressful. How cool was that for this lady to come on the program and sit there and say, ‘Cooking, stressful my ass. You should see what I do for a living. Cooking is easy, it’s a way of de-stressing.’ And it made us all sit up and say, ‘Um, she has a point.’
[Note from Megan: For me, cooking is relaxing if I have the time to do it the way I like to. I love baking, and that’s relaxing for me. Another big part of cooking for me is watching others enjoy my food. Whether it’s a simple sandwich or a homemade lasagna, I love when people are happy with my dishes.]
On the biggest thing he took away from the first season
The biggest thing I took away from the first season; I got a little bit scared, to be honest. Whitney Miller, at the age 21, 22 years of age, I saw her again three weeks ago, putting the final touch to her cookbook, I just couldn’t quite believe how trained her palette was. I mean, MasterChef is a phenomenon in the U.K. and it is globally, but I didn’t actually think it would be as big as it was in the States. You know, you go to the food halls, you look at all the food trucks, you go to the shops, you go to the malls, you see how busy the restaurants are, you see how excited young kids are cooking. I’m fed up with that sort of level of ignorance about chefs portray the wrong image, and chefs, you know, sending the wrong message out to kids with obesity and all that. It’s not kid’s fault; it’s the bloody parents’ fault, and you can’t blame an 11-year-old on what they eat, it’s the parents. So, there’s a huge responsibility and the biggest scare for me was how competitive they really are at home. I’m not talking about glamorous ingredients. I’m talking about a box of anchovies, some dry spaghetti, sun-dried tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and some fresh lemons. That’s not at all expensive.
[Note from Megan: That’s so true about it being the parents’ responsibility. If you don’t teach your children to enjoy healthy food from a young age, you’re setting them up for failure.]
On how this season’s contestants compare to last season’s group
This season’s contestants to last group, yeah, fascinating because, obviously, they’ve all seen the show, they all think they’re going to sort of outsmart the judges. We raised the bar. We became more competitive with the mystery box challenges. We had some pretty darned difficult, you know, out of the studio challenges, I mean, really tough, and in some remote locations. I think they came in better, to be honest, because we had different sort of sorts of cuisines, widespread from a phenomenal sort of lady who cooked Mexican food for her local school, a private school, and they wanted it sort of almost on a daily basis and food to go home as well . When was the last time you heard food from school to be taken home to go? We had a molecular gastronomy chef that wanted to cook with lots of liquid nitrogen and CO2 and dry ice. He looked like a professor, pushing his cart down. To the most amazing classic American. A phenomenal baker this year, as well, which, yeah, my God, the guy’s name was Ben Star, and what an appropriately named surname, Star, because he cooked like a star. I’ve never seen a man stick a carrot cake together with roasted pumpkin and come out as delicious as his did. It was quite mind blowing.
On what kind of criteria they are looking for in the next MasterChef
I love attitude. You know, when you got food ingredients in front of you, you need to be sort of quite ballsy and somewhat selfish with a part of arrogance and a big pair of balls to sort of say, ‘Hey, yeah, I can make this dish better than you.’ So, I don’t know. I never want to get into a superficial world where it all gets wrapped up in cotton wool and we’re always scared to say, ‘Shit, that taste delicious,’ or ‘Well done, it’s bloody amazing.’ So, I like that kind of attitude with the confidence, a smidgen of arrogance. It shows on the end delivery in terms of that dish, and I think it’s quite healthy to be ballsy.
On how MasterChef compares to the other cooking shows out there
How does it compare? Good question, really. I think it’s more of the combination of it’s quite high-end, it’s packed with adrenaline, it sort of family oriented, it’s a little bit of a few choice words in terms of peppered here, there and everywhere. Not from me, from the contestants.
And there’s a journey. Not just from the ingredients, but there’s a amazing journey with the contestants because these are home cooks. These are cooks coming out of their day job and are entering the realms of an amazing kitchen for an amazing prize. Yeah, it’s a cross sector. I mean, it’s quite an adventure this year; very, very competitive, but there’s a bit of fun along the way as well which, I think when you work that hard, you’ve got to release a bit of fun.
On contestants needing to be both calm and passionate and the challenges that presents when you’re making TV
Yeah, that’s a good question. Truthfully, to get the world of TV, you know, generating excitement and putting passion into ingredients in creating a dish over 45 minutes to an hour; the cameras are filming from a distance, so it’s not as if it’s sort of revved up purposely to make it look more exciting. When you’re flat and you approach an ingredient in a subdued manner and you want to sit there and stare them out for the next 20 minutes and sort of, you know, stroll along. I mean, you need to inject a bit a bit of energy because the more excitement you put into ingredients, the better the delivery in terms of taste. What I did try to, you know, enlist across all the challenges of MasterChef was pressure. Pressure’s healthy, Bill. Let’s get that right. You know, you don’t get anywhere in life without pressure. So, there is a sort of therapeutic side in terms of the relaxation cooking can be, but still under pressure, you really start to see people at their absolute best, and I think the ambitions of these young amateurs going out to the industry is that I don’t want to lead them into a false sense of security. So, cooking one dish in one challenge of 45 minutes is not like opening a restaurant. In 45 minutes in any restaurants tonight, tomorrow at lunch time, where it may be, you’re going to cook for 30 or 40. So, you’ve also got to sort of drop them into the real world a little bit, if that’s what they want to do on winning this competition. So, it’s a good point, but I don’t like it when the personality slacks. The sort of attitude is sort of somewhat dense, and they don’t gain that kind of love, care, and respect for those ingredients. And I’m not talking about glamorous ingredients from Wagyu beef to truffles to truffle oil. I’m talking about humble, exciting ingredients, the tri-tip, a plate of turnips, and the most amazing beets; you know, show me what you can do with a bag of beets, some goat cheese, and some puff pastry.
On whether or not he watches any other cooking shows on TV
I don’t really, but I do, to be totally honest. I tell everybody else I never watch them, but, of course, I do. I’m obsessed with them. Top Chef, because everyone wants to see me on there. Iron Chef, because they want me to go up against Mario Batali. If they can film Iron Chef between midnight and six o’clock in the morning, I’ll be very happy to take them on. All jokes apart, I do, and I watch them a lot. I quite enjoy the Top Chef, and I quite enjoy the MasterChef Juniors. I mean, to see nine-year-olds and ten-year-olds coming in, especially in the U.K. with that level of bravado and cockiness at the age of ten to say, ‘Hey, my spaghetti carbonara can knock yours for sticks,’ is quite funny. So, yeah, I’m quite excited about that. Although, Tara, my wife has downloaded on my iPad, Housewives of Beverly Hills and New York City. I mean, I can’t quite believe. I sat on the plane last week, and there it was on my iPad, and she said, ‘I thought you might want to watch it.’ ‘Ah, no. I’m a chef, darling, I don’t want to see ladies arguing and fighting over a glass of wine to who broke their nail.’
[Note from Megan: MasterChef Juniors? Oh we need an American version of that! I would love to see him on Iron Chef, he would be awesome. I agree, I do not watch The Real Housewives of “anywhere” and frankly, I don’t plan to. Give me a good cooking show or a crime drama anytime over watching that insanity. Although, you could give me their money… I’d like that. 😉 ]
That’s all the time he had for an interview today. I mean, that guy is super busy. I appreciate his time and his fantastic answers. Don’t forget to tune in to MasterChef on FOX at 8/7c.