There was something slightly discomfiting about the way Gordon Ramsay answered the same question over and over on Larry King last night. After talking about his abusive father, he refused to see to any connection between his early years and his over-the-top anger. Larry was less annoying than usual as he intimated, as did various callers, that what he dishes out in the kitchen mirrors this childhood abuse.
Gordon tried to explain it away by saying that it takes THAT kind of passion when striving for unparalleled excellence. He repeated several times that slinging a burger or making a Caesar salad is one thing, but, what he does, requires an almost inhuman effort.
When asked by Larry if he was still angry at his father, he said he forgave him, but couldn't forget. Then Larry asked him about his own family. "Everything my father did, I'm doing the opposite"...as a father, even though he described himself as "never (being) a hands-on Daddy." I thought that was rather sad. I'm sure when he's home, he's a wonderful engaging father, but kids actually like to spend time with both parents.
I know his explosive personality is obviously what makes him so compelling to watch. And, obviously, he knows what he's talking about when it has to with food and restaurant kitchens. But I still would have preferred it if he had just come out and said, yes, a bad temper is in his blood...that he saw it modeled by his father for so long, and that's how HE learned to deal with conflict. A little self-knowledge goes a long way and it would probably make us watch him even more, if we knew he struggled to keep certain elements of his personality under control.
I believe you CAN have culinary mastery without fireworks in the kitchen, but of course he wouldn’t be half as much fun to watch and it’s as much about that as it is his cooking (at least in his television career). And he is gloriously unrepentant, which, I guess, we also like.
The cooking segment of the show consisted of Gordon showing Larry how to deal with his schmear, and, no, I’m not talking about what happens in an awkward moment in a doctor’s office. I’m talking about what Larry does to his bagel. AND it just goes to show that Gordon CAN teach in a calm and kind way, even if he did say something rather awful about Larry.
Larry showed Gordon his normal method. He put a tiny amount of cream cheese on an (untoasted) bagel with a little red onion and one slice of smoked salmon. Gordon was appalled that he was so stingy with the cream cheese. Larry tried to explain that's why he was thin. But think about it... Larry is probably 109 years old and they say those calorie restrictive diets can make you live a really long time…not that it would be worth it.
Anyway, Gordon said to Larry, “You’re as tight as a camel’s bottom in a desert storm.” I’m not sure if Larry understood him or even heard him, but it was priceless.
Gordon showed him how to do the proper schmear. And in just this little tiny demonstration, he showed his virtuosity. He spread the cream cheese with the BACK of the spoon (much more effective than the way Larry did it.) He put on just a little tomato, no onions - "bad for the breath". He sprinkled over a bit of DRAINED capers, and then rolled up THREE slices of smoked salmon and arranged them just beautifully on the bagel. It DID look glorious. BUT he didn't have to yell at Larry to accomplish that.
Gordon Ramsay without his temper would be like a volcano without the lava, I know that. I just wish he KNEW where his temper came from, because it seems so obvious to those of us watching from our armchairs.