We met Gordon Ramsay at his Hell's Kitchen in Las Vegas, where he tells us about his passion for cooking, sport and Ferrari
The cab driver picks me up from McCarran Airport in the middle of the night, headed to downtown Las Vegas. Just to prove he knows his subject, he reels off the names, like a rosary, of every last casino in the city, finishing up with my own final destination: Caesars Palace. Then he asks what brings me to Sin City.
"I’m here to talk to Gordon Ramsay on behalf of Ferrari," I tell him. At that point, in the rearview mirror I see Levon’s eyes light up. He cranes back to high five me: “Man! Ferrari! Gordon Ramsay! Oh, man!” He’s happy now; me a bit less so - until he finally gets his eyes back on the road. The following morning, when I arrive at the photo shoot, I once again witness the effect of the Ferrari-Ramsay coupling.
We’re meeting outside Hell’s Kitchen, the restaurant that the multi-Michelin-starred chef opened in partnership with Caesars Palace a year ago. A stunning flame-red Ferrari Portofino is standing by. Gordon arrives, poses in front of the V8 convertible and jumps in as passersby whip out their phones and start posting photos on social media.
Getting up close to two examples of excellence – one automotive, the other culinary - is not an everyday thing. When the shoot is over, I ask Ramsay what excellence means to him. “Excellence comes from passion. I’ve never been frightened of making mistakes because it is part of the learning process. It’s too easy to be average, to be satisfied with your work, and as far as I’m concerned, I never am. My whole career started from a failure: I wanted to be a footballer as a kid and it didn’t happen. So I turned to cooking. Now I try every day to learn from the mistakes. The ones we make tonight, we keep behind the scenes, so that they won’t happen at lunch tomorrow.”
He insists that only that level of meticulous attention to detail will get you to the top. “But to stay there”, he says, “you can’t take anything for granted.
I’m thinking about Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London which turns 21 in September and has held its three Michelin stars for 19 years.” He regards it like his ‘LaFerrari’, the jewel in the crown. “I’m also thinking about this Hell’s Kitchen, which had a waiting list of 25,000 clients a year ago, before we opened. It’s exactly the same attention to detail: every day. Layer after layer after layer. Perfection, perfection, perfection.”
It’s a standard that Gordon demands in every single one of his restaurants - in Europe, the United States, the Far East and the Middle East - which have recently been joined by nine new eateries in partnership with Caesars Palace, beginning in 2012 with Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris Las Vegas and with a second Hell’s Kitchen recently opened in Dubai. It’s also a mindset that he applies in the pursuit of his other two great passions: training for triathlons. And cars. Ramsay’s well-documented love of Ferrari goes back many years.
“I remember watching Magnum P. I. as a child and dreaming of being able to drive a 308. I am very fortunate to have one now. Today, having the privilege to drive on the track in my new LaFerrari Aperta and experiencing not just the thrill and the perfection but the control I have makes me feel on top of the world. I grip the wheel, push the button… then that unmistakeable sound.
Five minutes of adrenaline, 180 mph, then I ease off and get out. But it’s enough to keep me charged up for the next two months.” There’s another highly-charged Ferrari moment that Ramsay will never forget: his first glimpse of the Monza SP2 last September.
“It literally took my breath away,” he says. “I sat in the car and I was holding on to 70 years of pure perfection in that steering wheel. You can’t just take inspiration from tradition or, worse still, simply copy it... You have to reinterpret it and make what you do relevant to the times. Like Ferrari does with each new car.”