When Gordon Ramsay first came to Mipcom, it was via Reg Grundy’s yacht, on which he was the Australian TV impresario’s private chef.
Fast forward 20-plus years, Ramsay’s no-nonsense, expletive-laden shows like “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “The F Word” and “Culinary Genius” can be seen on networks on both sides of the Atlantic. He has set up production company Studio Ramsay with All3Media, which sells his shows internationally, and is mixing up the cooking programs with documentaries and maybe scripted drama soon, too.
How does it feel heading to Mipcom more than two decades after your first time?
It’s come full circle, so it’s quite incredible. I was a private chef on [Reg’s] yacht for him and [his wife] Joy Chambers, and he had “Neighbours,” “Sale of the Century,” “The Young Doctors” and other incredible programs. I had no idea that I was going to be involved in television from there on in. But what I understood after nine months with him was how hard he worked, and I had tremendous respect for the man.
You’re working on a lot of shows, how do you choose what to do and when?
Every time we do something glossy, I need to do something grainy. If it’s a “MasterChef” type production with a huge budget, then I need to get into something that I’m passionate about, without the glamour. That was transparent in “Gordon Behind Bars” and now the coke documentary “Gordon on Cocaine.”
TV executives often talk about “authenticity.” Is that a through-line in your programs?
I’ve only maintained this career in television for the past two decades because I’ve kept it real. Some people love it, some people hate it, but the thing I’m more concerned about is that there is no bullshit. I just kept it straight and called it straight. That’s why today I loathe the words “TV chef,” because I’m not a TV chef, I’m a real person who works on TV. I mastered my craft and continue to push the boundaries.
Which of your shows is your favorite to make?
It’s whatever’s in production. We’ve just finished season 17 and 18 of “Hell’s Kitchen.” In today’s world anything above a 10th season is huge. The first thing I say to all contestants is, “Fox runs a network, I run a f–king restaurant, and no disrespect to cameras and interviews taking place, but you’re going to run a restaurant, and I need your best, and if you can’t give me your best don’t expect me to hand you a cash check for a quarter of a million dollars.”
How does the experience of making shows in the U.K. and U.S. compare?
If you have the same kind of energy and passion to put into the project in the U.S., and have triple the budget, then the show becomes three times bigger, providing the attitude and instinct is as good as it was in the U.K, and I’ve never lost that grounding. That’s the point I prove every time I put myself out there. I could be on a stand presenting with Michelle Obama, announcing the “MasterChef Junior” winner in the U.S., and then 24 hours later I’m on my a– in a jungle in Colombia without a pot to piss in and a security guard with an AK-47 ready to take someone down.
What is the ambition for Studio Ramsay, will you move into new areas and genres?
We’re going to ruffle feathers and put some great ideas out. The idea of the studio is multifaceted, so still strong on the food side, but potentially moving to scripted. We have an idea of moving into scripted in terms of a drama set in a restaurant, so we’re developing that. We have a first-look deal with Fox, and they’re excited to potentially co-fund it. It’s a very different beast to get off the ground and shooting a pilot is very important. I have the background and the history and want to use some of that personal side. I’ve been to hell and back to get to where I am today.
You were a host on “The Nightly Show” in the U.K., which was a flop. Would you ever give a talk show another shot?
With “The Nightly Show” I was f–ked before it started. When you move ITV “News at Ten,” you have to wade through the aftermath of that in terms of questions over how can you move something so iconic? However, I enjoyed it and there have been two approaches from networks in the U.S. to replicate something similar. I worked with a great team of writers on “The Nightly Show,” and if that’s what we can do in a week, we could do a lot better with a series over a couple of months, so maybe one day.
Do you like the business of television?
I had dinner last month with Mark Burnett and was sitting with him and talking and understanding his work ethic. When you think what that guy has created in the past two decades it’s breathtaking. If I am where he is in 10 years’ time business-wise, in this production world, I’ll be a happy bunny. Him, Simon Cowell, Simon Fuller, Mike Darnell, Peter Rice, Lachlan Murdoch — I’ve got to know them well, and every time I see them I learn so much.