Chefs are no longer just faceless food handlers hidden in a far away kitchen — they’re superstars. In a time when television is increasingly being dominated by celebrity chefs, there’s one that’s more recognizable than any other across the globe: Gordon Ramsay. You know his face, you know his voice, you may even have been to one of his restaurants. He’s well-known for his relentlessness, his demands for complete perfection, his unadulterated cursing, and for unleashing a vicious temper on anyone and everyone who’s around. He shouts, he swears, and he’s definitely not afraid to tell people what he really thinks of them and their shortcomings (both in the kitchen and outside of it). But the Gordon Ramsay that’s terrified and humiliated cooks (both professional and amateur) around the world for years isn’t the same Gordon Ramsay that goes home to his wife and family. Believe it or not, there’s more to this hotheaded chef than meets the eye. Here’s a deep dive into double life of Gordon Ramsay.
Candidly speaking about domestic violence, alcoholism, and his child
For years, Ramsay and his family have supported various charities. One of those is Women’s Aid, an organization that provides support to women and children who have been the victims of domestic abuse, a subject close to his heart.
In a piece for CNN, Ramsay wrote, “Growing up, my father was less than a perfect role model. I watched how he battled alcoholism and how he became terribly violent with my mum, to the point where she feared for her life. Every time he got violent, any present that my brother, sisters, or I had given my mum would be smashed, simply because he knew it belonged to her. There were instances when the police were called to take him away; mum was taken to the hospital while we kids were taken to a children’s home.”
The stories he’s told about his childhood are nothing short of nightmarish. Ramsay has spoken openly about the times his father hit his mother, once so hard she needed 57 stitches to close the wounds on her face. That rage was turned on him, too. The nicest thing he’s ever been able to say about his father is that he taught him how to swim … by holding his head under the water.
Ramsay has also spoken out about his abuse has driven him to rise above it all, becoming the father and husband his own father never was. “Because I had to make it,” he told CNN.
His charity foundation and work with the Great Ormond Street Hospital
Gordon and his wife, Tana, have their own charitable organization. The Gordon & Tana Ramsay Foundation works closely with organizations like the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, and helps provide funding and support for these groups that touch thousands of lives across the UK.
Both organizations support children with medical conditions that necessitate prolonged hospital stays, and their work with GOSH has allowed for the purchase of cutting-edge medical technology, along with providing financing and accommodations that allow families to stay close to their children while they’re receiving treatment. GOSH alone provides aid to around 255,000 people a year, and the Ramsays’ foundation also supports Cancer Research UK, the Scottish Spina Bifida Assocation, Action Against Hunger, and Meningitis Now.
Heading up a triathlon team for charity
Not content to just let his reputation do all the hard work in getting people to donate to his charities, Ramsay is a regular contender in triathlons and marathons across the country, raising money. On top of that, Ramsay also heads up GTR100, a team of up to 100 competitors anyone can join. The £1,200 entry fee is ultimately donated to charity.
According to Ramsay, the team is a family effort. The first team member was, of course, his wife Tana. He refuses to train with her, though, saying, “Tana wants to beat me. She doesn’t have much time on her hands, but she’s dedicated. … She’s seriously disciplined.”
‘F is for Fundraising’ and his campaign for Scottish Spina Bifida
Gordon Ramsay might be known for one F-word in particular, but he’s not above changing it up a little to benefit a good cause. His “F is for Fundraising” slogan is a part of The Gordon Ramsay Appeal, which benefits the Scottish Spina Bifida Association. Events include the “Ladies Who Give an F” luncheon and bra auction, and he’s also lent his name, image, and support to the association’s year-round fundraising efforts.
He’s been working with the charity for years, and his 2008 appearance at an 8-year-old’s violin recital at the Scottish Spina Bifida Young Building made headlines when it moved him to tears. Ramsay is an Honorary Patron of SBH Scotland and says his devotion to the charity came after he met so many “inspirational people” through the charity’s work.
His tearful confrontation of the realities of a slaughterhouse
In 2006, one of Ramsay’s other shows aired some horrible and controversial footage — for a good reason. The F-Word is a reality show that shows the front-to-back of cooking, and he and his family hand-raised two Berkshire sows named Trinny and Susannah as part of the show. At the end of the 2006 season, Ramsay went into the abattoir as they were slaughtered, and the process left him sickened.
It was the chef’s first trip behind-the-scenes at a slaughterhouse, and organizations like PETA lauded his decision to show the bloody footage uncensored.
Similar footage was aired as a part of Ramsay’s 2005 series, showing the family’s pet turkeys being slaughtered. In 2007, the same animals rights groups lauded his airing of the slaughter of two lambs the family raised and again, he was moved to tears. Ramsay’s goal wasn’t to shock or offend, but to give people an honest look at how meat makes it to the table. From the beginning of the show, he had said that the animals would ultimately be eaten and spoke out on how important it is to treat them with the utmost respect for every moment of their lives and to use all of the meat they give.
Exposing the shark fin trade
Ramsay has made it clear that although he uses meat in numerous dishes, he’s a huge proponent of responsible farming and animal husbandry, and that he’s not afraid to take anyone to task over wrongdoing. In 2010, he presented a documentary called Shark Bait, in which he took at look at the damage being done to the world’s shark population by the popularity of shark fin soup. It was part of his role as a patron of Shark Trust, and filming got downright terrifying.
Ramsay’s segment was filmed in Costa Rica, where the crew tracked some of the biggest offenders and harvesters of shark fins. The chef and his film crew were chased away from one of the boat crews, and Ramsay said that when they retreated to what they thought was the safety of a nearby roof, they looked out to see thousands and thousands of shark fins — each one cut from a living shark that had been thrown back in the water to die. Ramsay was horrified by what they found, and the ordeal wasn’t over yet. Armed thugs made it clear that the camera crew wasn’t being invited to stick around, even dousing Ramsay with gasoline and backing the crew up against a wall.
Eventually, Ramsay and his crew used the pretense of swimming with marlins to talk their way onto a boat they had linked with illegal fishing activities. When Ramsay dove off the boat, he discovered another massive sack of shark fins tied underwater. After he threw the bag on the deck of the boat, the police politely suggested he leave the country or risk being shot by the gangs.
He’s a devoted family man
Between TV, traveling, fundraising, and leading so many restaurants, Ramsay also finds time to be the father he never had. He’s taught his four children (Matilda, Megan, and twins Jack and Holly) how to cook, and gave his youngest daughter a hand with filming her own cooking show. He says, “Even if they don’t pursue it as a career, just knowing how to cook for yourself is as important as geography, history, and French. I never had that opportunity.”
He has a strict no-swearing policy at home
It’s easy to imagine Ramsay is the same, obscenity-shouting chef at home as he is in most of his television appearances, but according to an interview in Men’s Journal, “I’ve never cursed in front of (my children). Never, ever.”
The concerns came up a lot when he was preparing for MasterChef Junior and mothers were worried their delicate little darlings would be subjected to Ramsay’s well-documented wrath. But Ramsay insists he doesn’t swear in front of his own children and that they don’t curse, either.
When Ramsay appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he took the time to talk about the words that had been introduced into the teenagers’ vocabulary instead of his infamous cursing. In the Ramsay home, he said, you’re more likely to hear someone shouting, “Shitake!” or “Asparagus!” rather than the things you’re expecting to hear from a Ramsay.
Opening up about his wife’s miscarriage
Ramsay first shared the happy news on James Corden’s late-night show, ecstatic that he and Tana were expecting their fifth child. Only a month later in June 2016, though, he wrote a Facebook post to thank everyone for their support through what had been a “devastating weekend,” as Tana suffered a miscarriage at five months.
Some publications, like Vanity Fair, were quick to point out that Ramsay’s frank discussion about the very personal tragedy can help go a long way in opening a dialogue about what countless other women and couples are also going through. A survey done by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center found that not only are there are huge number of misconceptions still in place around miscarriages, but that those who go through the experience often report feeling not just lonely and isolated in their grief, but guilty, too. When high-profile couples speak out about issues like these, it can go a long way in letting others know that they’re not alone.
He makes his weekends count
When your work days are 16 hours long and most of that work is done in a different country from your family, that can make quality time next to impossible. Ramsay has said that staying involved in countless projects helps him keep the momentum going, and while he’s working he can expect to get about three hours of sleep a night. That’s insanity, especially considering his days are filled with some serious, hardcore training, hours at the gym, and even longer hours at the television studios or in his restaurants.
How does he do it? He takes weekends off, and it’s been one of the guiding factors of his business plan since the beginning.
He’s never opened his first Chelsea, England, restaurant on the weekends, a decision he made from the start for himself, his family, and his employees. Working in a restaurant means insanely long, hard hours, and in order for his employees to be able to give their all, he knew they all needed their down time, too. “I work hard,” he said in a Reddit AMA, “but I give myself time off on the weekend. I cut it off, and power down for 48 hours.”