With his fiery temperament, expletive-laden outbursts and his larger than life persona, Gordon Ramsay is a culinary tour de force to say the least.
His highly successful TV shows, the latest being Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted currently being shown on the National Geographic channel, posits Ramsay in various exotic locales around the world – from New Zealand’s rugged south to the mountains of Morocco – where he embarks on epic adventures, cultural experiences and of course, culinary inspiration.
Malaysia may have yet been added as a destination in one of the episodes but fret not, as we are about to be rewarded with something even better than an hour-long telecast. The multi-Michelin starred celebrity chef is opening his eponymous Bar & Grill restaurant, at Sunway Resort, the flagship hotel at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur.
With a US$60mil (RM249mil) renovation still underway, the soon-to-be transformed property is the perfect place to house Ramsay’s popular all-day dining restaurant, of which he has three in London. Not to be confused with his other restaurants such as his signature three Michelin-stars flagship Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London or the Bread Street Kitchen in Singapore, the Bar & Grill appears to be the most favoured and popular offshoot in his 43-strong restaurant empire.
Ramsay explained that he decided to open his first restaurant in Malaysia because of the incredible growth Malaysia is having and the great energy about this part of the world. “I’ve always loved Asia whether it be for filming or restaurants, ” he says in an email interview.
“I’ve spent many years travelling extensively and spent great times in Hong Kong, Singapore and more recently Indonesia. I have always been fascinated by Malaysia and was super happy when the opportunity arose to open a restaurant there.”
So what can gourmands expect from the first Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill to open outside London? “It will be a mix of British Grill Classics and everything I’ve learnt in South-East Asia. Some of the most incredible ingredients come from this region and bringing the Bar & Grill here gives me a unique opportunity to mix those cuisines.... Expect Beef Wellington and incredible steaks as well dishes I’ve cooked and perfected during my trips in the region while I was filming Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.”
Ramsay is of course referring to the second season of the National Geographic TV series where he explores the rugged terrain of West Sumatra and learns the rudiments of rendang-making. Lucky for us, Ramsay was tutored by the godfather of Indonesian food, chef William Wongso and has since perfected this dish just in time for his KL restaurant opening. “I’m excited for people to try my rendang short ribs as well as the Crab and Corn Laksa!”
And apart from mastering indigenous dishes in different countries, Ramsay is very much an experiential chef. He explains: “When I am not shooting or in the kitchen, I’m out on the street trying local cuisine. Whenever I visit a new country, I head straight out to the street markets,” he reveals.
“The sights, smells and sounds are all totally unique to the country you are in. The fresh produce, the hawker stalls, local trades and crafts sitting side by side with exotic fruits, fresh fish in tanks and the incredible aromas of herbs and spices is heaven to me. A plate of Nasi Campur or Rojak completes my experience.”
Slated to open in the fourth quarter of this year, Gordon Ramsay’s Bar & Grill will have commanding views of Sunway Lagoon from its floor-to-ceiling windows which Ramsay says is tough to beat. “The décor and ambience will be super chic as this will be the most amazing dining room I’ve ever opened in Asia, ” he states confidently.
Judging from his turn in his reality TV series Gordon Ramsay 24 Hours to Hell and Back and Hotel Hell, where he tries to revive ailing hotels and restaurants, one tends to believe him wholeheartedly.
Casual yet exclusive, the Bar & Grill will seat approximately 150 people and has a clubby feel with modern touches. With private rooms and cosy booths, the seductive bar and glittering chandeliers hung above will create a sophisticated ambience which will no doubt be supplemented with top notch service.
But with so much on his plate, both literally and figuratively, how does Ramsay maintain a high standard and consistency in all his restaurants? “It’s all about having a great team in place," he says. “The team is key to making sure everything is running smoothly. I’m in constant communication with those on the ground and I love hearing about everything that is going right as well as any problems so I can help fix it.”
But fixing anything would be the least of his concerns as the restaurant has the back-up and support of the Sunway Resort, a smart move on his part. “The Sunway Group are fantastic partners and the property is stunning, ” he declares. “As this is my first restaurant in Malaysia, on-the-ground support is very important as we want to get it right – to localise the concept as well as have all the knowledge and expertise we need to make it a success.”
Adjusting to different cultures and taste buds is something the well-travelled Ramsay is keenly aware of. So has his own style of doing things changed over the years? “I think like anything else, we all need to evolve. Look at my flagship restaurant in London as an example. Before, wearing a jacket was mandatory for any gentlemen to enter but now we are more relaxed. One mustn’t forget that customers vote with their feet so we always have to adapt.”
As for mentoring young and eager chefs like he does on Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, what advice does he have for aspiring chefs who want to succeed in the business? “Put your head down and never take no for an answer!” he asserts. “Any experience will help you get into the best kitchens. There will be many ups and downs but don’t give up.... perseverance and hard work will get you to where you need to be.”