"I tell these young guys, 'Look, if you want to get ahead, leave the parents, get out on your own and learn to stand alone'," says Gordon Ramsay. "If you're still at home nice and comfortable and secure by the time you're 21 or 22, you will have no ambition to... bust your arse and become a great chef."
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Those words of advice from the tempestuous TV chef stem from personal experience. Born on November 18, 1966, in Johnstone, south-west Scotland, Gordon was just 16 when he left home and his abusive, heavy-drinking father to move into a council flat with his sister. A troubled start in life instilled in him a "hunger to succeed", he says, giving him an edge over his contemporaries.
A talented football player, he was scouted by Scottish club Glasgow Rangers, but a knee injury at 19 ended his dreams and forced him to refocus his efforts. Lacking the qualifications needed for the Royal Navy or the police force, he enrolled in culinary college, often working two jobs to pay the rent.
Moving to London to pursue his career, he landed a position with respected chef Marco Pierre White. Four years later he was off to France to work at a ski resort restaurant in the Alps. This was followed by a stint in Paris where he shared a kitchen with Michelin-starred chefs for the first time. Three more years training in France followed before he accepted a role as a personal chef aboard a luxury yacht in the Bahamas.
Upon his return to the UK, Marco Pierre White invited him to come in on a new eaterie he was opening in Chelsea called Aubergine. The high-profile chef's faith proved well founded when in 1994 the restaurant earned a Michelin star. It went on to win a further two, making Gordon the first Scot to receive a total of three of the prestigious awards, and one of only three chefs in the UK to hold the honour.
After Aubergine's success, Gordon set about founding a culinary empire, with an initial overseas eaterie in Dubai being followed by establishments in Tokyo, New York and LA.
At the same time he was establishing himself as a larger-than-life personality on British TV. He first appeared on the small screen in 1998 with Boiling Point, which followed his quest for a Michelin star. A reputation as an unrelenting perfectionist, along with his legendary short temper, made for riveting viewing and shows such as Hell's Kitchen, in which he trains celebrity contestants to be chefs, and The F Word, drew him to the attention of audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
Although he spends much of his time globe-trotting, Gordon is based in Wandsworth, London, where he shares a home with his former schoolteacher wife Cayetana Elizabeth Hutcheson – known as Tana. The couple, who married in 1996, have four children – Megan, born in 1999, twins Jack and Holly, who arrived in 2001, and Matilda, born a year later. In 2006 proud dad Gordon was voted Celebrity Father Of The Year and just one year later the Ramsays were named Celebrity Family Of The Year.
However, his home life was rocked in 2008 when author Sarah Symonds claimed to have been having a seven- to ten-year affair with the chef. A British tabloid printed photographs of the star leaving a hotel after an alleged meeting with the woman, who had written a book called Having An Affair? A Handbook For The Other Woman. Gordon vehemently denied the claims.
It was the start of a run of bad press for Gordon, who soon after came in for criticism when it was discovered his Chelsea restaurant was serving pre-prepared food with a 586 per cent mark-up. Again, the chef hit back at the situation, saying: “When I was working at the Gavroche all those years ago, the duck terrine wasn’t made there. It was made outside, then brought to the restaurant wrapped in plastic. This is standard practice. What on earth was the fuss about?”
He ran into financial difficulties, too, with reports his empire might go into administration. However, he managed to restructure his debts and save himself from the brink of bankruptcy.
“No one saw the recession coming," he declared in 2010. "The UK businesses were solid as a rock, but the issues we had were in Paris, New York and LA. For every pound we were making here we were losing two pounds abroad. But if I had the choice not to have done New York or Paris, going out there and putting a stake in the ground and showing the French we could cook as well as them, it was a big ballsy thing to do and I never regret that.”