The other day, I posted a link to a video from Master Chef that included some pretty enthusiastic praise of Gordon Ramsay by other posters (though not really any from me). It got a reblog in which someone discussed how it bothered them that people thought of Ramsay as some sort of saint when he’s been a real ass, like truly a mean person, to others at times. They mentioned in particular a time when Ramsay called Marcus Samuelsson a “black bastard” - here’s the quote:
"How the fuck can you come to my fucking city and think you are going to be able to cook without even fucking referring to me?"
This went on for what seemed like five minutes; I was too stunned to hang up.
"I’m going to make sure you have a fucking miserable time here. This is my city, you hear? Good luck, you fucking black bastard.”
And then he hung up.
I think this is almost certainly true. I can totally believe it. And I get that the part that Samuelsson found offensive was the ethnic aspect.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect Gordon Ramsay. I, personally, prefer my idols a bit tarnished. One of my main heroes since my early childhood is William Tecumseh Sherman. For those not up on their not that well known US Military History, he was a general in the US Civil War, and went on to be leader of all the armies while US Grant was president after the war. He is, in short, a total asshole, and I can’t think of anyone from history that I’d rather meet if I had the chance. I mean, yes, he burned down half the south (er, sorry about that, any southerners who are reading this) and yes, I’m pre-disposed to like him, as I was brainwashed from a young age (I went to the William T. Sherman elementary school), and I’m a northerner through and through (born and raised in NYC, and I did actually have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War, for the north).
But then, that ancestor was an asshole, too. He fought in one battle (Jenkins’ Ferry. Have you heard of it? I didn’t think so) and then got dysentery and then he spent the rest of his life mooching a government pension because he was soooooo sick, right?
I like anti-heroes. I like people who don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing, but whose hearts are - I think - in the right place. Even if Gordon Ramsay is as big an ass, as self centered, as competitive, as some internet sources say he is, I’m still interested in him, and still respect him, because he knows his shit, and because he does use his fame to help others. For example, he doesn’t HAVE to do a show like Kitchen Nightmares. Surely there are plenty of either ways that he could make others look stupid while aggrandizing himself that don’t require traveling all over the US and trying to help people. Those ways could be just as dramarific and also make “good TV.” But he does do a show like Kitchen Nightmares, and having watched a lot of it, I have seen a man who really wants to help people, and gets invested when those people also want to help themselves - and treats them like shit, yes, can’t deny it. I wouldn’t want to be treated that way. But they signed up to be on the show, and they knew what was ahead, and they still wanted the help. And I’ve read some follow up on those places - it’s helped a lot of the time.
In short, I respect Ramsay because I think he is, underneath all the bluster, a good person. So, knowing that he was an ass to Samuelsson (who, by the way, can be a bit of an ass himself from what I’ve seen and heard…) doesn’t change my opinion, any more than knowing that WT Sherman burned Atlanta changes my opinion of him.