Whenever I meet up with friends, one of the first questions they ask me is “what are you cooking today?” Such a great question. Seriously. It’s a simple one really, but there’s always a reasoning behind it which I totally get. Because when you’re the one in charge of feeding the people living in your household, thinking about what to cook every single day, or more tediously, day in, day out, it starts to feel as too much of a chore. I applaud every one of you though. I know where you’re coming from and I understand.
I learn new things every day. From anyone. It doesn’t matter if on the other side of the bench there’s a chef or a home cook who’s doing the teaching. If something makes sense, it makes sense. That’s it. Done deal. I do have lots of respect for people who know their craft; those who have gone through years of classes and training in the best kitchens, with the masters. They took the time to train for excellence. Not a mean feat. They might seem arrogant, and arguably some are, but I would count to ten before saying so. Not all restaurants are the same. And not every chef is the same. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Ramsay or trying his food; still, through reading his work and watching the man on tv, whether from a restaurant kitchen or indeed at home, I feel I have actually learnt something. Please note that two books by Ramsay have been out on the same date: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course (Hodder & Stoughton) and 3 Star Chef (Quadrille Publishing). The former accompanies a tv series, and has a very different style. Quadrille were kind enough to send me a review copy of the latter on the day of publication. Without diminishing the importance of eating well at home, cooking in a restaurant kitchen is obviously a very different thing. This book is about restaurant food at the highest level.
There’s no doubt about it: the guys at Quadrille know what they’re doing. Freshly pressed, everything about 3 Star Chef (the mini edition) points to one thing: Perfection…with a capital P. And that’s Gordon Ramsay for you. He needs no introduction, and for those who don’t know who he is, let’s just say that one doesn’t get three stars from Michelin for nothing. This book is Gordon Ramsay. You can tell as soon as you read what he has to say about this project.
First impressions are good. It’s white so it’s clean. The photos are stunning, the food exquisite, so it’s beautiful. There are a few photos of the Chef but this is meant to be a celebration of Ramsay’s accomplishments so far, so there’s definitely a place for them. The first half is glossy and shows off 50 of his trademark dishes at their best, whereas the second half is matte, snaps us out of nirvana, and explains how they are made (step by step, without any extra patronising). What I didn’t do this time is to try some of his signature dishes myself (something which I usually do for completeness), but hey, really, what is there to confirm about the food? There are some dishes which scare me, but others, like the Fillet of red mullet with cod, spring onion and pearl barely risotto, with a sweet and sour pepper sauce, seem attainable enough. At least to cook; I cannot really hope to replicate the presentation. I would also like to try my hand at the Carrot and white chocolate fondant with dark chocolate sorbet.
It’s easy to sort through which recipes one could reasonably try. However, some seem impractical as they need very particular ingredients; this is hardly unexpected in recipes of this kind, and substitutions aren’t acceptable (unless this is already indicated). Others cause logistical problems: what to do with any leftover ingredients. My only concern is the lack of a list of stockists, for those specialist ingredients. Though of course there is always the internet. If you want it, you can find it. Gordon will certainly not treat you like a kid. If you’re capable of mastering these types of dishes, then you probably already know where to get the ingredients from, or at least how to find out.
It’s a book that belongs in the kitchen as well as in the living room. Priced at a mere £20 it makes a nice gift for any Gordon fan. Quadrille have confirmed that this year’s edition has the same content as the signed limited edition of 2007. It just has been reduced in size. It’s not the kind of book I’d normally go for if I was merely browsing in a bookshop. Having said that, now I’ve spent some time reading it I’m not quite so sure.