“This was the first time I had to use a machete to get my ingredients,” says Gordon Ramsay on his new National Geographic show, unchartedIn the show, Ramsay travels around the world to cook with the locals and learn hunting traditions, many of which are physically demanding. In the production process, the cook fought with eels, went down the waterfall for mushrooms and fell into a snowstorm collecting tea.
In this first season (the second season has already been ordered), Nat Geo sent Ramsay to Peru, Morocco, Hawaii, New Zealand, Laos and Alaska. They spent seven days in each location, the action began immediately, usually paired with a local expert.
The only time Ramsey felt really responsible was riding several old motorbikes that he could track while traveling. “The producers got mad at me because I won't get off my bikes,” he says, laughing.
We spoke with a Michelin-starred craftsman about the lessons he learned on the road.
How did you choose the places where you went for this program?
This was really to showcase and immerse in these amazing cultures, such as the Tlingit community in Alaska. In those places where I was before, I was in Cambodia, but never in Laos, and this is a completely different experience. I was particularly struck by the Maori culture in New Zealand and the way they not only put food on the table thanks to these ancient practices, but also really shaped the culinary landscape. Most of them that I have never been with, and those that I had, are in no way close to this level.
Is one place physically challenging you than others?
I would say that climbing a rock in Alaska was especially difficult. I was halfway with the team when a bloody blizzard entered. They came up to me and asked if I wanted to turn around, but we were already there. I just said, let's continue. Glad we did. It was a rapid climb, because the rocks there are decaying and fragile, so for the most part we pulled ourselves up. The winds rose at a speed of about 60 miles per hour, and there was a moment when we could feel the rock shaking.
There is a lot of climbing and diving. How prepared were you for this?
I always tried to stay in shape, but I never dived or climbed to such an extent. This show pushed me much further than I have ever been. As you know, I was not created to climb, but I just started. It was interesting to return to Hawaii, because this is the place where I made my first Ironman, which was another huge effort.
Did you bring any culinary appliances with you on these trips?
I wanted to know what was happening on the spot, and decided to leave all my fashionable chef equipment behind. I did not want to be a new boy at school, you know, "all the equipment, but I don’t know." I wanted to use local tools, such as a machete in New Zealand, which we used to clear our path. Or the knives we used in Peru to cut the protein. It was definitely the right move, because now I can't wait to use the machete again.
This is a show about interacting with languages at the culinary level. How much does this correspond to the way you usually travel?
I was never interested in going to amazing places to sit on a sun lounger by the pool. I want to see the real side of a city or country. I cook as much as I can when I travel. If I don’t cook myself, then I’m looking for the most authentic experience in the area that I can find. I like to go out of the peak and hit the old town. Every city has an old city. I would then conduct my research when it comes to restaurants, and look for places that for several generations belonged to the same family and prepared local dishes. You know that a real pleasure awaits you when they barely have a menu that you can look at, because they plan to cook you everything they get on that day.
Did you have one place you would like to return to stay, catch and cook?
There were really a lot of them, but it was really unusual to walk along the beach in Hawaii along the fishing huts. Knowing that they are catching their fish right there, gutting it and preparing it is just a few steps away. They close when they end. These are the places where I want to visit, or take my fish and kitchen.
Speaking of culinary elements, which cuisines really surprised and inspired you?
I thought Asian dishes in Laos were something special. They were just magical. Fragrant. Delicious. Use shrimp paste. You look at the Mekong River and what it produces for them. How can they thrive and survive the monsoon season. I have already brought three different dishes to our new restaurant in London. It was an exciting development. Another revelation came in New Zealand when we cooked fish in a kelp bag. How this process brought this salt to taste. And then throw algae into the fire to add even more complexity to the fish.
I see you were able to get a few selected vintage motorcycles. What did you like in these places when you could?
I really enjoy a little nostalgia when it comes to my transport. Drive around Peru on the beautiful BSA 1960s motorcycle. I crossed my fingers so that in the second season I had more of these bicycles. An excellent feature was that where we were going to, there were no guards or parking meters. But in fact, there is no better way to truly soak in the coastline and mountain views from any point of view. There is nothing like it.
Not familiar with Gordon Ramsay Broadcasts on Sundays at National Geographic.