Food & drink: Making a name for himself
Gordon Ramsay made Aubergine famous, now it's time to go it alone. Photograph by Madeleine Waller
Saturday 12 September 1998
By now, of course, the doors of his new restaurant will have opened and all that could have changed, but meanwhile he is able to reflect on the past five years which have seen him rise from fledgling into a chef tipped to acquire a third Michelin star. That ambition, he says, was the underlying reason why he severed links with A-Z, the company that owned Aubergine, the Chelsea restaurant where his cooking created three-month waiting lists. The split is a touchy subject. "I don't want to get into politics. Basically, though, I didn't want to be part of a large organisation like Granada and that's the direction A-Z were heading. I was asked to look at sites in Paris, Milan, Bermuda and New York. I didn't feel I could spread myself as a concept and then conduct it from an office."
Then, famously, the entire staff of Aubergine and L'Oranger, both owned by A-Z, walked out after the dismissal of Marcus Wareing, chef at the latter restaurant, on what Ramsay refers to as Black Friday. Although he points out that he himself "didn't walk, I was asked not to work my notice".
He exudes the kind of attentive charm that makes it hard to believe the stories of histrionics could possibly be true, and he is quick to dismiss them. Like the falling out with Marco Pierre White: "It was a set-up all along to see who was gunning for who." What, even the pistols at dawn episode at the Fat Duck at Bray? "Well, no, that was genuine, actually."
He comes across as being horribly well-adjusted, a determined young blood who knows exactly where he is going and how he is going to get there. Having declared a lack of interest in the empire-building, television stardom and consultancies that seduce many in his position, he has set off instead on the lonesome route of his mentor, Pierre Koffman. "He's 50 and cooks every day. At eight o'clock in the morning you see him baking bread and at midnight you see him wiping down his stove.
"I want to concentrate on my objective in being in this trade, and that's to win three Michelin stars." Defining what will take him from two to three stars is rather harder. To date, his style of cooking has been marked by a lightness of touch and innate understanding of flavours, as the following recipe reveals. "The most important thing is that I'm still developing, I'm still not happy with what I've done."
Sauteed Scallops with cauliflower puree, and caper and raisin dressing, serves 4
This is new Gordon Ramsay, a dish you can expect to find on the menu if you can get a table. It is hard to make the dressing in a smaller quantity but the extra will keep well in the fridge for a week.
25g unsalted butter
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
100ml milk plus extra
150ml double cream
sea salt, white pepper
100ml water plus 3 tbsp
12 scallops, corals and skirt removed
Madras curry powder
extra virgin olive oil
To make the cauliflower puree, melt the butter in a pan. Add the cauliflower and water and cook, tossing until it has absorbed the water and is turning translucent. Add the milk and continue to cook until this is absorbed and the cauliflower is tender, again stirring occasionally. Add the cream and seasoning, bring it to the boil and then puree to a smooth cream in a liquidiser, adding a drop more milk to achieve the right consistency. Do this in two goes - the result should be silky smooth.
Rinse the capers thoroughly in a sieve. If they are preserved in salt, taste them and if necessary rinse them again. Bring the 100ml of water to the boil in a small saucepan, add the raisins and capers and then liquidise them, adding the remaining three tablespoons of water. The dressing should be like a thin compote.
To serve the dish, reheat the cauliflower puree. Halve or slice the scallops into three thin discs and season them lightly with sea salt and curry powder. Cook the scallops either in two frying pans or in two batches - heat a little olive oil in the pan and sear the scallops for 20-30 seconds on either side until the outside begins to caramelise. Spoon the puree over the base of four warm plates, arrange the scallops on top and drizzle the dressing over them
Gordon Ramsay, 68 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 (0171-352 4441). Lunch, Mon-Fri noon-2.45pm, dinner 6.45pm-11pm. Closed weekends.
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