Gordon Ramsay, the uncompromising Scottish chef who has taken swearing, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse to a new level on British television, was once reduced to "a blubbering wreck" by a fellow celebrity chef, it emerged yesterday.
In his soon-to-be-published autobiography, Marco Pierre White claims he dramatically "broke" Ramsay, who used to work for him at Harvey's restaurant in Wandsworth, south London, turning the fiery Scot into a sobbing mess.
A spokesman for Ramsay yesterday admitted that there was "some truth" in the claim, but added that the hard-headed star of Hell's Kitchen and The F-Word was only 20 years old at the time, and just starting out in the restaurant world.
In his forthcoming memoir, White, 44, writes of the incident: "I don't recall what he'd done wrong but I yelled at him and he lost it.
"Gordon crouched down in the corner of the kitchen, buried his head in his hands and started sobbing. 'I don't care what you do to me,' he said as he wept. 'Hit me. I don't care. Sack me. I don't care.'"
It is a story that will not only surprise Ramsay-watchers, but also no doubt serve to comfort the countless celebrities, chefs and restaurant staff that Ramsay, 39, has torn strips off during the course of his career - particularly in his television programmes.
White and Ramsay, who were once very close, are now not on speaking terms after a number of very public bust-ups.
In his memoir, White Lies, which is published next month, White - who was the youngest chef ever to gain three Michelin stars - describes another of these rows. The more recent conflagration took place at Heston Blumenthal's celebrated Fat Duck restaurant at Bray, Berkshire.
"I wasn't on speaking terms with Gordon, but by coincidence he happened to be in the restaurant on the same day," writes White.
"I said, 'You'll have to ask him to leave'. Heston called Gordon away from the table. 'Gordon, Marco says he's not going to stay if you are here. I think you should have a word with him ...'
"Gordon came into the garden and said, 'Thank you very much Marco for ruining a nice day.'
"I said, 'Why don't you sue me for loss of enjoyment?' He came back with, 'You fat bastard. I've always wanted to call you that.' I said, 'Is that the best you can do?' Gordon left. There was silence in the garden."
Yesterday, Ramsay's spokesman said the chef, who is currently on holiday, would not be "descending into a slanging match" with his former mentor, whom he still respects and appreciates for giving him his break in the restaurant industry. However, he added that, aside from the Harvey's and Fat Duck incidents, not all of the stories in White Lies were necessarily true.
Although Ramsay will no doubt be hurt by the claims of his former friend and mentor, he has plenty of other, bigger things on his mind.
The young Scot left quaking and weeping behind White's hotplate in Wandsworth now has a restaurant empire of his own, valued at £60m earlier this month.
In the autumn, he will open restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, as well as launching his own US chat show. Ramsay also has a biography of his own, Humble Pie, due to be published in October - when White can presumably look forward to his just desserts.
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