Gordon Ramsay is breaking his silence on criticism that his upcoming NatGeo series is ripping off the late Anthony Bourdain.
The Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef host and producer came under fire last month for his upcoming program, Uncharted, where the British chef travels the world exploring foreign food cultures. Critics have slammed the show — without yet having seen it — as treading on Bourdain’s hallowed docu-series ground in titles like No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and claim Ramsay’s explosive reality TV persona makes for an inappropriate Western export.
“World to Gordon Ramsay: You are no Anthony Bourdain,” headlined The Washington Post, who declared the idea a “colonial mess” and others accused him of cultural appropriation. While fellow chef and TV personality Eddie Huang wrote, “The last thing the food world needs right now is Gordon Ramsay going to foreign countries showing ‘locals he can cook their cuisines better than they can.'”
Ramsay has stayed silent on the topic, until now. Speaking to EW for an upcoming story about the 18th season of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, we asked Ramsay for his reaction to the criticism. True to form, he didn’t hold back.
“God, the feeble warriors that sit in their dungeons and spout negativity without understanding what we’re doing,” Ramsay says. “I’ve been doing assertive, combustial shows since 2006 since I started The F Word — whether it’s diving for giant crab or hanging off a 500-meter cliff chasing puffins. So I’ve been on that level of exploration and understand those cultures. I’m a chef that needs to get motivated by understanding different cultures. I helicoptered into Nagaland 50 kilometers from the Burmese border in Northern India and cooked at a wedding. And in order to get accepted into the wedding, I had to buy a f—ing buffalo. That was 12 years ago.”
Continues Ramsay: “Tony Bourdain was a great mate of mine. We were on the red carpet together last year at the Emmys. I think he’d be happy and impressed at [Uncharted‘s] level of jeopardy and jumping into these [places] — Brazil, Peru, Alaska — and sourcing incredible ingredients and then highlighting some of the best [culinary] talent that hasn’t been noticed yet. It’s a dream come true. Judge [Uncharted] when you see it. The research going into [the show] is extraordinary. We’re [airing in] half a billion homes, 177 countries, in 43 different languages. And I can’t wait to make all those bitter, twisted, little, boring truckers who aren’t busy enough in their lives eat their words.”
Uncharted was originally described by NatGeo with this: “Each episode of Uncharted will include three key ingredients: unlocking a culture’s culinary secrets through exploration and adventure with local food heroes; tracking down high-octane traditions, pastimes and customs that are specific to the region in hopes of discovering the undiscovered; and, finally, testing Ramsay against the locals, pitting his own interpretations of regional dishes against the tried-and-true classics. The series moves beyond conversation to truly immerse Ramsay in all aspects of the local culture to better prepare him for the final friendly cooking competition with local chefs and foodies.”
The cable network defended the project after the initial round of criticism, albeit in a less entertaining fashion than Ramsay has above: “We are disappointed that the announcement of our upcoming series with Gordon Ramsay was taken out of context,” the network said in a statement. “With National Geographic’s storied history of exploration, our plan with this series is to celebrate and learn about local cultures around the world. In partnering with Ramsay — a well-known adventure enthusiast — we are going to fully immerse viewers and give them a glimpse into surprising and unexpected cultures and local flavors.”
Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen kicks off its 18th season Sept. 28 on Fox with a new format twist: Rookies vs. Veterans. Uncharted is coming to NatGeo in 2019.