Food & Drink

For real life, Gordon Ramsay tones it down

Is it fair to judge a chef by his television show?

Gordon Ramsay, the Michelin-starred British chef and star of Fox's television series “Hell's Kitchen,” doesn't care.

If his show distresses you, he suggested while promoting his new cookbook, “Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food,” (Key Porter Books, $35), you can “turn it over.” (That's Britspeak for “change the channel.”)

Anyone who judges a chef by his cookbook, however, would have to assume Ramsay is a pussycat.

“I use TV to fund my restaurants, so I don't have to be governed by a board of directors who sit in my office and tell me what to do,” said Ramsay, 41, who looked exhausted after signing 300 or so books recently in Chicago.

Ramsay's show is fast and furious, but his new cookbook channels his energy into winning dishes for real life – the one outside of reality TV.

“I've got a responsibility on my shoulders with the children,” he said. He has four kids younger than 9 with wife Tana, a teacher and cookbook author herself. “We don't do independent dinners to suit their needs. We cook and they eat.”

Megan, Matilda and twins Jack and Holly each make their own ketchups, since bottled is banned in the house. They'll eat lambs' brains on toast and rabbit with tagliatelle. “They eat like horses,” he said.

Like the show, his cookbook is about food done well and fast, but in a kinder, gentler way.

“The point was to say fast food doesn't have to be junk food,” he said. “There's nothing wrong with a burger, there's nothing with a Caesar salad – in moderation. But it's so easy to make a burger. It's so easy to make a soup together.”

Ramsay has little patience for anyone who says they don't have time to cook. He spent a month testing the idea that real cooking can be part of life.

“I started out with raw ingredients … the kids are coming home, what do I do, I gotta pick them up, we've got homework, have to feed them. I did that for 30 days, and it was absolutely a nightmare. But I came out of it with the book – how to fragment your week and make sure that fast food never, ever has to be junk food.

“Ninety percent of the battle is organization.”