This summer, the inimitable British celebrity chef will be expanding his restaurant empire to Malaysia. We ask him about steak, Southeast Asia, and his upcoming venture.
You’re opening the first overseas outpost of Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur. Out of all the places in the world, why Kuala Lumpur?
Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic foodie city; it has such a wide variety of restaurants covering so many different styles and cultures. It feels like there is a lot of food excitement here, which makes it the perfect place to introduce Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill to Asia. I was extremely impressed by the location (have you seen those views?!) and by Sunway Group; we share a similar vision and values. To me, this is a great opportunity to open my first restaurant in Malaysia.
Given the experience you’ve had filming kitchen makeover shows, what was your input in the design and layout of the restaurant?
I’m someone who is obsessed with design. At every restaurant I open there are always small details I end up wanting to tweak or change. We know that you eat with your eyes, and that means the environment has to look great too, whether it’s industrial dining in the East End of London or luxurious, chic interiors in Kuala Lumpur.
When it came to Bar & Grill, I wanted the space to fit the resort. Our new restaurant is going to have all the Ramsay touches! From fantastic service to incredible dishes with the freshest and finest ingredients, the experience will be absolutely top-class. This doesn’t just have my name above the door; it has my heart and soul running all the way through it. The team have done a fantastic job making my vision a reality.
You’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia to film TV series like Uncharted and Gordon’s Great Escape. What are three of your favorite Malaysian street foods or dishes and why?
I love Southeast Asia. When I’m not filming or in the kitchen, I’m out on the streets trying local cuisine. Whenever I visit a new country, I head straight out to the markets. The sights, smells, and sounds are all totally unique to the destination you are in. The fresh produce, the hawker stalls, local trades and crafts sit side-by-side with exotic fruits, fresh fish in tanks, and the incredible aromas of herbs and spices.
Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, which makes the country so incredibly unique. I love a rice dish, and my favorite has to be nasi lemak or nasi campur. I also love rojak, and I recently perfected my rendang, which guests will be able to experience at Bar & Grill.
In Mayfair, you’ve got avocado on sushi rice and chicken wings with Korean miso sauce. Are there going to be some locally inspired items on the menu in Kuala Lumpur?
Yes, absolutely. We’ll take a mix of classic dishes from London, such as my signature Beef Wellington, while drawing upon local influences. So, you’ll find stunning steaks and grilled items, but other dishes like short rib rendang and a delicious crab and corn laksa starter will draw upon local cuisine. Some of the most incredible ingredients come from this region and bringing Bar & Grill here gives me a unique opportunity to create a cross-cultural mix of cuisines.
Our Head Chef Hugo [Hernán Bertolini] will lead the kitchen, but we will be using local chefs to ensure that we have the finest Malaysian talent.
Freshness and seasonality are so important in your cooking. What are some of the key ingredients you’re planning to source locally from Malaysian producers?
It’s really important that we source the best local ingredients; they are the only way to create the flavors that are totally unique to the country you are in. Exotic fruits, fresh herbs, and spices will form the basis of many of our dishes. Wherever I open a restaurant, I want to make sure it is localized, that we use great ingredients and hire great local talent. We want to be part of the community.
When it comes to cooking steak, what’s the most common mistake you’ve seen in restaurant kitchens?
First and foremost, you need to source the best cuts of meat. That’s what diners can look forward to at Bar & Grill — house dry aged steaks and prime cuts such as wagyu from the world’s best producers. In terms of cooking a steak, you need to have a sizzling hot pan or griddle, don’t skimp on the seasoning, don’t overcook it, and make sure you let it rest properly.
People get a lot of flak for ordering steaks well done. Is that criticism warranted or is the whole thing overblown?
As a chef you need to respect your ingredients, and when you’re dealing with the finest cuts of meat, you treat them with the care they deserve. When you overcook a steak, you cook all the flavor out of it. Of course, the diner has the right to order their steak well done if they wish!
The global restaurant scene has had to really adapt and innovate because of Covid-19. What are some of the lessons you’ve taken away from your time in lockdown?
These past two years have been an unprecedented time for the hospitality industry. We’ve all had to adapt and, like everyone, I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls. I’ve also turned into a family breakfast chef! I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to stay busy; aside from working towards the launch of the new Bar & Grill in Malaysia, during lockdown I went live on Instagram every Saturday showing people how to cook with ingredients they might have in their cupboard. Oh, and I’ve recently launched a new cookbook, Ramsay in 10, which came out last October.
Asia has this incredible amount of culinary talent right now. What advice do you have for budding chefs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Put your head down, work hard, learn everything, and don’t take no for an answer. Experience will help you to get into the best kitchens, so don’t give up! There will be many ups and downs, but perseverance and dedication will get you where you need to be.