Monday, October 17, 2011

Gordon Ramsay and Writing

"Have some f@%&ing pride!" Ramsay said.

For those who don't know Gordon Ramsay, he is the revered chef who owns and operates some of the finest restaurants in the world, He also hosts some of the most entertaining cooking reality shows.
Courtesy of LA Times

I work from home often, and when I do, I watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America as I eat lunch.

If there's one phrase to define him is "Quality without compromise."

He is a fanatic over the quality that goes into the food. The attention to detail is unparalleled (editing). He focuses on the customer (reader), and the appropriateness of the food given the clientele (genre).

In Kitchen Nightmares, he enters restaurants that are struggling... no, I'm being kind. Some are atrocious and you wonder what it will take to turn them around.

He satars by ordering the signature dish... and nearly vomits. Then he observes the kitchen in action--the management, the leadership, the effectiveness of the staff. He studies the competition, then looks at the menu. He has a multi-faceted approach to turning around nightmares into dreams come true. And if they listen to him, they will succeed.

The one thing that always shocks me is that he is there to guide the chef/owner--he is their master Yoda. He points out, in painful detail, what needs to be done. And invariably, the chef eventually reverts to their stupid ways of being.

The fundamental element in Ramsey's approach is quality control.

As I ate Nutella for lunch (don't judge me! and don't tell my wife) I watched an episode where Ramsay went off the rails on the owner/chef.

He was yelling, nearly spitting in the guys face. "Have some f---ing pride!"

As a writer, who aspires to be a published novelist, I take his point to heart. I have printed these words (without the f'ing part since my eight year old may be curious and my wife will kill me) and have hung it on my office wall.

We must have pride in what we do. We must play this game all out or risk living life wondering what went wrong.

It is harder than ever to get published. What would have been acceptable lapses in the past, is now your nail in the coffin. Assume that the current state of your manuscript is exactly how it would get published. Would you be happy? Truly happy?

If you tell yourself, "the editor will help me out with this problem," then you've already lost. If you second guess a scene, but choose to ignore it, then you might as well uninstall Scrivener, give your books to the nearest library and focus on your day job. You need to produce the absolute best product you can create.

Yes, it is a subjective world, and what I may think is great, you will think is an appropriate toilet paper substitute.

But your perception of your work must be as objective as possible. No compromise.

If you have a doubt--a nano-second of hesitation, then please do yourself a favor and address it. Know that you did it all, everything within your power to make it happen. Because if you do, then you can rest your head on the pillow knowing that you did not compromise yourself, your story and your characters. You were true to your craft.

You showed pride.

Fight the good fight!


  1. Kitchen nightmares is supposed to be that way though. Basically people revert to fighting him for the drama and then they get a complete makeover paid for by the show for agreeing to put up with that. It's all part of the entertainment.

  2. Hi Michael. I agree. I'd say anything "reality-show" fits that format you just described. The learning from Gordon Ramsay's approach is that you have to put quality above all else. The show is a caricature to highlight that point, but the point is fundamentally critical to the success of any endeavor that we take on.

  3. Good parallel here, Ara. I hate how Gordon Ramsay yells at people, but despite the delivery, I think his message is usually spot on.

    I love when our mindless entertainment informs. Like when I was watching SYTYCD and Nigel kept telling dancers that it wasn't just about technical perfection, it was also about the sparkle and personality. You can write with perfect grammar and structure, but without voice, it'll have no spark.

    Good stuff!

  4. Oh I love this, and not because I love GR. I think this translates to writing on so many levels--Don't submit until it's your very best. Don't give up when it gets hard. Don't choose the easy route because it's easy. Strive, strive, strive to be your very best!

    I'll say ti again--love it!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  5. @Gwen: Thank you! I hate to admit this... but... I now look forward to him popping a fuse. Because I know what's about to come out is powerful and on the nose :) As for Nigel, it's a Brit thing, isn't it? These guys always say the smartest things! Love that parallel.

    @Angela: Thank you for visiting. I have to agree with you 100%. My original post started to look like a novella, so I had to focus on one element of the show :) On not giving up when it gets hard -- this is such a key point. That's when we break through. That's when the whole thing becomes worth it. Thank you! Did I mention that your blog is one of the best out there?

    1. How can i contact Gordon Ramsay?... I personally think he is the best chef i have ever come across.i love everthing he does. my email is

  6. Yes, yes, and yes! I don't watch any Gordon Ramsey shows, but you made a great parallel here and I love your point. If you send out a manuscript with any doubts or reservations about it, then it's not ready. Send it out only after you've rewritten it and edited it and rewritten it again and you're absolutely sure it's the best you can make it.

    Great post, Ara!

  7. Thank you, Ava. I love how all my favorite bloggers are all over this. I love this line "...only after you've rewritten it and edited it and rewritten it again..." Spot on, my friend.

  8. Hey Bluddy,

    A writer posting about Chef Ramsay... are you F*****g crazy! (Well, that's what I thought before I read my way down to the end :)

    Excellent metaphors and I'm saying that as a guy who spent fifteen years working for chef/owners like Ramsay.

    (I watch the show mainly to being back "good" memories... it's sick, I know!)

  9. Hi Mark, it seems to me that writers and those working in the food services are very similar: they love pain ;) My father owned a restaurant, and I worked for him. We've never mended that relationship :)


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