The Hot-Tempered Head Chef: The Early Years of Gordon Ramsay

He may be known in the UK for his Michelin star-rated restaurants, but Ramsay is better known the world over for being the confrontational and brash host on the television shows “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.” Those shows are just two of the business interests controlled by Gordon Ramsay Holdings, of which Ramsay owns a 69 percent stake valued at £55 million. A successful entrepreneur, Ramsay has come along way from his time as a boy who dreamed of nothing but football.

Born on November 8, 1966 in Johnstone, Scotland, Ramsay was the son of Gordon and Helen Ramsay. His father wore a number of hats, from welder to shopkeeper to country singer wannabe while his mother was a nurse. Soon after Ramsay was born, the family moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in England. But, in what he calls a “hopelessly itinerant” early life, Ramsay and his family were constantly moving around in order for his father to find work. It was a difficult childhood with a father Ramsay called a “hard-drinking womanizer” in his autobiography “Humble Pie.”

To escape his unpleasant family life, Ramsay spent much of his youth out on the football field. When he was just 11 years old, he was chosen to play on under-14 football team, and was selected to play for Warwickshire the next year. He loved the game and dreamt of becoming a pro-footballer.

In the summer of 1984, the Scottish club Glasgow Rangers began to scout the young Ramsay. It was a dream come true for Ramsay, who had grown up supporting the Rangers. But, his hopes of playing professionally came to a quick end when he endured a serious knee injury during training one day and smashed his cartilage. He continued to train and play in spite of the injury, finally tearing a ligament during a squash game.

Ramsay never recovered from the double-injury and, as a result was not signed by the Rangers. They told him that only a club in a lower league would ever sign him. But, Ramsay was not one for the lower leagues. If he could not be a part of the best, he did not want to be a part of the game at all.

Instead of being known as “the football player with the gammy knee,” Ramsay decided to leave football behind for good. He did not have enough credits to enroll in either the Navy or Police, so he opted instead for a local college. Here, he studied Hotel Management in a choice he calls “an accident, a complete accident.”

Ramsay was now 19 years old and beginning to develop a strong interest in cooking. He found himself more interested in the art than he had ever been with football, and began to think seriously about a career as a chef. His start in the industry might have been a complete accident, but Ramsay was now determined to chart out a new course for himself.

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