The famed chef is back in the saddle again (and falling off it) for series 3 of his food and travel series Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted
By Laura Rutkowski, Senior Staff Writer
Teacher turns student as Gordon Ramsay travels around the world to learn about ingredients, flavours, dishes and cultures from the local chefs who know them best.
For series 3 of National Geographic’s Uncharted, Ramsay visits ten destinations (Texas, Portugal, Maine, Croatia, Puerto Rico, the Smoky Mountains, Iceland, Mexico, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Finland), where he’s guided by experts and specialists on their cuisine and how to harvest the ingredients for it.
In Texas, he herds cattle with the help of a helicopter and hunts for venomous rattlesnakes in the backcountry; in Portugal, he braves the waves to gather percebes, or goose barnacles; and in Maine, he struggles to keep up with a team of lobster fisherwomen in the state that has been called the “lobster capital of the world”.
Bread is cooked in geothermally heated soil in Iceland, while delicious ingredients wait to be discovered by Ramsay in America’s Smoky Mountains – after he rappels down a waterfall, that is.
“Umm, am I nearly there yet?”
Ramsay’s knowledge is put to the test at the end of each episode as he creates a recipe from scratch that embodies the culinary culture of the location. He prepares a meal in a cook-off against the master who taught him the way, and it’s down to the locals to sample his efforts and give their verdict.
The judger becomes the judged – and we’re sure every Hell’s Kitchen contestant would take great delight in seeing Ramsay in the hot seat for once (although, unfortunately, his new friends don’t swear at him).
Read on for an exclusive Q&A with Ramsay on his experience taking the road less travelled (and less tasted)…
What is it that people seem to love most about Uncharted?
“Now I’ve removed that spike from my tongue, it’s not so bad.”
People love the adventure, but I think they appreciate my honesty. It’s not in my DNA to sugar-coat things, so if something tastes terrible, I’m not afraid to say it (or in some cases spit it out... Sorry to our photographer who was in my line of fire in Iceland).
You tackle some scary challenges for the show, what’s the scariest and what does your family think?
I think for me, the scariest had to be getting percebes in Portugal. No wires, no harnesses, just me, the ocean and some very dangerous rock formations. As for my family, I tend to keep it a secret until after I finish, except for my son Jack. He’s a Royal Marine so this old man’s gotta keep up with him somehow!
Uncharted takes you away from a studio and a set, how do you prepare for the physicality of the experiences and being in the wild where anything can happen and making sure it’s all COVID-safe?
“The name’s Ramsay… Gordon Ramsay.”
Even when I’m on set, I’m keeping physically fit off of it. Bike rides, runs on the treadmill, it’s my escape and I love it. So when I hit the ground on Uncharted, I love it, because it takes my training to the next level with practical uses. As for keeping everything COVID safe, that comes down to our incredible crew who take it just as seriously as I do with testing, temperature checks and mask wearing. We wouldn’t have ten incredible episodes if it wasn’t for them.
We’ve all been sheltering for over a year now, how excited are you to introduce viewers to new lands and cultures and cuisines?
“Why are you both smiling like that? You want me to ride that thing?”
I couldn’t be more thrilled and I hope viewers are as well! We were one of the first shows to be back on the road during the pandemic and it allowed us to get access to some pretty incredible places and people. I think more so than ever, the locals weren’t afraid anymore to share how incredible their culture and cuisine truly is. I had some big challenges at the cook-offs because the chefs had been sharpening their knives for months waiting for me to take them on!
What were your top three experiences this season and why?
My top three has to be: percebes capturing in Portugal – one of the most dangerous things I’ve done on Uncharted and also one of the most simple ingredients to cook with. Herding cattle in Texas with helicopters and cowgirls. I mean, does it get more Uncharted than that? And my final one would be playing swamp football in Finland. I love my sports but, fructose, that was tough!
Are you ever unsure of any of the dishes you put in front of the local judges?
“Don’t look at her – look at me. Mine tastes better, right? RIGHT?”
I’m as confident as I can be after taking in everything I learned during the week. Sometimes I think it’s my competition who’s unsure! They can sometimes veer off from the traditional ways to try to impress me, instead of the locals. But it is good for me to lose here and there…. makes me stronger in future cook-offs!
How has this show changed the way you look at not just food, but life in general?
Uncharted makes you appreciate the small purveyors, unique local ingredients and stunning landscapes that the world has to offer. But in general, it makes you see how close the world is and how important family is in it. I mean, I never in my wildest dreams expected to see a Cornish pasty in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!
What were some of the most surprising ingredients you worked with this season?
“I’m not sure a hug is a good idea right now. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”
I think the most surprising ingredient I discovered was the honey ants in Mexico. Most of the time we want to kill ants, but here were these ants coming out of the ground producing the most incredible flavours I’ve ever had. I’d also say cloudberries in Finland. Walking around the marsh and finding these incredibly unique berries was extraordinary and was a must in my final cook!
What new recipes will be popping up in your restaurants inspired by the tastes you’ve found this season?
You’ll definitely see some tastes of Texas, Puerto Rico and the Great Smokys pop up in the US. I was so impressed with the quality of seafood in Iceland that I hope I can bring some of those incredible scallops and lava salt over. The one thing I won’t be bringing is that bloody wooden plank from Finland! There’s a reason we don’t have that in London!
You had a star turn on TikTok with your daughter during the pandemic, how have you been enjoying that quality time with the family?
Trust me, it was fun for the first month until I became a breakfast line cook every day with everyone’s request. But by the time our first episode of Uncharted was being shot, I couldn’t wait to get exploring.
When is National Geographic’s Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted on TV?
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted airs on National Geographic/HD (CH 266/268) on Wednesdays at 9pm, with the first episode screening on 15 September. It is also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > National Geographic.
The ten-part series will subsequently air every week until Wednesday 17 November.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
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Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
Interviews: Any opinions expressed in interviews are those of the interview subject and not those of Virgin Media.
Image credit: Gordon Ramsay Uncharted @ NatGeo