We chatted to Gordon Ramsay about the latest season of Uncharted, which sees him travel to places near and far in search of unique cultures and delicious local delicacies every Wednesday at 9pm on National Geographic, DStv Channel 181. Here’s what the iconic chef had to say about filming during a pandemic, exploring new uncharted territories and indulging in the local cuisines.
What is it that people seem to love most about Uncharted?
People love the adventure, but I think they appreciate my honesty. It’s not in my DNA to sugarcoat 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?
Even when I’m on set, I’m keeping physically fit off of it. Bike rides, runs on the treadmill … they are 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 10 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, cultures and cuisines?
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 are. 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 first 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 is another. 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?
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 – it 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 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!
Why is National Geographic the perfect home for Uncharted?
National Geographic is home to exploration and adventure and I couldn’t think of anywhere else this show could be. The team at National Geographic bring their knowledge to every episode to make sure I uncover every stone and it’s because of that the show is as good as it is.
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.