Meet Gordon Ramsay’s adventure guide from his new cooking show
Gordon Ramsay never backs down from a challenge, and this particular episode of his new chef-meets-explorer series sees him tackle some very new and exciting experiences in Laos. Of course, he needed the help of an expert familiar with the area, and so in stepped Australian Lagos authority and cultural guide Mick O’Shea.
How did you become involved in this project?
I got involved because I’m an expert in the culture and environment of Southeast Asia and I work with interesting natural projects in the region. I was contacted by people I’ve worked with before to come up with ideas for interesting locations for Gordon to visit for his Uncharted programme.
What was Gordon like to work with? He has a reputation for being fiery-tempered?
I was pleasantly surprised, actually, because he’s a lot of fun to work with and, you know, sometimes well-known personalities come with egos, but Gordon was very easy.
What did you like about him the most?
I particularly enjoyed watching him overcome his anxiety about kayaking. He was initially very nervous when he heard we were taking on the Mekong river. He eased into it quite nicely and that anxiety gave way to a fun adventure ride for him. How did the food fit into the whole adventure scenario? It fit in perfectly because in that area, we tried to tap into how the locals source their produce. We tried to make sure that all the food we incorporated into the programme was from that area and eaten by the locals.
Are you a foodie yourself? How would you describe the food of Laos?
By no means am I chef, oh no. I do love my food, that I’ll tell you. I try to expose myself to different dishes and will eat out three to four nights a week, and on my work travels I experiment with a lot with new dishes. The adventurist in me cannot resist trying something new. The food in Laos is really good, and it’s only getting better now that the country is starting to prosper, so I reckon you’ll start to hear more and more about Laos-inspired dishes in the international foodie market going forward.
What’s your favourite dish?
Gordon and I had this local dish made up of meat and fresh herbs. It includes lime, chilli and garlic, and was nicely mixed into this great-tasting meal with the most inviting aroma.
Did anything extremely challenging happen?
Not particularly, but sometimes the logistics can be challenging because I’m involved with handling that for the whole crew and the support team. At times we would have three teams in three different areas, and we would have three or four different types of transport – imagine motorbikes, speedboats and kayaks all at the same time in different areas.
What advice would you give people who are thinking about exploring Laos?
Just get there. I’ve been in this field of work for over 20 years and most people go to Thailand and Vietnam when they think of visiting the Southeast Asian region. But most people that venture out to Laos end up having so much more fun here. I’d say Laos is one of those gems that have yet to be discovered by the masses. This is one of my favourite countries in the world. Most of Asia’s changing pretty fast, but here in Laos you still feel the essence of what ancient Asia used to be.
Why would you say people really need to watch this particular episode?
This episode is more of a rural landscape. For me Uncharted means less visited and lesser-known, and in his other episodes he went to gorgeous well-known places like Tunisia, but very few people know of Laos. In that sense, Laos represents the true meaning of Uncharted.
Watch Gordon Ramsay Uncharted on Wednesday 4 September on National Geographic (DStv channel 181) at 9PM.