LOS ANGELES — The nice thing about being an upscale chef is that the food is already there.
It’s in the pantry and the freezer; you just mix it and cook it and such.
But Gordon Ramsay’s new show is a little like his Scottish boyhood, in which he had to catch the food first. Or steal it.
“My father couldn’t afford fishing rights,” Ramsay recalled.”So we were poaching; we were stealing salmon.”
His job was to set the fishing line, then retreat until he had a bite. “It was like playing hide-and-seek in the wood,” he said. ”Then when he line went crazy and the reel was screaming, we came out, unhooked the fish and ran home and gutted it and ate salmon for the next three or four days.”
Now “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” takes him around the world, meeting people for whom food is an all-day process. He was in:
— Laos (shown here). “The people there are very much subsistence people,” said Mick O’Shea, a guide who spent 20 years in he Mekong region. “They don’t go to the shopping market or he mall to get their food. They have to hunt it every single day.”
— Hawaii. “Hunting would not appeal to me at all, if it wasn’t for the follow-through of cooking,” said Kimi Werner, a Hawaiian diver and spearfisher. “I don’t feel like I’ve finished this until I’ve … shared every single morsel.”
— New Zealand, with a Maori style of cookery. “You light a fire and the fire ends up being about a thousand degrees,” said Monique Fiso, a chef. “Then you put dirt over it. And then you wait and hope in five hours that you actually have something to serve your guests.”
Those worlds were far from Ramsay’s roots of being a pro soccer player and then (afer an injury) a chef with a string of restaurants and TV shows.
“Not being recognized is a dream,” he said. “They’ve got no idea who (I am). Just this 220-pound guy with blond hair and white skin and doesn’t bend down enough to fit in the hut.”
At times, he felt thoroughly out of place. “Mick said, ‘How much kayacking have you done?’ I said, ‘Dude, look at the size of me. I capsize every time I sit in a kayak.’”
There was a different sort of challenge in Hawaii. “Kimi said, ‘Hand yourself over to the ocean. Have you ever done yoga?’ And I said, ‘Me in yoga pants? Forget it.’”
But he did hand himself to the ocean, paddle the river, climb rocks, rappel down a waterfall and catch fish with his hands.
“There’s something adventurous about spending time in the wild and having to depend on what you’re getting from the river,” he said.
It brought him directly to he food source. And he didn’t even have to steal it.
— “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted,” 10 p.m. ET Sundays, National Geographic, rerunning at midnight.
— The opener, in Peru, reruns at 10 p.m. Saturday (July 27) and 9 a.m. Sunday.
— Second episode, July 28, is New Zealand. It reruns at 11 p.m. ET Aug. 3 and 9 a.m. Aug. 4,
— Coming are Morocco, Aug. 4; Hawaii, Aug. 11; Laos, Aug. 18; and Alaska, Aug. 25.