Benjamin Orpwood: Every Day with Gordon Ramsay is a Funny Story

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Chef Benjamin Orpwood

Throughout his career, Ben Orpwood launched numerous restaurants around the world, including Zuma in Istanbul and Sexy Fish in London. Destinations talked to Benjamin about the restaurant business, impressions of Kyiv and Gordon Ramsay after his workshop at the RestArt Forum 2018.

I know that before launching a career as a chef, you were trying to become a football coach. How did you end up in the kitchen?

Well, when I was in school, I was a bit stupid — I messed around, didn't really do any homework, didn't study for my exams. And then when you leave school you realize “well, maybe I should've listened”. The choice for me was the army or the kitchen, and well, in the kitchen you don't get shot.

I see. So why did you decide to stay?

Benjamin Orpwood preparing foodMatt Abé, the three Michelin-star chef, and I were both asked this question some weeks ago and gave the same answer — it's all about the rules and the discipline. I don't know about Matt, but from my side I can say that when before I never listened, never paid attention and wasn't disciplined. So going somewhere with strict rules made me change my mind.

To talk about the rules, what are the top 3 rules for launching a restaurant?

First, have a small menu to start with, because it's better to add than take away. You need to work hard — when I opened my restaurant, I worked seven days a week for three months and that's why the restaurant is successful now.

I never step away until I'm happy. Some people will open a restaurant and then have the weekend off next week, but it doesn't work like that.

The third thing is getting someone you trust. Normally, when you open a restaurant you have a whole new team. But you need one person you would trust.

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Duly noted. Please, tell us about your favorite ingredients to work with.

Right now is the game season [wildfowl shooting season - editor's note] in England, so partridge, pheasant, pigeons...all these different beautiful birds. Apart from this, I think fruits and vegetables are my favorite right now.

I bet everyone is curious about your experience in the Gordon Ramsay. What's the latest funniest story that comes to your mind?

Benjamin Orpwood at RestArt Fest 2018 in KyivEvery day is a funny story. Every day I'm sitting at the meeting and he sits across the table and he's my hero, so...it's very strange. When I grew up and when I was doing my apprenticeship in Cambridge, there was this TV program with Gordon, Kitchen Nightmares. It was the original one, the British program.

So I watched it and thought "Wow, look at him, he's amazing" and now I sit on meetings with him and we go to Hong Kong together in two weeks, it's crazy. The funniest thing for me is just being there, really.

I know you're in Ukraine for the first time. How do you like it here?

I like it a lot. It reminds me a lot of Istanbul when I opened Zuma restaurant there 11 years ago. They were changing things a lot, adopting a new food culture, opening all these new restaurants...I spoke to a lady looking after us here in Ukraine and she told me H&M was opening soon, that it was a massive thing for the country. It's kind of similar to Istanbul when we opened Zuma — the wow-factor from London restaurant in Istanbul. So, I like it a lot here.

I see. Are you familiar with Ukrainian cuisine? Do you like any dishes?

I'm not really familiar with it. I know there are lots of dishes everyone kind of debates the origin like borshch or pierogi — some Polish people say it's Polish and Russians say it's Russian and Ukrainians state it's Ukrainian.

True, we have these kinds of disputes often. Hopefully, you will have a chance to try the local cuisine.

Yeah, I really want to try pierogi (laughs).

Photos provided by RestArt Forum.

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