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Gordon Behind Bars
With hit shows such as The F Word, Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares under his belt, Gordon Ramsay’s TV career was on a roll. But then he had a high-profile falling-out with this father-in-law and former business partner. Now in Gordon Behind Bars, the confrontational chef mentors convicts at HMP Brixton as they set up a business making and selling baked goods. He told TV Choice more…
What was it like going behind bars?
Pretty intense. Me and the production team moved in little clusters, so that I could blend in, which was at times very difficult because the inmates would see a camera and start mucking around, and at other times they’d go crazy because the camera was pointing in their direction. You did feel slightly vulnerable.
What did you find the most satisfying thing about making Gordon Behind Bars?
I was slightly worried about whether the British public would care whether they were buying or eating a product that was cooked by convicts. But we did a straw poll of 2,000 people and they didn’t give a damn. Having said that, obviously we didn’t work with anyone who’d been convicted for paedophilia. I also had to make it clear that part of the percentage of the money we made was going to victim support units, not just back into the kitchen.
You’ve spoken about your father’s alcoholism, and your own brother, Jimmy, having done time for drug offences. Was there a turning point in your life when you decided not to go down that ‘bad’ route yourself?
When my brother smoked his first joint was the moment I decided I had to get the hell out of there. That was a day I’ve never forgotten. My life might have panned out very differently otherwise.
How would you feel about becoming a spokesperson for the prison system?
I don’t want to start lobbying, but I’m very vocal. The thing is, you get under scrutiny from HRMC when you’re late with your tax bills - and I’m not gloating in terms of the money I’ve got, it’s got nothing to do with that. But I’ve paid millions and millions of pounds in tax over the last five years, and I could have upped sticks and thought, ‘Sod this, I’m going to go and live in Monaco.’ It just suddenly dawned on me on the plane two weeks ago, I was just sat there thinking, ‘Jesus, you know, we pay tax a year in advance!’ Now I don’t have any issues with that, but when you’re talking about two or three million pounds twice a year in tax it starts to grate on you a little bit. It starts to frustrate you in the way that you think, ‘Jesus, whilst we’re supporting and constantly paying millions and millions in tax we’re just putting it into a bottomless pit' because we’re talking about three or four thousand prison inmates. And there’s an indication to this country’s negativity and one of the biggest missed opportunities of employees’ labour. Spending the time I’ve spent in the States you see these guys in bright yellow shirts out doing roadworks, and you see these guys working at midnight until six o’clock in the morning. They’re out of prison doing eight-hour shifts. We don’t have that kind of system here, we coop them up and I just see it as a big frustration, and a system that hasn’t been challenged. Nothing’s changing and it won’t change unless we do something about it.