Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said on Friday he is hoping to open one of his world-famous restaurants in Singapore soon.
He told reporters this after a visit to Tian Tian Chicken Rice, a stall at Maxwell Food Centre, in preparation for what promises to be an epic culinary showdown between him and three of Singapore's most popular hawkers on Sunday.
"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to open up here," said the Michelin star-awarded chef, who opened three new restaurants in Las Vegas between May and December last year. He plans to open two more in London "something really exciting" in Hong Kong.
"I would love to open up in Singapore, yes!" he said.
Ramsay is in Singapore this weekend to take crash courses in chicken rice, chilli crab and laksa cooking at Tian Tian, Jumbo Seafood and 328 Katong Laksa, respectively. He will then face off against the outlets' three founder-chefs on a cook-off at Newton Circus Food Centre on Sunday evening, dishing out some 1,000 portions of food to members of the public, who will form the audience at the battle ground.
The odds seem stacked against him, given that the seasoned hawkers have plied their trade for decades. Yet, Ramsay says he's game. "I love a challenge," he said, adding that he does well when "the pressure is on".
Asked if he will be have his own spin on the three well-loved Singaporean dishes, Ramsay immediately shunned the idea, saying it would be "stupid" of him if he tried to reinvent the wheel.
"I'd cause a riot if I had to start coming up with a new chicken rice," he said. "What I'm going to do is focus on all those elements in terms of cooking the rice perfectly, boiling that chicken, and then, you know, I'm not going to get it 'fancified' with a lot of different textures, I'm going to learn that chilli sauce, that blend with the garlic and the ginger, and more importantly listen. If you can't beat them, join them, right?"
At Tian Tian on Friday, Ramsay studied founder chef Foo Kui Lian as she prepared her famous chicken rice, noting the various ingredients that go into her signature broth, among other techniques.
"I'm not taking tips, I'm stealing. I'm like a magpie," he said mischievously. "I'm coming to look at everything that is almost glittery, and you know what, I think every top chef learns from one another."
He tells us how he's preparing for the competition this weekend:
When asked about Singapore's hawker culture and whether he felt like it might be dying out, he responded with an emphatic "no".
"I could speak on behalf of the majority of chefs globally -- hawker culture's not dying out, and secretly, every top chef around the world has restaurants (in Singapore) -- from Jean-Georges to Daniel (Boulud) to (Joël) Robuchon to (Alain) Ducasse, I'm looking at a restaurant myself here... and I tell you what, after these top chefs are finished working their own restaurants, they come to these kinds of markets for their inspiration, so this is far from dying out. Nowhere near it," he said.
Watch Ramsay wax lyrical over how delicious Singapore hawker food is:
One last question -- will the celebrity chef, well known for his colourful language and fiery personality, be swearing on Sunday?
"We have good days -- today's one of them, and you know when things go right, I'm the first to tell my chefs," he said with a smile. "When things go wrong, I'm also the first to let them know it's going wrong so... I'm gonna call it as I see it."