Gordon Ramsay's TV appearances usually see him shouting and swearing at chefs whose biggest crime is making a substandard omelette. For his latest television show, however, he attempts to tackle bigger problems—namely the food industry's obsession with the white stuff. No, Ramsay isn't teaming up with fellow celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to talk about sugar. He wants to address the widespread use of cocaine among restaurant workers.
In an interview with the Radio Times to promote his new ITV documentary, Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine, the chef brands the use of the Class A drug as the "hospitality industry's dirty little secret." Ramsay says all but one of the toilets in his 31 restaurants tested positive for coke and recalls stories of customers taking plates to the loos to do lines and asking for their soufflé to be dusted with icing sugar and cocaine. Well, that's one way to make sure your dessert rises.
On a more serious note, Ramsay also discusses the sobering implications of drug abuse in the kitchen, including the death of his head chef David Dempsey in 2001, following a cocaine overdose.
Sadly, substance abuse among chefs is hardly a revelation. According to research carried out by trade union Unite earlier this year, the long hours and often stressful working conditions that come with a job in the kitchen have a profound impact on chefs' mental and physical wellbeing. The survey found that 27 percent of chefs turned to alcohol to get through a shift and 41 percent said that they used other stimulants. Anecdotally, many chefs tell of dealing with addiction in the kitchen and speed-fuelled shifts.
Dave Turnball, Unite's regional officer, told MUNCHIES that Ramsay's investigation into cocaine use in the restaurant industry should look at the reasons why workers turn to drugs in the first place. Turnball said: "Chefs are resorting to the use of drugs and alcohol because of the relentless and punishing hours they are expected to work. Working 50 to 60 hours a week on a regular basis takes its toll and chefs in the UK are suffering because employers simply do not allow a proper work/life balance."
But as long as the restaurant industry's high pressure, "work until you drop" ethos endures, it looks like the coke culture that comes with it will, too.