I've always had mixed feelings about Gordon Ramsay. Don't get me wrong --- I know he's a jerk. Ramsay reigns over his kitchens with an iron spatula, berating employees and cheftestants for everything from stupidity to weight. In fact, he's practically made a career on his over-the-top temper. But I'm also only human, and I admit to finding his reality TV show, "Hell's Kitchen," somewhat addictive.
So it wasn't at all surprising to me that, over the weekend, Ramsay got himself into a particularly nasty spat with Australian journalist Tracy Grimshaw. On Saturday, a day after the "A Current Affair" reporter interviewed him, Ramsay told an audience of thousands at the Good Food and Wine Show in Melbourne that Grimshaw was a lesbian. He also suggested that the journalist "needs to see Simon Cowell's Botox doctor." And, in what may have been his most disgusting move of the day, Ramsay "showed a picture of a woman -- who appeared to be naked -- on her hands and knees with the features of a pig and multiple breasts" and cracked, "That's Tracy Grimshaw."
Australian feminist groups are up in arms about Ramsay's performance -- as well they should be. The (apparently unprovoked) comments were disgusting and sexist. But they also need to be put in perspective: I don't believe that Ramsay is a chauvinist asshole so much as an asshole, period, who sometimes brandishes chauvinism as a weapon. It's a small distinction, but perhaps it explains why the celebrity chef has made headlines both for celebrating and denouncing female cooks.
Grimshaw seemed to acknowledge this in a candid, courageous and witty response to Ramsay's outburst (posted below), which aired on "A Current Affair" Sunday night. "This is not a business for wimps, and I am not one," she begins, going on to say, "I have no idea what prompted his outburst, which began yesterday and continued today." Grimshaw denies Ramsay's publicist's claim that "the comments were a joke and Ramsay and Grimshaw had a good relationship":
Despite what his publicists said in damage control, we do not have a great relationship. We have no relationship at all. I've played along with him in interviews because it's entertaining, and that's my job. And I walk away afterwards and I don't think about it again.
She also discloses that she had respected Ramsay's request to stay away from questions about his marriage and private life. ("We all know why," she says, in a well-earned snarky aside.)
"I'm not going to pretend that his comments didn't hurt," says Grimshaw. "I was absolutely miserable when I found out ... Truly, I wonder how many people would laugh if they were effectively described as an old, ugly pig. How is that funny, exactly? And worse, it isn't even witty." Grimshaw mentions that she thought about ignoring Ramsay's outburst. But "bullies thrive when no one takes them on," she says. "And I'm not going to sit meekly and let some arrogant narcissist bully me."
Grimshaw saves her most cutting remarks until the end of the speech. "We've all seen how Gordon Ramsay treats his wife -- and he supposedly loves her," she says, concluding that "we're all just fodder for him." And instead of obsessing over the fact that Ramsay called her a lesbian or going to great lengths to prove otherwise, she simply quips that the chef seems to believe "any woman who doesn't find him attractive must be gay. For the record, I don't, and I'm not."