Gordon Ramsay became the world's most famous and infamous chef. This autobiography talks about his difficult childhood - his father's alcoholism and violence, his brother's heroin addiction, his failed first career as a footballer, his working relationship (and subsequent feud) with Marco Pierre White, and his kitchen life.
When we read biographies, we all want honesty. Humble Pie delivers this - Ramsay doesn't hold back on personal issues and struggles with members of his family, rivals in the industry, or other personal grievances. He admits when he did "jerk moments" in his youth and when he did the wrong thing. He admits not noticing a friend's drug habit before it was too late, and he admits wanting to build boundaries toward his brother because of the continuous and draining heroin addiction.
The writing style is straight forward, like a conversation you'd have about a topic, expletives included. It's divided into sections, starting with his childhood and volatile relationship toward his father. He goes in chronological order, which makes sense in every autobiography but that isn't always followed when celebrities pen their memoirs.
His childhood was fascinating stuff and explained much. His animosity toward his father still seems strong, which is warranted, and it seems much wasn't resolved before the man's death years ago. This wasn't on the fault of Ramsay, however, as it just seems to be the way things go. The chapter with his brother Ronnie and the heroin addiction was painful. He mentions that he has been ostracized in the public regarding his brother, including his brother accepting money from tabloids to "sell him out" in order to ensure another fix. He brings up things his brother did to him in response to aid. I sympathize. It's hard living with an addict relative, and sometimes we do not have to put up walls to stop the vampiric draining that feeds an endless cycle of self-absorption and self-sabotage. He even includes a tidbit about the woman who is claiming to be his half-sister he had never heard of, and how he disapproved of the way she approached it with media.
He has a section called "War" which speaks of his battles with starting his restaurants and all the cut-throat competition and double-crossing which went on. He speaks of his beginning growths and experiences through various cities and avenues, including an interesting section spent on a private yaught that ended in tragedy/death for a particular co-worker. The section titled "War" lives up to his name. It's almost like a mini-mafia with some of the double crossing, people choosing sides, blacklisting names, lawsuits. Good grief, such pressure!
Some of the situations in the training in the kitchen he encountered when he was young sounded traumatic in written form - I couldn't imagine putting up with it myself. You really must be motivated and to live for cooking to put up for that sort of abuse. Not to sound callous, but I wonder if the abuse he suffered through with his father numbed him a bit to that kind of attitude and physical manhandling in the kitchen. Not to where it's acceptable, but to where he could survive it and not give up where others would have?
He speaks of his family often, including meeting his wife and admitting jealousy of his mate who had her first. I had no idea they had their children through IVF treatment and that chefs suffered from low sperm count because of the heat in the kitchen after so many years. He brings up being criticized for never changing diapers or being at the birth of any of his children - again, brutal honesty and the direct approach to criticism.
I can't connect with Ramsay when it comes to his total dedication and almost obsessive ambition, since that's not a personality trait I carry. What I can do is connect with him over his points of life, friends, family, and situations. I found the behind-the-scenes industry experiences informative, and the build-up from a horrible childhood to a productive adulthood inspiring. He shows there are still struggles and failures, and that this is life and not a fairy tale.
Since these sections are told with frank honesty, even painting himself in a negative light in a few places as long as he's being forthcoming, it's intriguing stuff. The writing style is spot-on and easily digestible. Humble Pie speaks of his shows at the end of the book, but this is emphasizing his life stories and his growth into the chef he has now become.
Highly recommended for fans of autobiographies or Ramsay.
"Work is who I am, who I want to be. I sometimes think that if I were to stop working, I'd stop existing."