Thomas Keller vs Gordon Ramsay

Going on vacation, and being somewhat disconnected from the world, means that I finally got a chance to finish Thomas Keller’s master class. If I haven’t done enough to convey how wonderful it is, let me be blunt: it’s amazing. Go get it right now.

While I’m sad that I don’t have more options to learn from him, it is interesting to contrast his style and approach from Gordon Ramsay’s. T.K. is quiet, refined, calm, and reverential about what he does. He also seems much more comfortable with silence that G.R. seems to be. While T.K. will routinely have stretches of silence of 5–10 seconds, G.R., tends to repeat several catch phrases to fill the space (“it’s just incredible” “you won’t believe it” etc). I wonder if this is as a result of his many years on tv.

It’s also interesting to see the differences between the two — both are accomplished chefs with three Michelin stars apiece, but G.R. seems much more concerned about conveying his journey to acclaim, even going so far as to devote an entire lesson to his history. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions here.

Finally, and while I’m a devoted amateur, I did notice that G.R. seems to be much less about the technically correct description of things vs functionally correct. For example, when you run a knife over a steel, you’re not sharpening the blade. What you’re doing is *honing* the blade — i.e., straightening the thinnest part of the edge into as close to a single line as possible. Sharpening is actually running the blade over a stone or other abrasive to grind some of the material off into a new edge. It’s perhaps a distinction without a difference, but for me, it highlights the difference between Keller (honing), and Ramsay (sharpening).

It’s also interesting to see the differences between the chefs for the same recipe, for example, pasta dough (scrambled eggs are another example): T.K.’s recipe is much closer to what I’ve usually made — in his case, it’s 250g of egg yolk, 500g of 00 flour, olive oil, a little salt, a little milk, and a whole egg. In G.R.’s case, it’s 2 cups of 00, 4 eggs, 2 egg yolks, olive oil, and salt.

You’ll notice right away that the ratio of egg white to the other ingredients is much higher in G.R.’s recipe vs T.K.’s. Incidentally, T.K.’s recipe is very close to what I’ve done in the past, prior to investing in Masterclass. Incidentally, this book is an excellent reference. The addition of the milk and egg white is new however.

I’d need to see what 2 cups of flour works out to in grams, but I’m guessing it’s between 1/4 to 1/3rd of the weight of T.K.’s recipe. In T.K.’s case, that amount of yolk translates into 14–15 eggs. Yes, you should make meringue or angel food cake if you’re going to make pasta :)

As the two were rolling out their dough, T.K. elected to cut small pieces of the dough off and put that through the pasta roller — the process was much more manageable if less dramatic. In G.R.’s case, he elected to do the entire ball at once, transforming a softball sized lump of pasta into a sheet some 36' long. Certainly more dramatic, but also meant that he had to call his assistant over to help him manage the dough. Again, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Some other things I’ve gleaned: I want to try making stuffed pasta. T.K., made a pea farce to fill his agnolotti (“little pillows”). I’ve rarely found peas interesting, but the idea of a mushroom filling does sound interesting to me (mushroom, garlic, Italian parsley, mascarpone). No time like to the present to get comfortable with a piping bag.

G.R. insists that you flower everything as your making pasta. I’ve substituted semolina to try to keep the pasta sheets from sticking, but think I can avoid that when cutting if I just allow the sheets to dry some. More importantly, G.R. insists that the pasta roller be flowered as well to prevent sticking. I’ve had more than a little trouble with my dough sticking to the rollers as it passes through, even going so far as to just roll the dough out by hand. I’ll have to try this next. His butter poached lobster ravioli is definitely appealing, but the idea of cooking and more challenging, cleaning a live lobster is… daunting. More on that as I gather my conviction.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I’m down on G.R. — he’s different, and the contrast between the two chef’s is both interesting and striking. More on this as I get further into the class.

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