Next month, National Geographic will debut a new show called Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted that will feature TV’s shoutiest chef learning about local ingredients and culinary traditions in six destinations on five continents.
Each episode of the show will feature Ramsay both preparing his own dishes using ingredients that he harvests, and cooking regional recipes alongside local chefs. He’ll take a tour of Peru’s Sacred Valley with Chef’s Table veteran Virgilio Martinez, celebrate the Berber New Year in North Africa, cook a Maori-inspired feast in New Zealand with The Final Table’s Monique Fiso, and prepare a banquet for monks in Laos. The chef, a former Ironman triathlete, will also get to show his love of outdoor recreation by kayaking down rivers, diving into oceans, and rappelling down the sides of cliffs. “It’s been an amazing journey traveling off the beaten path with National Geographic and connecting with locals to learn and share incredible stories of unique traditions, delicacies, and the extreme lengths it takes to harvest native ingredients,” Ramsay says in a statement about the new show. “I’ve learned way more filming this series than I have in the last 10 years.”
When the show was first announced last summer, the news was immediately met with backlash on social media from people who took issue with the notion of this white guy chef parachuting into foreign food cultures and “discovering the undiscovered” while “pitting his own interpretations of regional dishes against the tried-and-true classics,” as the original press released described. To curb the blowback, National Geographic issued a statement clarifying that the show had not yet gone into production yet and that the team’s goal was to “celebrate and learn about local cultures around the world.”
In the year since that announcement, Ramsay opened a London restaurant, Lucky Cat, that immediately drew criticism from local media for pitching itself as a “vibrant Asian eating house” but having a muddled menu of mix-matched Chinese and Japanese dishes from a kitchen lead by a white head chef. Eater London contributor Angela Hui described a preview for the restaurant as “nothing if not a real life Ramsay kitchen nightmare,” and the celebrity chef later took to Instagram to defend his restaurant and criticize Hui, writing that her comments “were not professional.”
Considering the initial backlash to the show’s concept and these recent claims of cultural appropriation surrounding Lucky Cat, Ramsay’s performance on Uncharted will surely be judged very carefully by critics and audiences alike. The good news, at least, is that the trailer seems to emphasize that Ramsay is trying to be a respectful traveler and absorb the local culture, as opposed to playing a game of oneupmanship with his hosts. It does, however, look like the show will include a healthy dose of macho posturing from Ramsay, who clearly loves a good adrenaline rush.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted premieres on July 21 at 10 p.m on National Geographic.