How many F-words can Gordon Ramsay squeeze into a 52-minute documentary about cocaine? Precisely 20, as it turns out, with a few “shits” thrown in for good measure.
Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine is a new two-part documentary in which the chef travels to South and Central America to investigate the illegal process by which the drug is made, and rides along with British police trying to catch drug drivers and dealers.
If you are wondering what Ramsay has to do with cocaine, the chef’s reasons for embarking on this mission are three-fold. Firstly, cocaine use is the restaurant industry’s “dirty little secret”. In the first episode, Ramsay finds traces of the drug in the staff and customer toilets of his own restaurant. “This is a day they shouldn’t be doing coke,” says Ramsay, shaking his head. “It’s f***ing Sunday.”
Secondly, Ramsay has seen drugs wreck the lives of his family and friends: his brother Ronnie is a heroin addict who has been missing for six months, and his head chef David Dempsey died in 2003 after falling 40ft from a block of flats because he was in a state of “excited delirium” from taking cocaine.
Thirdly, the UK is currently experiencing a cocaine epidemic. It is the biggest user of the drug in Europe and cocaine-related deaths in Britain have soared 16% in the last year, reaching a record high.
As titles go, Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine is pretty provocative. It conjures up an absurd image – imagine that whole “idiot sandwich” saga on narcotics – but the name of the show isn’t the only reason to watch it. It’s genuinely interesting and informative. It’s also very funny – albeit probably accidentally.
The first obstacle Ramsay encounters under his new guise as Serious Documentary Maker is that he has one of the most recognisable faces in the celebrity world. He accompanies the police as they pull someone over for suspected drug driving; when the man gets out of the car he simply says, “Mate. You look like Gordon Ramsay. Are ya?” To which Ramsay, arms folded, awkwardly responds, “Erm, yep.”
Although Ramsay’s struggles with undercover investigating are funny, the segment also supplies the sobering revelation that in three hours on one random Thursday afternoon in Bournemouth, the police have nicked two men for driving under the influence of cocaine on the school run.
Ramsay’s adventures also take him to a lab where cocaine seized by police is tested. While there, he handles hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cocaine, which freaks him out a fair bit. “I want to get all this coke off my hands now,” he announces. “Because next time I go to an airport, I’m going to shit myself.”
Next, Ramsay’s travels take him further afield to Columbia, the biggest producer of cocaine in the world, where the drug makes up a £40bn industry. “To understand the war on drugs properly,” Ramsay explains, “I had to come to the heartbeat of where it starts to see how this shit’s produced.”
He heads deep into the “arse end of nowhere” (the jungle) to meet a farmer-cum-chef who claims to have no idea of the devastation caused by what he is producing and says he has to do it to feed his young family because there are no other jobs.
Ramsay watches in wonder as an extraordinary concoction of coca leaves, cement powder, sulphuric acid and gasoline are all stirred together in a kind of cauldron. “It’s like something out of f***ing Harry Potter,” he marvels, before asking the camera crew whether they reckon the Columbian farmer knows who Harry Potter is.
The icing on the cake is when battery acid is added to the mix. Ramsay’s response? “F**k me”. Obviously.
Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine begins on Thursday 19th October at 9pm on ITV