It takes a special kind of chutzpah to share a kitchen with Gordon Ramsay, but TV’s newest celebrity chef reckons she’s got it taped. “My daddy’s quite mushy on the inside,” says Matilda Ramsay, 13. “It’s always fun in our kitchen at home.”
Tilly, as she’s known to family and friends, has been cooking since the age of six and now she has her own show on CBBC, Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch. Shot over a summer in Los Angeles, where her dad was shooting the US version of MasterChef, the programme is loosely structured around the food blog Matilda started as a way of keeping in touch with her friends back in England.
Half video diary, half cookery show, it’s a crisply edited snapshot of the Californian teen dream: Matilda and her siblings – Megan, 16, and 14-year-old twins Holly and Jack – have a go at everything LA has to offer, from surfing to zip-wiring, Hollywood parties and a stunt lesson at a film studio. All with suitably themed snacks.
Smiley and capable, Ramsay fille is the least temperamental of cooks. She devises all her own dishes and chats to camera as to the manner born. “It’s not really hard, because I tend to chat a lot anyway,” she says. “I just have to remember to look up and explain more and try to make it easy for people to follow.”
Cooking is a special bond between Matilda and her parents (mum Tana has brought out her own range of recipe books). “Mum’s always cooking at home for us all and it’s always very relaxed – just making things up from what is left in the fridge. But when my daddy cooks, he seems to know exactly what he’s doing and everything is very fast. So I watch them both and then just cook my way.”
Matilda’s signature dishes are big on impact (there’s a spectacular Halloween platter of severed mincemeat hands in a welter of ketchup and gorgeously “dressed-up” baked potatoes worthy of the red carpet) but easy for young cooks to follow. “It’s great for kids to know about cooking,” she says, “because it helps you understand how to eat healthily and it teaches independence for later on in life.” Her mum, she confides, is more into the healthy stuff than her dad (“He’s more on the side of treats”).
The family’s American summer was the perfect opportunity to present food with a transatlantic twist. “I’d say the main difference between British and American food is the portion sizes!” says Matilda, “but I also like the fact that you get to cook outside a lot – I loved cooking fish stew in a bucket on the beach! I really enjoy sports and it was great being in my swimming costume most of the time. But I also love coming home to my London life – even school!”
Matilda recently had a taste of her new fame when she presented an award at the National Television Awards. “The hardest bit was having to do the red carpet, because everyone is shouting at you to look at them and you don’t know what to do.” The kitchen, on the other hand – even a kitchen bristling with cameras – is her natural comfort zone.
“The best tip Daddy has given me is to just do what I like doing, because it really shows when you make food that you’ve enjoyed cooking. He always says, ‘Just have fun, enjoy, and mind your manners!’”