There are cookbooks that make you instantly want to rush to the kitchen and prepare your tools and there are those that make you want to curl into a comfy chair and peruse. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze (Key Porter Books) is of the latter type. To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone being inspired to actually cook from reading this book. But there’s plenty to look at and to be inspired by and perhaps even to envy.
My first hint that this would be the case came from the foreword: it’s written by Ferran Adriá, the mad genuis chef behind Barcelona’s El Bulli, possibly the most visible practitioner of molecular gastronomy in the world.
While the food in Gordon Ramsay’s Maze is not that, neither is it especially Gordon Ramsay. Maze is the Ramsay owned and backed London restaurant helmed by Ramsay and Adriá protégé, Jason Atherton. Maze has been one of those incredible restaurant industry success stories: people line up, book far in advance and pay vast prices for a peck at Atherton’s food. And a peck is all they’ll get, too. In many ways, it seems the antithesis of Ramsay’s hearty and gorgeous “keep it simple” fare. Atherton’s food is fussy and beautiful. Ramsay has called it “modern tapas” but it really seems much more than that: perhaps the place where tapas meets molecular gastronomy. Food that is fueled by imagination and technology as much as the desire to produce beautiful food from, say, local ingredients. I can not imagine, for instance, the circumstance that would lead me to try my hand at Asparagus with Quail’s Egg and Pink Grapefruit Hollandaise or Mango Soup with Lychee Granita. How about Pineapple Carpaccio with Fromage Frais and Lime Sorbet? Even the simple sounding things appear overworked and precious, but this is as much due to food styling as anything else: sweet little portions artistically arranged. For example, Perfect Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes on Toast is beautifully framed and shot. From an aesthetic stance, it’s a gorgeous photo. It also looks entirely unappetizing: a runny mess of yellowish material on toast that looks overdone.
Gordon Ramsay’s Maze is a beautiful, interesting book. It’s stunningly photographed, well organized and the recipes are sensibly put down and shared. I know this is entirely subjective — the nature of review — but there was little here I found inviting. I say this knowing full well that this may well be an early glimpse of the food that is to come.
Another thing: I know this is likely silly and it was something I tried to overcome but, ultimately, could not: though he owns the restaurant, sticking Gordon Ramsay’s name in this book’s title seems deliberately misleading. It may be Ramsay’s joint, but this is Jason Atherton’s book.