Last year London stole the honour of being Europe’s cocaine capital, though only during the week – with a former government drugs advisor suggesting the Saturday Sunday decrease was “because the rich leave the city at weekends to their country houses.”
Cocaine might be the background party drug we’re all aware of, but tonight will see Ramsay launch a two-part documentary to strip away its façade of glamour and examine the crime, misery and death the industry is built on.
Ramsay admits being surrounded by the drug (‘coke’s everywhere, it’s spiralling out of control’) and has personal interests in deglamourizing the drug, having witnessed his own brother’s addiction and losing one of his top chefs to it.
Ramsay’s protégé David Dempsey fell 40ft from a block of flats to his death after using contaminated cocaine in London in 2003.
Ramsay was summoned by the coroner to identify Dempsey’s body, recalling: “You wouldn’t wish that on anybody. And that happened to me. I physically broke down and I was upset… It took years to get over that.”
Ramsay had had dinner with Dempsey on the night he died and remembers his friend appearing agitated and visiting the toilet frequently. After his death he said: “I kicked myself for not doing more and recognising it earlier.”
Dempsey’s son is now under Ramsay’s tutelage. “Watching him grow, god if only his father was here to witness that, he’s missing out on a lot. That’s my responsibility. It didn’t have to happen. If only I’d spotted that. This guy was energetic, passionate.”
Ramsay’s mission starts in his own restaurants, swabbing surfaces in the staff and customer toilets for cocaine residue to understand the extent of the problem.
“It became my biggest nightmare,” he reveals of the alarming results. “It wasn’t to go and pinpoint and sack them instantly, it was to prevent another casualty.
“I didn’t know it was this big. It’s a wake-up call. Right now I’m obviously concerned about the staff. 750 staff in London. That’s my responsibility.”
From there, Ramsay joins a rapid response unit from the National Crime Agency tasked with using intelligence to intercept big drug deals and travels to South America where he meets the farmers who produce cocaine by growing, processing and cooking the coca plant.
The father-of-four watches the process of turning the humble plant to the finished product. Cement powder is added to the chopped up leaves before sulphuric acid, gasoline, battery acid and bicarbonate of soda are added.
For once, Ramsay is almost lost for words: “I’ve cooked some serious shit in my life and been to some extraordinary places, but nothing quite on this level.”
Back in Britain, the chef vows to practice what he preaches and has introduced helplines and other support systems for his staff.
He insists: “It’s not to embarrass anyone, it’s just a stern reminder that it’s out of control. That’s the one message I want to put across – you may be taking it, but you’ve got no idea what goes into it.
“Hopefully when people see that recipe of cocaine being made – I’d rather they focus on that recipe for the rest of their lives from me from a chef’s point of view, over anything else I’ve written in the last 20 years as a chef. From a fillet of beef wellington to broccoli soup. If there’s one recipe I’d love to put out there for them to witness it would be this. Coke. To make sure you never do it.”
Gordon Ramsay On Cocaine airs on Thursday 19 October at 9pm on ITV.