TV Times talks to Gordon Ramsay about his tough last 18 months and his new show championing Britain’s best restaurants

Firstly, how are you coping with your own business blows?
“I’ve had a tough 18 months in my restaurants but you can’t have all that success and no failure. No one saw the recession coming and I got caught up in it. But at the end of the day you stand strong and come through that.”

So the restaurant industry is not in trouble?
“It’s thriving; restaurants now are getting better and better and not just in cities but in the provinces. Many chefs can’t afford to open up in major cities so they’re travelling into the countryside and making forgotten pubs real destination pubs.”

Tell us about your new series…
“It’s the search for Britain’s best restaurant. It’s a touch of The F Word, a touch of Kitchen Nightmares and a touch of the unknown really. It’s not about glossy, high-end, fine dining restaurants but about discovering unknown talent.”

How did you select the final 16 from 12,000 entrants?
“The restaurants have been nominated by customers who visit them and narrowing it down was bloody hard work. We studied, watched and ate in them and now they’ll be secretly filmed and put under immense pressure. We’ll be judging on the combination of great food, service, atmosphere and how much they want it – the passion.”

Will you be cooking in the series?
“Definitely. I want to show what I’ve learned travelling. I’ve just got back from Southeast Asia where the Vietnamese and Thai style is starting to lighten my way of cooking. Cooking with no cream or butter, like they do in Vietnam, is healthy and important in today’s society; customers are more concerned about calories than the price these days. So all these influences are coming in. I’m 43 and still learning. It doesn’t stop being exciting.”

What’s your pet hate in a restaurant?
“Sloppy service. And food that’s under-seasoned. An amazing tomato soup, seasoned properly, tells you whether a kitchen cares. And lighting: if you walk into a restaurant and it’s lit like Wembley stadium, get out.”

Guess you don’t enjoy eating out if you’ve been cooking all day…
“No, I get really excited when I’m sat as a customer eating. Just don’t give me anything pretentious that looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!”

Do chefs pale when you walk in their restaurant to eat?
“They do freak out a bit. I don’t mean to put the fear of God into them and I play it simple with my order because I understand the pressure they’re under. But I do get a bit pissy when it’s 30 minutes and my starters aren’t on the table.”

For this series you’ll be eating in 16 restaurants; how will you keep the weight off?
“I’m training for my first Iron Man competition next year, which gives me a passport to eat. I eat like a horse so I need to keep fit.”

How have the American’s taken to your bluntness on your US TV shows?
“They get precious and angsty because I get straight to the point. I get a lot of flack, but listen, that’s me; that’s the way I am. For as long as I cook I’m never going to change that.”

We don’t actually think you’re that scary at all…
“I’ve been named TV’s most terrifying celebrity and I’ll have you know it’s a trophy I never want to lose!”

Ramsay’s Best Restaurant begins on Tuesday September 14 at 9pm on Channel 4.