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Feb 22, 2009 05:24 PM

Gordon Ramsay's Unique Eating Style

I've been watching the UK versions of "Kitchen Nightmares" recently, and I've noticed that the way Ramsay holds his knife is unique, to say the least. Everyone I've ever seen eat, in person or on TV, holds their knife so the butt is held in the palm. Ramsay, on the other hand, holds his so that the butt sticks out between thumb and forefinger. I watched him a few times, and thought he looked odd, but I had to watch closely the next few times to see what was putting me off.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is this style of knife-holding typical in some part of the world? It certainly looks awkward to me.

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  1. Don't know about GR, but a friend who was born and raised in Belgium holds his knife that way and if you watch closely they've always got the fork in one hand and the knife in the other while they're eating.

    3 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Fork in one hand, knife in the other is often called "continental" style (as opposed to "American" style, where after the piece is cut, the knife is lain down, and fork transferred to the right hand to move the food to the mouth). This has been discussed on many other threads, and I'm quite familiar with both styles. But three of my grandparents were from England, and I never saw them hold a knife in this fashion, nor did I noticeit on my few trips to the U.K.

      Maybe I wasn't moving in posh enough circles!

      1. re: monku

        It never occurred to me that there was any other way! What do Americans do then?

        1. re: greedygirl

          Americans hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand while cutting, then put the knife down and switch the fork to the right hand (often tines-up) to eat. While I won't say it's rude to mush food against the back of the fork in order to bring it to your mouth tines-down, it will certainly garner you some odd looks if people see it.

          European-style dining (which is what I was taught) is becoming rather commoner in the US.

      2. If you watch closely you will see many of the diners in the UK version of Kitchen Nightmares, The F Word, etc. holding their knives in this fashion.

        1. It isn't especially unusual. My London born wife really does eat peas off the back of a fork. She uses a knife and fork to eat chicken wings. The concept of "good manners" sure differs from place to place.

          1. I've never noticed this. We catch both "Kitchen Nighmares," and "Hell's Kitchen," though both are the US versions. I've seen Chef Ramsay wield a knife and fork in many episodes, but never noticed anything beyond the "continental" method. I'll have to pay much closer attention next time.

            I'll also see if the UK version is available on the set in our flat. In all of our stays, I have never seen Chef Ramsay on anything. I'll check SKY 1 & 2, plus the others, as I'd love to see "KN's" with UK restaurants. Thanks for giving me some "homework," and also a tip for what to watch for, this April.


            19 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Just a word of warning - if you catch KN from the UK, be prepared - Ramsay seems incapable of uttering a sentence sans profanity. Doesn't bother me at all, but I'm weird.

              1. re: KevinB

                Actually, a friend in Denmark commented on the Euro/UK versions, sans "beeps." Hey, I play golf, and I sail. I have heard it all before, and possibly uttered a few, though maybe not with the frequency of Chef Ramsey. Personally, I'd rather have it "un-edited" (do not have children), rather than the constant beeping. Still, I cannot imagine him making a keynote speach for the PM, or similar.

                Thanks for the warning.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I recently attended a live interview with Ramsay and there was very little profanity. He can speak without it when he wants to. He does motivational/leadership speeches for major corporations (for a large fee) as well.

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    We get both the US and UK versions of these shows in Canada and the UK ones are, indeed, extremely profane. I don't have a problem with this myself. The US mandated beeps are annoying and stupid, especially since every kid over 7 who might be watching (though I doubt many kids would be interested) knows damn well what's behind the beep.

                    As the dramatics on shows like Hell's Kitchen become ever more extreme, it occurs to me that Ramsay may eventually forsake the food biz for an acting career.

                    I suspect (no personally obtained evidence though) that, in real life, the much more likable Jamie Oliver is far more profane than Ramsay.

                    1. re: embee

                      The UK based Kitchen Nightmares is SO much more enjoyable because you get the voice-over narration by Ramsay himself. That gives a real sense that he truly cares about the restaurant and gives you more of an insight into what he's trying to do. The US version's overall presentation and narration is simply aggravating.

                      Just so you know here I stand, I also very much like Ramsay's 'The F Word' programme and dislike Hell's Kitchen entirely.

                      1. re: Atahualpa

                        The narrated version sounds the better. Hope to catch it in April. Thanks for the details.


                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  It's the European or Continental style of using the knife in fork.
                  In the US we use what Emily Post calls the "zig zag" style.

                  When I'm in a Chinese restaurant I use the "shovel" style....pick up the bowl and shovel the food into my mouth with the chopsticks...definitely a no no.


                  1. re: monku


                    I think that you missed an important detail and a distinction between the "general" continental method, "Ramsay, on the other hand, holds his so that the butt sticks out between thumb and forefinger."

                    This differs from what I observe with my Euro/UK dining companions.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Is this what you're describing?

                      " in Europe it is considered better manners not to hold a knife or fork as one would hold a pen, but to have the handle running along the palm and extending out to be held by thumb and forefinger. This style is sometimes called 'hidden handle'. This method is also common in Canada and most other ex-colonies."


                      1. re: monku

                        You may have me there. Though I dine with a great many "continentals," I have never observed that style. Thank you for the clarification. Now, come April, I'll really be keen to see how my guests handled THEIR knives!



                        1. re: monku

                          Yes, that's it in a nutshell - he holds his knife like I would hold a pen, which I've never seen before. It looks extremely awkward to me.

                          1. re: monku

                            Actually, the hidden handle is the custom in the US (the butt end is concealed by the fisted palm). What the OP is highlighting is that GR appears to use the pen method.

                            1. re: Karl S

                              Not just in the US - Canada, Oz, everywhere I've been in Asia whenever they use a knife, all across Europe. And I would hardly describe it as a "fisted palm". The index finger runs along the top, the thumb and middle finger hold the shaft, and the ring and pinky don't quite curl around the remainder of the butt. I've never seen the "pen" method anywhere in the world except on GR's show.

                              1. re: KevinB

                                The "Pen Method" was, And I stress Was, taught to us not only by our parents but also by our teachers in preparatory school, along with ball room dancing and the polite way to hold a tea cup.But we are talking about in the 60's and in an ex British colony.My grand father however, A Norwegian ships captain used the fisted palm method. Now in the US ,I encounter the "Hold it down with the fork and stab it again honey, I think it's still moving method" Can someone explain?

                                1. re: currymouth

                                  I should clarify what I meant by fisted palm: I do not mean the knife being held vertically, but laterally, with the butt end enclosed in the palm - the palm is like a fist except for the thumb being extended along the knife handle, rather than held inside the palm.

                                  Just to avoid misunderstandings.

                                2. re: KevinB

                                  i was taught in primary school and by my parents to hold the knife as a pen, so were all my australian friends and everyone i knew in england did the pen method i grew up with it considered good manners ;-)

                              2. re: monku

                                OK, its confession time...this (thumb and forefinger method) is the way I hold a knife and I am from one of those "ex-colonies". Only very rarely do people ever seem to notice...I thnk my technique is more subtle than GR's (well everything about most people is more subtle than GR!)

                                1. re: LJS

                                  When I first read the OP, I had to grab a knife and fork to see what camp I fell into, and as is the case, I think I'm in all of them.
                                  I spent 8 years using only chopsticks with my first wife, now on 11years using a fork and spoon on occasion with 2'nd wife, taught the pen method in school,and now who knows? so I'm totally confused

                        2. Indeed, all of Latin America uses the "normal" European style of knife and fork use. Once you mentioned it, I immediately recalled seeing GR using the "pen" style that I had subconciously thought odd.