The best chefs alive are between two and three stars; they're at their most adventurous, their most maverick and dangerous. My number one is Clare Smyth, [who was] head chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London. Absolute thoroughbred. No cracks. And ruthless.
I love greasy fish and chips with all those shitty bits of batter that end up in the fryer.
Ever been in a dressing room at half-time? Kitchens are no different, only cooking is longer than 90 minutes, and there's no break. When the chips are down, you need to pull the team back to glory. And you're the captain. I tell you who was a great captain, Vieira. Absolute classic. Keane.
Marco Pierre White taught me how to put food on a plate with absolute finesse. Guy Savoy taught me how to extract a depth of flavour, something so pure. And Albert Roux taught me how to take the cheapest ingredients and transform them into something magical. I mean really magical. But above all, those chefs drummed into me, you never send a mistake. I tried it once and I got fucked.
I don't have a temper, I have passion. I get frustrated and fucked off and wound up with idiots quickly, so I get straight to the point. Cut the bullshit. That's healthy.
I could have been more patient when I was younger. Going from zero to three stars in six years was a big jump. I know chefs now who are still on one star 25 years in. But I didn't spend time as a number two, really learning the business. I just cooked and cooked and then bang, I was a head chef with shareholders. I had no idea what a P&L [profit and loss statement] looked like.
I was a beast at 29, but now I'm more understanding, I don't dive in head first. You go through different periods in life. Every five to eight years, you need to adapt and mature. And I've done that. Brilliantly.
Marco Pierre White once told me, "The best thing that happened to you was the shit running down your mother's leg when she gave birth to you." I just nodded and got on with the red mullet coming out of the steamer. That kind of shit made me who I am today.
Anyone can open a restaurant. You just need a dinner party where everyone's pissed and someone says, "Hey Tom, you should open a restaurant, this food's delicious." My industry, I'm sorry to say, is full of muppets.
I've never done drugs, so excitement is my adrenalin. Competitiveness keeps me going. If it's not Laguna Seca racetrack on a Ducati, it's driving an extraordinary Ferrari around Maranello and getting within three seconds of Alonso's time. Not bad for someone with size 15 feet. The Ferrari boss said I was quite good!
In France, I worked 16, 17 hours a day, and on my day off went back to work to practise my French. I was fluent in six months; people used to ask which part of France I came from. But today, at my restaurants in Paris and Bordeaux, the guys work 35 hours a week, and they literally drop tools. I'd rather work twice as hard and get to the very top earlier.
In the States, people don't want brutal honesty, they want to wrap it in cotton wool. But I've got a job to do. Is that Mr Nasty? Maybe.
About a dozen [famous] chefs have died in their fifties over the last five years: heart attack, smoking, something stress-related. A lot of chefs commit suicide. So I do triathlons and iron man. For me, it's time out. No phone, no distractions. It's the only time I can relax.
There was a guy a couple of years ago who did "redneck sushi" with fucking chicken in the middle. Huge guy, big into martial arts. I said, "This is a pile of shit," and he threw an ice cooler at me and missed. I was more pissed that he didn't come at me with his hands. I've defended myself before, no big deal. I'm not going into details, but I can look after myself.
The Deadliest Catch is a great show; that's one hard environment. People think, "Amazing, you're catching king crab," but it's fucking hard work. And if the weather's shit, forget it. I crossed the Atlantic on a boat and spent 11 days with a bucket around my neck.
Don't work with family. Take it from me, it doesn't work, I don't care what anyone says.
Growing up with an alcoholic father, and watching your mother struggle to keep the family together, gives you a big insight. I learned ruthless determination early on.
I've been on my arse before, but I have a lot of determination, and I'm not weak. Next day, it's sunrise, you're at the bus stop again, and you're back to work. I've never been one for pondering or questioning and thinking. Waste of time. Dust yourself down and get back up. Because that journey of coming back to the very top is better than actually being at the top. You find out so much about yourself and who your friends are. Do that several times across 25 years, and you end up a wise old fucker.
It doesn't matter if the company's valued at $100m or $200m, my kids are not getting any of it. The only thing I've promised them is a stepping stone onto a property ladder.
So, I'm sat in the water at Kona [Hawaii], it's 6am, visibility's 30 metres and then this amputee gets in next to me, Alex Zanardi, who lost both his legs in a racing car accident. You've got a 3.8km swim there and back, and then he's going to be hoisted out of the water and put on a bike, and pedal 180km. To be among that kind of determination — forget Michelin stars or TV programmes. It doesn't matter how many Ferraris you've got, you can't buy that experience.
I don't miss football because I can dip in and out. There's something unique about playing at Old Trafford for Soccer Aid every year, and standing in the tunnel with Zidane and Maradona. I'm the luckiest chef in the world.