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A ll thoughts of conducting a straightforward interview with Tom Waits turn to steam within seconds of his arrival in the Soho hotel suite. I come in through one door, carrying a notepad and a tape recorder. He comes through the other, carrying the exact same equipment. He could be a conjurer unveiling a rabbit. One does not so much interrogate Waits as be granted an audience, a private performance. Talking to the press, he once confessed, is like talking to the cops.


I'll never forget the first thing Pat Llewellyn said to me,' says Gordon Ramsayrecalling the day he invited her to Claridge's to try and strike a television deal. I was like, "Fuck me, I thought I was a hard-ass! That was four years ago, when Lewellyn was already the doyenne of food programmes, with Two Fat Ladies and The Naked Chef among the mould-breaking series she had produced for Optomen, the production company she part-owns.

Ramsay, by contrast, had come across as a boorish, foul-mouthed psychopath in Boiling Point, dabbled in Faking It, and featured in a programme called Passion for Flavour which was, by his own admission, 'horrendous'. In the words of Lewellyn, 'He just hadn't popped, as they say in America.

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I was really puzzled by why Gordon hadn't worked on telly [her preferred word for the medium] because television likes big characters, and he's a big physical person. How wrong could the Corporation be?

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Six month later, Llewellyn pitched Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to a receptive Channel 4, and the series won a Bafta in and an Emmy in On ITV, Hell's Kitchen in which Ramsay chastised Edwina Currie with the words 'One minute you're shagging our prime minister, and now you're shagging me from behind' drew big audiences in Britain - and both programmes proved hugely popular with American viewers. The world had fallen for Ramsay - but then a strange thing happened.

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Llewellyn came up with the formula for The F Word, a magazine programme filmed in a restaurant - in which, among other stunts, Ramsay led outrageous campaigns such as Women Can't Cookwas held up to scrutiny by food critic Giles Coren, and had young hopefuls compete to become his commis chef. That whole magazine genre had been out of circulation for a long time, and perhaps the grammar of that sort of telly wasn't familiar to people. The critics hated it, and a forlorn Llewellyn set about modifying the format for a second series.

For Gordon, that's quite a big deal. You never know what's going to happen. Pat doesn't make sure that I always come up smelling like a fucking bunch of roses.

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I'm under immense pressure, there's jeopardy there for me. Happily, the programme's audience doubled - and Channel 4 commissioned a third series, to be aired in the spring. As I speak to him on the phone in Los Angeles, he is building up steam for a day of filming Kitchen Nightmares, applying his blunt troubleshooting skills to a fine-dining restaurant in Pomona.

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I said to the waitress, "Fuck me, get me a cup of coffee, I'm getting the fuck out of here". That's the kind of scenario I'm facing. It's not just that Ramsay is made for TV, but that such a cocksure alpha male, delighting viewers with his withering putdowns and avalanches of expletives, is ripe for demolition himself.

Expose him to a little jeopardy, and people will be queuing up to watch. It's like getting Simon Cowell to sing, judged by a panel of his ex-girlfriends. In real life, he has very good manners, he's very funny, very sweet - he's like a friend, you know.

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Unexpectedly, she giggles. Also, I get fed up when the press say, "I wish she'd stop telling him to take his jacket off". Actually, it's not me; Gordon just fucking loves it. He's a great big exhibitionist.

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When I count the expletives in my chat with Lewellyn, there are 17; Ramsay utters 30 - but it's not a bad effort by his producer. Swearing is a part of his very being, somehow. It's pretty much what Ramsay says himself.

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Do you think Alex Ferguson is shouting at Paul Scholes, "Please be so kind as to run down the wing and score"? He goes fucking bananas. It's the language of the industry, and no one will ever mummify it.

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Though laissez-faire about expletives, Llewellyn is tough on other misconduct. You get pissed off when customers arrive late in your restaurant, I'm getting pissed-off with you because you're late". Discipline, he reckons, is the key to Llewellyn's success.

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Trust me, if it's shit and it's not good, she'll say, "Crap, start again because I think you sounded like a right prick". It's a very difficult area, television. You feel insecure about the way you're coming across, but Pat has always made me feel very confident. I turned round and there was Pat at the fucking sink with her Marigolds on, washing up! Now, how many executive producers, who are not just making the programme but own the production company, stand there washing up dishes for a failing restaurant? They win their first major title and their management says, "You don't need a promoter any more".

But the minute Prince Naseem began promoting himself, hosting events, he wasn't the same fighter. In fact, leaving The Naked Chef behind gave Llewellyn the opportunity to do what she does best - 'spotting talent, nursing it and propelling it', says Ramsay.

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Everyone is working, there's no fancy, up-your-own-arse bullshit just because you present it. You keep it real. The Observer Food. And the winner is Andrew Purvis. Best TV programme readers' award I'll never forget the first thing Pat Llewellyn said to me,' says Gordon Ramsayrecalling the day he invited her to Claridge's to try and strike a television deal. Reuse this content.

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