According to Newton’s third law, forces come in pairs. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For Stuart Mitchell, there is Gordon Ramsay. To be clear, he’s never met the multi-Michelin starred chef, nor is he himself Gordon Ramsay, as he has been legally instructed to disclose at the start of each show, but he did dine at the namesake London outpost Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. As he points out, you’d be more likely to encounter Colonel Sanders at one of his restaurants. What he didn’t know was that Gordon Ramsay’s 3-Michelin starred restaurant was once ranked as the third most expensive in the world, and the most expensive in London.
Mitchell, a penurious Glaswegian who simply wanted to take his wife to lunch for their honeymoon, goes on to recount each course in stark contrast to the humbler fare of his hometown. From “fancy bread” to the amuse bouche to pigeon feet, it’s easy to put yourself in Mitchell’s shoes. When the sommelier asked if he’d like help with wine, Mitchell is taken aback. Doesn’t all wine go with food? Like jam and bread? The meal leaves him hungry, unsatisfied, and broke – of the £640 bill, he paid £100 in cash and put the rest on his mortgage.
That dissatisfaction becomes the leitmotif of the second half of the show. Before he turned to the world of comedy, Mitchell was a young banker at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, trying to fill a void. Mitchell will be the first to tell you that banks do what’s best for them at the expense of everyone else, and he was especially adroit. Mitchell drove a BMW with the top down only when he wanted his neighbours to know he was a prick. He carried a Louis Vuitton suitcase, and he gave bad financial advice to unsuspecting people – like his late father who lost £100,000 from his pension in a single day. That day, he experienced an epiphany, finally seeing how dull he had become. Overcome with guilt in his implication, he resigned from the backstabbing world of banking to pursue the backstabbing world of comedy, the only difference being that there is no money in comedy. His hefty lunch bill at Gordon’s Ramsey’s, he concludes, was karmic backlash from years of ripping people off.
Now, he’s chipping away at his karmic deficit by sharing his story through humour and encouraging us all to lead a more honest existence. “The smallest things in life mean the most, or in Gordon Ramsay’s case, cost the most.” At the very least, we can all agree that £640 is too much to pay for lunch no matter your income, when extreme poverty abounds. The show is intimate, endearing, and leaves you feeling more optimistic about life – or maybe that’s just the endorphins from 50 minutes of laughter.
Stuart Mitchell: Gordon Ramsay’s Karma Café
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Balcony (Venue 14)
Until 27 August
Image: Gilded Balloon / Stuart Mitchell