My best teacher

7th March 2003 at 00:00
I never got into trouble for bad behaviour at school. Honestly. I've made up for it since, though these days I'm not manic, just obsessive

When I failed my 11-plus miserably, Dickie Vale, my sports teacher at Stratford-upon-Avon high school, was delighted. It meant I stayed in the school football team and he was able to nurture my talent so that a few years later I was spotted by a Glasgow Rangers scout and became a professional, until injury forced me to change careers.

Dickie was an amazing guy, an inspirational coach with incredible vision.

Although I wanted to play centre-forward, Dickie saw immediately that I was a natural left-footer and he nursed me as a left back. He stopped me playing rugby, which I couldn't stand anyway, in case I picked up an injury. Thanks to him, the school football team won all the inter-school competitions in and around Warwickshire, and one month he coached six or seven players from our team to represent the county. He'd been a professional himself, but we never found out what team he played for. We knew very little about him. He'd drive us to matches in an old Transit van but never talked about anything except football.

Like 95 per cent of young guys, I dreamed of becoming a professional footballer - I had pictures of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness on my bedroom wall - and Dickie Vale made me believe it was possible. My dad was a sports teacher, too. He'd been a PE teacher at Strathclyde University and taught at the sports centre in Stratford-upon-Avon, but his big thing was swimming.

One of the advantages of being good at sport was that if we were playing in a match, I'd get off school early. I wasn't very academic. I was bloody good at maths and I liked human biology, but I was never any good at English. My reports were mixed. I remember the RE teacher saying I didn't pay attention and the English teacher suggesting I was disruptive, but Dickie Vale always gave me an A-plus and said I was a great team leader and an inspiration.

As a boy, my aggression was channelled into my feet. I never got into trouble for bad behaviour at school. Honestly. I've made up for it since, though these days I'm not manic, just obsessive. I have always been a perfectionist.

Home economics was compulsory at Stratford high and I was a disaster at cookery, which was taught by a pretty, sexy young lady called Miss Baisley.

She definitely didn't spot any talent in me. We made boring things like steamed roly-poly, flapjacks and spotted dick, which I always ate before I got home because I was so hungry. Miss Baisley was lovely, but she didn't inspire me to become a chef.

I've had some very good teachers as an adult. Marco Pierre White was an exciting guy who taught me a massive amount about finesse, great execution on a plate, balance, and understanding flavours. Albert Roux showed me how to make something plain into something stunning. He's also a very clever businessman. With Marco you would use just the white part of a leek, with Albert not only would you use the dark green, the light green and the white part, you'd use the root as well.

I met Lenny Henry when he came in for a meal when I was at the Gavroche. He does a lot for Comic Relief and asked me to go out to Tanzania with him to cook for the street children there for a film to raise money. I wasn't prepared for the harshness, rawness and emotional trauma involved. I was moved to tears when I saw how these kids live, and I learned a lot from Lenny about controlling emotions and having fun with the children.

I went back to my school about a year ago but sadly didn't see Dickie Vale.

We lost touch after I left. I'd like to see him again. He's welcome at any of my restaurants any time as my guest.

Chef Gordon Ramsay was talking to Pamela Coleman

THE STORY SO FAR

1966 Born in Glasgow

1976-82 Stratford-upon-Avon high school

1982-84 Footballer with Glasgow Rangers

1985-87 HND course in hotel management and City and Guilds cookery course

1988-91 Works for Marco Pierre White at Harvey's then Albert Roux at Le Gavroche

1993 Opens Aubergine, followed by flagship Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Chelsea (1998), Petrus (1999) and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's (2001)

1995 Awarded first Michelin star

1997 Awarded second Michelin star

2001 Awarded third Michelin star

March 14, 2003 Takes part in Comic Relief's Red Nose Day Fun Run. To register go to www.rednoseday.com

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