How a meal at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay saved my life and turned me from banking to comedy - Stuart Mitchell

Comedian Stuart Mitchell writes this light-hearted account, in his own words, of how a meal at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay convinced him to switch from banking to comedy

I was recently mugged in London. I had all my money taken off me. There were people all around who witnessed it, but didn’t do anything. I tried to press charges, but the police could do nothing as apparently it was my own stupid fault for booking a table at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

I paid £640.69 for lunch, for a taster menu – tiny bits of food. One of the courses was cod. I remember looking at my plate and thinking how has Ramsay managed to catch a cod that small? How did that little fish not just swim through the net? I stared at it thinking that he’s spray painted a goldfish. But I said nothing. I didn’t want to look like a fool.

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You see, this bill was payback as I used to rip people off. I used to be a banker. I would use coercive tactics to get as much money out of people like you as possible. Well maybe not people like you, far richer people like those reading this article in Panama and not somewhere like Prestonpans.

Comedian Stuart Mitchell. Picture: BBCComedian Stuart Mitchell. Picture: BBC
Comedian Stuart Mitchell. Picture: BBC

Being a banker went against everything my Dad stood for. For years he worked for Singer sewing machines and, aged seven, I went with him on a home repair visit. One poor frail lady was distressed and upset as her sewing machine wasn’t working.

Dad took her arm and sat her down. He noticed the reason her machine wasn’t working was she had put the needle in the wrong way round. Even though the company policy of Singer was to take it back to the workshop and charge the customer regardless, Dad changed the needle for free.

Banker me would never have done that. I would have taken the needle out and stabbed her to death with it, then sent her family a bill for acupuncture.

My primary objective at the bank was to make as much commission as possible, so I could fund my lavish lifestyle of hair transplants, designer man bags and trips on Safaris.

At the time I wasn't able to admit or willing to accept that I was part of a system that took everything and gave nothing. We’re all compromised, I had a vested interest in keeping things the way they are, but at what cost? It was alright for me at the time because I was loaded. I was cleansed in a bath of cash.

The coins exfoliated and the notes removed the dead cells. This cash gave me access to a world full of stuff, but none of it made me happy. Money isn’t the problem, it’s what people do for money.

In 2008 when the financial crash hit, karma struck. What goes around, comes around. My Dad had over half his pension wiped out – everything he worked for – overnight. But it was his fault, of course. He picked the wrong investment.

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Well, I say he picked it, he really just sat there while someone like me talked him into picking it. Dad never stood a chance. No one did. And do you know what’s even worse? His financial advisor still took his 3 per cent commission. Disgusting – I used to charge at least 4 per cent.

My Dad allowed himself to be tricked and fooled by people like me. He believed banks would do the right thing as when he was my age, he grew up with client-centred banks who cared about him and his business. He thought that if he put the needle in the wrong way, someone would help him by taking it out again. He presumed people would do their best, but their best is only ever what’s best for them.

Like most of you, he simply had trust in the system. What he didn’t realise was that the system is constructed to rob him blind.

So, it was at that moment that I paid an enormous bill for some miniscule food that I sat and wrote my resignation letter. I say that, but I still held off for four days, so I still got my bonus. Once a banker, always a banker.

So I left the backstabbing, egotistical and sleazy world of banking for a complete change and ended up in the world of stand-up comedy, an industry still awash with backstabbing, egotism and sleaze, but with one key difference – no money.

I think I'm a lot happier these days because I think I really appreciate what I’ve got – and I’ll be telling the whole story of how I found out what brings me real value in life in my new Radio 4 stand-up series, Stuart Mitchell’s Cost of Living, which starts this week.

I heard the phrase recently ‘to be useful to your fellow man’. I get up in the morning now and I live the life I wish to live. Just like my Dad, I want to serve other people and not myself. It’s the smallest things that mean the most, or in Ramsay's case it's the smallest things that cost the most.

Think what you like about Gordon Ramsay and his prices, but his ‘fine dining experience’ really was my recipe for change. I hope if he reads this, he will buy me a pint – his round though, I’m skint.

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Just like my Dad I want to be the one who changes the needle for free. I have less money now than I ever had before, but I am probably happier. I had no idea when I got bumped for £640.69 where this was taking me. Thank you Gordon Ramsay. You saved my life.

- Stuart Mitchell’s Cost of Living begins today on BBC Radio 4 at 7:15pm and can also be listened to on catch up on BBC Sounds.



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