Episode 1 “I saw cocaine quite early on in my career. I’ve been served it. I’ve been given it. I’ve had my hand shaken and left with little wraps of foil in it. I’ve been asked to dust cocaine on top of soufflés, to put it on as icing sugar…Coke’s everywhere. It’s spiralling out of control.” Gordon Ramsay
This brand new two-part documentary series shows Gordon Ramsay as viewers have never seen him before, stripping away the veneer of cocaine’s glamorous image to expose how behind the powder many Brits consume as part of a night out, lies a trail of criminality, cruelty and death driving its global trade.
During the series Gordon will travel to South and Central America where he witnesses the illegal “cooking” process by which the drug is made, meets hired assassins and a big time drug-smuggler, is witness to the immediate aftermath of a suspected cocaine-related murder and experiences the harsh reality of the ‘war on drugs’ by joining an elite Colombian anti-narcotics unit on a helicopter raid.
Back in the UK, Gordon joins police looking to catch coke-taking drug-drivers, witnesses the arrest of couriers on their way to a major deal carrying tens of thousands of pounds and handles 30 kilos of freshly confiscated cocaine at a police testing lab. And he reflects on the challenge of tackling the damage done by cocaine, regarded by many casual users as harmless fun, as he meets a UK dealer and a recovering addict.
Britain is the biggest user of cocaine in Europe, consuming 30 tonnes of the drug every year. In Gordon’s own business, the restaurant trade, it’s rife. He’s witnessed it wreck the careers of colleagues and tragically he lost his close friend and chef protégé to a cocaine overdose in 2003.
Gordon says: “With soaring cocaine deaths in Britain and along the coke supply chain, I’m determined to understand the criminal business behind this deadly drug.”
To understand the scale of the problem, Gordon starts with his own restaurants, by swabbing the staff and customer toilets to see if cocaine is present, with alarming results. He explains: “I didn’t know it was in this big. It’s a wake-up call. Right now I’m obviously concerned about the staff. 750 staff in London. That’s my responsibility.”
Cocaine use in the UK has gone up 400% in the past 20 years and coke-related deaths have increased 4 years in a row, tripling since 2011 to an all-time high. After joining Dorset Police on patrol catching drug drivers who test positive for cocaine, Gordon meets the Head of Drugs Intelligence from the National Crime Agency, to find out more about the volume of cocaine on the streets of Britain.
Tony Saggars, NCA says: “Gun crime is closely associated with the drugs trade. People are making a lot of money out of it, but to make that money people are generating a lot of misery…This country demands high volumes of coke; organised criminals take advantage of that.”
Gordon joins a rapid response unit from the NCA, who are tasked with using intelligence to intercept big drug deals, as they rush to a suspected handover in West London. Gordon watches as covert officers detain an Albanian man carrying tens of thousands of pounds used to buy and sell cocaine.
To see the volumes involved for himself, Gordon meets a drug scientist at a forensics laboratory. 30 kilos of cocaine which have been seized by the police are analysed in an attempt to find out where the cocaine has been processed.
Scientist Peter Caine shows Gordon some of the astonishing ways cocaine is smuggled into the country, from X-rays of people who have swallowed 120 pellets of cocaine, to powder dissolved into a bottle of rum:
“Cocaine in the hydrochloride form is very soluble. You can actually dissolve two grams of coke in millilitre of water. This was a smuggling technique that is used for time to time…If you were to drink 1 mouthful of that [the rum containing a large amount of dissolved cocaine] you’d die.”
It is estimated that eighty per cent of the coke that ends up on Britain’s streets comes from Columbia. Gordon’s chef’s mind-set drives him to find out what is in this drug and how it is produced, so he heads to the source country to understand how the drug is transformed from a plant grown in South America to the white powder dealt on Britain’s streets.
After a 15-hour journey, Gordon arrives at the tip of the remote amazon jungle and drives along a dirt road for an hour to a small village. He treks for 90 minutes through the dense rainforest to find the discreet plantation of a small-scale farmer, who risks everything to produce cocaine by growing, processing and cooking the coca plant.
Gordon says: “Finally. This is the coca leaf. This is the start of the process of making cocaine. Who’d of thought such a soft, smooth leaf can turn into something so powerful.”
It becomes apparent the farmer doesn’t have many other options to feed his family. Gordon explains: “The government have given up on the locals. He can’t harvest fruit because it’s nowhere near enough money to keep that family alive. The guy’s got no alternative. That’s not an excuse. The devastation of being caught and what would happen to the family would be awful. You’ve got this humble farmer, he’s got no idea of the war, the violence, the killings, and then the power of cocaine. He’s got no idea.”
Gordon is astonished to watch the process first-hand, as cement powder is added to the chopped up coca leaves before sulphuric acid, gasoline, battery acid and bicarbonate of soda are added and the substance is refined and cooked to a paste to be sold to the cartels. Gordon is stunned: “I’ve cooked some serious s**t in my life and been to some extraordinary places, but nothing quite on this level...” Produced by Studio Ramsay for ITV.