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What is it about chefs and riotous libidos?

 
The allegations of Gordon Ramsay's affair are just the latest in a long line of stories about womanising chefs. Whether it's Rick Stein, who split from wife after an affair with a woman 20 years his junior, or Marco Pierre White, who reportedly had sex with a customer between courses at Harveys, chefs chalk up divorces like Michelin stars.

Just what is it that makes these culinary kings so highly sexed?

The punishing double shifts a young chef puts in are hardly a good start for a committed relationship.

Stephen Terry, chef and owner of The Hardwick, Abergavenny, lived with Gordon Ramsay in the late 1980s when they trained together under the three-time divorc� White at Harveys, in South London. He recalls 18-hour days, six days a week, and even came to work straight from hospital after he was hit by a car.

�My first wife used to call me �the virtual husband' because I was never around,� Terry says. �If anyone wants to take this job seriously and get somewhere near the top, you've got to make some pretty serious sacrifices.�

Close working relationships are formed in the intense kitchen environment, while partners are often neglected at home, unable to understand the stresses and strains of the job. This goes some way in explaining a Time Out survey of New York chefs published this month, in which 50 per cent admitted they had �nailed a front of house� - sex with someone from the restaurant. And 69 per cent of those said the lovemaking took place at work.

Chefs are thrown together in a strange, nocturnal existence, running on adrenalin and ambition.

This doesn't mean they are all philanderers, but �You finish work at 11 or 12 at night, and you're on such a high�, says Phil Vickery, who won a Michelin star as head chef at the Castle Hotel, Taunton. �You don't want to go home and go to bed. You're living in a different world.�

Allegra McEvedy, who co-founded the Leon fresh fast-food restaurants, says: �There's certainly a bit of bump and grind in the kitchen. It's a close physical environment. Then you finish at midnight and you're automatically in the naughty hours.�

Mark Hix, who was executive head chef of Le Caprice and The Ivy and this year opened Hix Oyster & Chop House, in Smithfields, London, adds: �You go out and get drunk and all types of things happen. It's important your partner knows the kind of social life you're going to get with it.�

So when the washing up is done, it is not hard to guess what can happen next.

�You're so focused on the job that when you get the chance to have a bit of fun, you do,� Terry says. �What better way to let off some steam after you've been barked at all day?�

�Sex is a release for the tension,� says Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in job psychology and health at Lancaster University. �The other form it takes is explosions, and we all see celebrity chefs exploding.�

He adds that people who make it in this cut-throat industry are likely to be resilient, assertive and incredibly driven - all attributes thought to have a correlation with a high sex drive.

However, while the image of a brilliant but badly behaved chef working late in a kitchen is something that whisks many women into a frenzy, some cooks say the truth is less exciting.

�I never had a social life,� says Jean-Christophe Novelli, once voted the world's sexiest chef by The New York Times. �By the time you finish, you smell so much and you are so exhausted, all you do is eat.�


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