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Gordon Ramsay: A New Yorker With a Brit Accent

UPDATE: This was a first! The latest episode of Ramsay's Best Restaurant features two Chinese restaurants. The chefs were screaming in Chinese in the kitchens of both restaurants while whipping their dishes up during the first part of the show. But Gordon doesn't speak Chinese, so he was left standing there looking like a lost puppy. He so much wanted to join in on all the yelling and screaming -- but couldn't get a word in! He was reduced to shouting: "Why is there so much yelling going on in this kitchen!" Eventually he found a theme to put his voice behind: a lack of seasoning on the dishes being served, a problem, ironically, in both restaurants, it turned out.

But it was so hilarious, seeing Gordon nearly impotent for a little while.

One amusing note: the names of the chefs of one of the two kitchen teams were You and Yu, and their signature dish was ... Wagyu. It was a simple near-alliteration (is there such a thing?)  that sounded charmingly funny coming out of Gordon's mouth.

And the third part of the show, when two chefs from each restaurant were cooking their heart's out in Gordon's Michelin-starred restaurant, threatened to turn into an episode of Hell's Kitchen, but the chefs pulled back on their joysticks and pulled out of their nosedives, soaring back up where they belong, to the place where mouthwatering food comes from. And speaking of Hell's Kitchen, read on to the original post....

Gordon Ramsay picked dark-horse Nona as the eighth winner of Hell's Kitchen, and she is now earning a quarter-mil a year as head chef of L.A. Market. (Jealous all you unemployed? I sure am!). Gordon didn't bother with a critique of Russell, who was the favorite [though I don't think fans of the show liked him very much. A lot of readers have found my blog by googling variations of "Hells Kitchen Russell Asshole"]. I believe I have some insight into Russell's problems -- based only on the fact that I watch all of Ramsay's other shows in addition to Hell's Kitchen, which isn't even my favorite of the chef's stable.

I much prefer Kitchen Nightmares, both the U.S. and U.K. episodes; his Best Restaurant in the U.K. show, which just kicked off last week; and even his holiday special earlier this week in which he cooked his favorite Christmas dishes for the audience. His mother and children were on the show early and often, and I was wondering about his marital status: there is gossip he was caught firing another woman's oven and I wondered if his wife was not going to appear, but she did, at the very end, as if a punctuation point, a quite beautiful one. [I don't like to add to the gossip mill, but it seems fair that I note, since I don't ever want to be called a hagiographer, that there is a big black media cloud hovering over Ramsay's head; in addition to stories about his infidelity, he recently fired a whole slew of his in-laws from his company, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, which has fallen on hard times like every other thing in the world because of the economy, and he is even the subject of yet another lawsuit.

Anyway, from all the input I have from watching so many of Ramsay's shows, I believe I have an understanding of what Russell's problems were. He is an asshole. Just kidding! Whether he is or isn't is beside the point; I honestly believe that Ramsay simply didn't like the guy all that much. He is arrogant (as is Ramsay) but has no personality (while Ramsay is ALL personality). All he did was talk tough, highlight the negatives of everyone around him and brag about the positives that seemed only to flow from himself.  A sense of humor, a humbling, maybe if he had been less single minded and realized that he had to have a personality in addition to the functionality of a chef, perhaps Ramsay would have seen more of him and got to know him better. Nona, on the other hand, laughed and smiled, cried and yelled, we saw her as a living person, showing strong signs of a dynamic personality in dramatic situations, many cleverly crafted by Ramsay. I suspect if Russell had coupled his skills with a desire to be known as a person, maybe to even present his likable characteristics, assuming he had some, he may have won.

The bottom line though is we viewers can only watch and hear the show, we can't taste the food. And who knows, maybe it was as simple as the food on Nona's menu tasted a lot better than Russell's culinary creations. OK - end of Hell's Kitchen 2010.

As I was writing, I watch all his shows, and one of my favorite Ramsay shows is an episode of the U.S.  Kitchen Nightmares, called The Secret Garden, wherein Gordon is faced with the living embodiment of a cliche: the arrogant French chef, a breed of homo-sapien that seems particularly capable of arousing the dark side of Gordon Ramsay. He lived and studied in France as a young apprentice chef, and maybe his betters were hard on the giant Scotsman in whom perhaps they had eyeballed the potential of a new Antoine Careme, only with the physique of an athlete. Maybe they were a little tough on old Gordon, creating a subconscious inferiority complex, and now, whenever dealing with a French chef, he feels it's payback time.

Anyway in this episode we are treated to such Ramsay gems as:
  • "You seem quite proud of that food. Don't take this personal: I think your food is crap, tasteless, bizarre, long winded, boring and just badly done." 
  • "You are fascinated by crusted items and stuffing things."
  • "Jane [waitress], I am not asking you to blow smoke up his asshole." 
  • "Every time I say something to you, all you do is smile at me." 
  • "I am trying to get into your mind, so I can start breaking down how stupid you are." 
  • "His head is so far up his own ass, he can't even breathe anymore." 
  • And the inevitable:
  • "GO F*&^ YOURSELF!"
    Each Kitchen Nightmares follows the same format: Gordon arrives, a golden-haired giant, a Chef-God, swooping down from above to save the fallen, those who have sinned by poorly running a fine-dining establishment and piling mounds of debt on top of themselves. Ramsay seems to take their faults on a personal level: It is as if all the world's bad restaurants are cumulatively harming the very art of fine dining itself. Not on Ramsay's watch.

    "... he typically ends up spitting the food out or over-dramatically running for the men's room to vomit. He tells the chef (who is sometimes also the owner) that his food sucks..."

    After the hellos and handshakes, he might grimace at the decor, make a very specific comment about something, like the sweaty palm of the waiter's hand which he had just shaken. He sits down to sample the food, usually in the form of a three-course meal, which he orders from the menu. If it's canned or frozen he won't order it; and if he is served it, he knows it at once and is not happy. Generally, he ends up moving the food around on the plate with a fork, maybe tasting something after a short prayer to the Lord to protect him from being poisoned. He usually takes little more than a nibble of each dish, if that, and he typically ends up spitting the food out or over-dramatically running for the men's room to vomit. He tells the chef (who is sometimes also the owner -- the Frenchman was a chef/owner) that his food sucks...

    The trajectory of the show then depends on the chef/owner's reaction: Do they accept Gordon's criticism and work with him, or do they spend their effort fighting Ramsay while he forces through his changes  (it must be in the contract the restaurant signs that Gordon can do whatever the hell he wants with the place).

    To capitalize on Ramsay's help, a chef should assume a Zen attitude combined with the military responsiveness of a new recruit standing before his drill sergeant. Anything less and they are asking for it, and Gordon will give it to them.

    Gordon follows basically the same approach: After tasting how awful the food is, he examines the heart of the restaurant, which is also the chef's lair: namely, the kitchen. First, he goes through the refrigerator and cooking equipment to see if everything is neat and tidy. Nothing ever is. He usually finds mold, rotting food and god-knows-what. He likes to get in close, sticking his nose into forgotten plastic containers, dipping his hands into piles of gook under the stove. This is when he really explodes, cursing out everyone near him, sometimes even demanding the instant closing of the restaurant, even if it is full of people. And while doing this, he is constantly analyzing the staff, weighing their strengths and weaknesses, one time ferreting out a staff member with sticky fingers. Sometimes he recommends firings. Many a chef found himself unemployed after Gordon Ramsay'd the kitchen.

    Once the kitchen is steamed and scrubbed to a sparkle, he may buy the place a new appliance if they really require one. Sometimes he replaces all the appliances. (This usually wins over any chefs or owners who are still furious with him, but he's not buying them off, he's bettering the restaurant. He couldn't care less how they felt about him. In one episode he gave a young restaurant owner an engagement ring so he could get engaged to his girlfriend, who worked as a waitress; as her family were the primary investors in the place, this move had the touch of a "shotgun wedding," for your's truly, anyway.)

    Then he turns to the menu and adds a few specialties and watches the restaurant implode after he fills it to the brim by, I think, running local ads proclaiming that his TV show is filming there. Then maybe a day or two later, he redoes the decor and inevitably creates a new menu. Each episode climaxes with the relaunch of the restaurant, during which the chefs and owners are either still furious from having been stung repeatedly by Ramsay, or they have fallen completely in love with him (especially after he fills their kitchen with new appliances and redoes their dining room). Whether it will be saved or not afterward, the restaurant will inevitably make a killing on relaunch night from all the people eating in the place so they can be on TV. Sometimes Gordon gets the Mayor or a food critic or even a Miss California to attend the reopening.

    Some bloggers note that many of the restaurants on the show end up failing anyway; in truth, some of the eateries are probably too far gone to fix. Owning a successful restaurant requires an insane amount of devotion, precision and skill -- never mind money -- from the very beginning. (No less than two chefs committed suicide after their restaurant failed after appearing on Gordon's show.)

    The fate of the restaurant is beside the point, for me and I assume for the many critics who love the show. I watch KN to see Gordon in action, a man with a mission, a man in full, who will overcome every hurdle in his path and do everything he can to selflessly give the restaurateurs the keys to success. He may go for the jugular and always have his fangs out, he may spew hurtful insults, he may even take off his chef whites and stomp out into the night (he always comes back) but most of this is all psychology, all calculated. He is trying to rouse those in denial. Many attack him back; one New York restaurant that closed shortly after Ramsay filmed there posted on its website rumors about Ramsay's supposed extra-marital affairs. This after he (or FOX or whoever) paid to have their entire restaurant dining room redone, even adding a lobster tank for the diners to play with.

    I actually consider Ramsay a native New Yorker with a Brit accent. I don't care if he was born in Scotland or anywhere in the U.K., this guy is 100% New York attitude!
    Gordon Ramsay chews on a nightmare of a sirloin steak in a failing L.A. eatery.


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