Monday, October 12, 2020

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares

Superstar restaurateur Gordon Ramsey arrives at the restaurant he’ll be saving in tonight’s episode, and lets fly an incredulous, censorious wow at — what will it be this week, the restaurant name? The shape of its parking lot? He swaggers inside and, bouncing impatiently on his toes in the way he has, twitching like a St. Vitus dancer who’s been sedated, he breathlessly advises key personnel of the restaurant, “Good to see you,” as he grabs, shakes, and lets go their hands as though he’s got a plane to catch. The restaurant’s proprietor, about to Lose Everything because of the restaurant’s precipitously declining popularity, beams joyfully at having met a personage of Gordon’s stature. 

Gordon is seated and handed a menu, reading which, he remarks, “Wow,” not complimentarily. RP assures him that everything on it is delicious. Gordon orders a great many things, and pronounces each, in turn, disgusting, or, at best, unfit for a cat. In a particularly good episode, he will be so disgusted by something that he will reach into his mouth, home of his million-dollar palate, and remove the offending morsel, half-masticated though it may be. There is no disdain in the world comparable to that Gordon feels for something the server assures him is fresh, but which he recognises as frozen. 

An embarrassed server, who has admitted to Gordon that he or she thinks the restaurant’s fare awful and the proprietor a clueless idiot or tyrant, takes each disdained dish back to the kitchen, and there gleefully informs the increasingly incensed chef and restaurant proprietor — usually with a happy, vindictive smirk — that Gordon found the dish inedible. Gordon amuses himself while this is going on by finding chewing gum stuck to the bottom of the table at which he is seated, or a worn out patch of carpet. “Wow,” he says some more.

The proprietor is summoned to rejoin Gordon at his table, and there is informed that he or she clearly knows nothing whatever about food. If a woman, she commonly bursts into tears of shame and hatred. Male proprietors commonly want to punch Gordon in his furrows, but Gordon’s big and pretty intimidating, maybe 6-3 and a former athlete, so many of them wind up settle for whimpering, or, in an especially enjoyable episode, bawling.

Gordon observes a dinner service. The kitchen staff is — surprise! — spectacularly inept. Customers are kept waiting interminably, and then sorely disappointed when their food is finally delivered. Many pronounce what they’ve ordered inedible, and ask their server to get it out of their sight. Gordon has never seen anything like it (at least since the previous episode of the show was shot), and covers his eyes in dismay. He goes back into the kitchen and implores the staff, “Come on!” in disgust. 

After a commercial, Gordon, now in his chef’s white jacket, is taken into the areas of the restaurant its patrons never glimpse. He finds many things that disgust him in the kitchen and in the refrigerator. Sometimes he retches, cinematically. Almost invariably he bellows at the proprietor, who is now four inches high, “Are you trying to fucking poison your customers?” At the top of his lungs, he orders that the restaurant be closed, and cleaned. He takes the proprietor aside and shames him or her mercilessly. There is no comparable sadism viewable anywhere on modern television, and no hatred in the world as great as the restaurant proprietor’s for Chef Ramsey.

But now, after more messages from our sponsors, they turn a corner together, as Chef Ramsey’s staff develops an Exciting New Menu for the restaurant. Featuring simple dishes that use wonderfully flavourful fresh ingredients. Gordon bounces manically on his toes as he reads the descriptions of the dishes his staff has given him. The restaurant’s staff samples the new dishes, and agrees that it’s never tasted anything more delicious. Gordon instructs the restaurant’s chefs in the preparation of a couple of dishes. They are awed by his prowess.

While the world sleeps, Gordon’s team remodels the restaurant’s interior. It rarely looks much better after the remodelling, but the viewer is meant to share the staff’s amazement and jubilation. Commonly the proprietor will burst into tears, having never imagined that his or her restaurant could be so beautiful, and embrace Gordon, who isn’t the monster he seemed. This part is always wonderfully sickening. 

Word has gotten around town that Chef Ramsey has transformed the restaurant, and it’s mobbed for its gala relaunch. One imagines everyone’s getting their meals free. The first served among them are delighted by what Gordon has taught the place’s chefs to cook, but then the kitchen, accustomed to sparse attendance, is overwhelmed. “Come on!” Gordon groans. The staff does so, under the direction of the formerly hapless diffident owner or manager, and gets the ship righted. The evening ends with everyone looking like the cat who ate the canary, canary’s absence from the Exciting New Menu notwithstanding. 

The restaurant’s proprietor has seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe he or she won’t have to declare bankruptcy, or ask the kids to start their higher educations at grubby little community colleges. Nothing in the world compares in immensity to his or her gratitude to Chef Ramsey. 

Who, now back in civilian attire, bounces on his toes, does his little St. Vitus Dance, and tells someone off-camera that the restaurant may have a chance, if the staff just continues to Work Together, and the proprietor doesn’t revert to being a feckless dickhead who knows nothing whatever about food.