Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares So You Don't Have To

Somewhere in America (or in the UK, where there are separate series), a restaurant is failing. Once prospective diners lined up around the block. Now bored, lonely servers refill salt and pepper shakers that don’t need refilling and gaze forlornly into the empty parking lot while the chef/owner weeps quietly in the kitchen and contemplates suicide. But help is on its way, in the form of the television personality and restaurateur Gordon Ramsey, with his ravaged forehead, excess of nervous energy, and bullying manner. He greets the failing restaurant’s chef/owner and servers cordially, and asks to sample the former’s cooking. He finds it appalling, to the point of spitting out half-chewed mouthfuls of it. The chef/owner is of course mortified with embarrassment, the servers, who have come to regard the chef/owner as an asshole, quietly vindicated. They beam delightedly as Chef Ramsay spits out the chef/owner’s signature dish.

Chef Ramsay asks to see the kitchen and to watch the chef/owner at work. He notes that the chef/owner seems to lack…passion for cooking, and is horrified to discover that the restaurant’s refrigerator is full of malodorous spoiled foodstuffs that are likely to make ill anyone who eats them. Much of his commentary is bleeped out. After rubbing the chef/owner’s nose in the kitchen’s deplorable hygiene, he bellows, “Shut it down!” and there is another commercial break.

Chef Ramsay and the chef/owner, whom Chef Ramsay condescendingly now addresses as Bigboy, snarl at each other. Bigboy has never hated anyone or anything as much as he hates Chef Ramsay. But now Chef Ramsay’s unseen staff devises a wonderful streamlined new menu for the restaurant featuring Clean Flavors, or, in the UK, Flavours. The servers smirk with pleasure as Bigboy is unable to deny that Chef Ramsay’s underlings’ cooking is far superior to his own.

But Chef Ramsay has only just begun. He has brought his decorators in too, and they have transformed the failing restaurant’s interior, removing many of the ghastly dust-collecting doo-dads and memorabilia with which Bigboy had been unable to part over the years, replacing the cruddy old tables ‘n’ chairs. The interior was admittedly ugly before. It is ugly in a different, more modern, way now, Chef Ramsay’s decorators not being very good. At the sight of his transformed interior, Bigboy is nonetheless moved to tears, and is consoled by one of the softer-hearted of his servers, who’s similarly lachrymose. This might be exactly what is needed to rekindle Bigboy’s long-missing passion! Now if he can only master the array of new dishes Chef Ramsay’s minions have devised — before tomorrow night, when — oops! — Chef Ramsay has invited everyone who’s anyone in town to the failing restaurant’s relaunch!

The mayor comes, and the local food critic. The kitchen, which hasn’t begun to master the new dishes, and is used to feeding six people per evening, is of course overwhelmed. Blood-pressure-raising music is played at a high volume. Bigboy is shown cursing and sweating into one of the new dishes he’s cooking for the first time. “Work as a [bleep] team!” Chef Ramsay bellows. Various diners tell the camera that they have been waiting 22 hours for their appetizers. The look on the local food critic’s pinched little face suggests that she intends to write something uncomplimentary on her blog, which is read by her parents and 11 others.

But now, with Chef Ramsay sputtering and gasping incredulously at their incompetence, the kitchen hits it stride. The packed house gets fed. One of Chef Ramsay’s assistant’s cleanly flavorful new dishes has wiped the smirk off the local food critic's face. Various diners are seen nodding at each other in delight. Yum!

As the last of them leaves, Bigboy has little recourse but to admit that Chef Ramsay isn’t the raging asshole he earlier seemed. He was in fact being cruel to be kind, just as in the Nick Lowe song! Has he not, after all, saved the restaurant’s bacon?  Twitching hyperactively in that way he has, bouncing on the balls of his feet, Chef Ramsay now tells an unseen interviewer in the parking lot that the restaurant may not go under, leaving no money for Bigboy's daughter's life-saving surgery, if Bigboy can retain his newly recovered passion for cooking, and can get his staff to keep Working Together as a Team. 

He removes his chef’s jacket and strides off, all 6-2 of him, presumably in search of another restaurant to redeem, other lives to save.  

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