Stay out of the Kitchen (Nightmares)

It could simply be I haven’t had TV for a number of years and anything that shows up on hulu is just that much more appealing, but I’ve found myself oddly drawn to Kitchen Nightmares on Fox.

Allow me to sum up every single episode on the show: Local restaurant’s in the red. They request, EBA-style (or Ouendan-style, if you prefer) the services of international cooking superstar Gordon Ramsay. He shows up, orders a meal, and tells them how awful it all is. Owner/manager/chef takes umbrage, they get in a shouting matching with Ramsay. This is a bad idea. Ramsay is really good at shouting. He yells at them for a while, and they sulk off.

Then comes everyone’s favorite: the unsanitary kitchen sequence! Ramsay rummages through the fridge and kitchen and uncovers all the mold and rotten meat and flies. There are even cooks throwing chicken wings they found on the ground into the fryer. Look at what goes on inside the kitchens of America, unsuspecting consumer! Restaurants like the ones you go to each day! There are probably rat droppings in your turkey club right this second!

So, they clean the kitchen, Ramsay comes up with a new menu, they futz with the decor, and they relaunch. The the crowds are huge, things get chaotic, at least one staff member storms out, but then they turn things around and everyone learns an important lesson about humility/hygiene/teamwork/leadership/frugality/hard work/using fresh produce. Ramsay finally stops swearing at people to tell them how much they’ve improved, and the whole staff rhapsodizes about how Gordon’s the coolest dude ever. Dee Snider showed up one time too.

I can’t quite articulate why I find the whole thing compelling. There’s a few insights into good restaurant practices (keep the menu small to focus on quality and to lessen the strain on the fridge and kitchen, find a signature dish that fills a niche in your community) and even one or two cooking tips, though far less than the BBC version of the show apparently. Really though, I think the actual reason is because in the back of my mind I think owning a restaurant would be pretty cool. Everybody thinks this. This is why every single sports player opens up a bar and grill when they go pro and have more money than they know what to do with. But even though I imagine myself owning my own place, I unconsciously yearn for a loud British guy to yell at me about how hard it is and that I shouldn’t try. But wait, maybe if I have enough passion, I could succeed too! You’re right, Gordon, I should live my dream of opening my own okonomiyaki place!


15 thoughts on “Stay out of the Kitchen (Nightmares)

  1. Yeah I was going to say that bit about “in the red” as well, but there you go.

    If you really want to be dissuaded from opening a restaurant, read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, particularly the chapter about the different kinds of people who open a restaurant and why most of them are doomed to fail.

  2. Ramsay is the best. “You donkey!!”

    I haven’t watched him in action in quite some time. His galvanic anger is sexy! =P

  3. The problem with owning a restaurant is that you may at some point be required to *work* in that restaurant. Go wait tables at Bennigan’s for a day; that’ll suck the romance right out of restaurateurship.

  4. “Oh, f#@* me senseless!”

    Is there something wrong with me for finding the chewing out Josh from season 3 of Hell’s Kitchen received from Gordon as he was kicked out hilarious? I’m against kicking down the weak more than at least 90% of the people out there, but it’s too hard to resist. It was as if a fistfight could break out at any moment.

  5. Kitchen Confidential is an amazing book and anyone interested in cooking or the restaurant industry should give it a read. That said, it didn’t dissuade me from wanting to open a restaurant – it just let me know that it has no chance of succeeding. :)

  6. the british one is way better, because gordon doesn’t give any handouts. He makes the restaurants pull themselves up, and doles out fantastic advice along the way. It’s far more compelling than his Fox-branded magic wand.

  7. Never seen the Fox version of the show, but the BBC one is WONDERFUL. Ramsay isn’t perfect, but dammit is that man good entertainment, and has a lot of genuinely good tips for food service. Don’t watch a lotta’ TV, but I’ll make an exception every time for that show.

  8. The Fox version is very overproduced. Every single second of footage is smothered by the score, the same clips are used over and over on the bumpers before and after commercials, and there’s a overbearing use of filters on the camera. Still the underlying show is great. I’d love to see the BBC version (I’ve only seen clips so far) but I haven’t yet found a way to watch online.

  9. Man, if you opened an okonomiyaki restaurant, I would totally patronize it (er, if I happened to be anywhere near it). I loves me some okonomiyaki. Just made some earlier this week, in fact, with seafood in.

  10. You’ve captured what makes the trainwreck American version intriguing, even if it’s near-embarrassing when compared to the British one (which is the only reality show that was/is worth watching it).

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