film / tv / streaming / politics / web / celeb/ industry / video / love / lists / think pieces / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb

August 7, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | August 7, 2007 |

This review is coming to you live from Casa de Pajiba, where I’m currently sitting in a wonderfully comfortable massage chair and hanging out with Dustin and Mrs. Pajiba-Hyphenate and the ridiculously cute (but gassy) Pajiba, Jr. Dustin has recently been pestering me to watch and review the British series “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare.” Currently running on BBC America, the show features celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (perhaps known to you as the angry chef from Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen”) going to a different failing restaurant each episode and spending a week trying to help the owners and chefs turn things around. And having me locked within his lair, Dustin took the opportunity to A Clockwork Orange me into watching a “Kitchen Nightmare” marathon that just so happened to coincide with my visit.

Now that I’ve got the hooks out of my eyes I can say: I dunno if it’s the brainwashing simply taking hold, but I love me some “Kitchen Nightmare.” I wouldn’t go so far as Dustin, who has declared this to be the best show on TV this summer, but it is one of the more entertaining things I’ve come across over the past few months. As I said, the show features Ramsay going to a restaurant (some are new-ish, while others have been around for some time) and analyzing all the problems, not just with the food coming from the kitchen, but with how the joint is run as a business. Here, Ramsay candidly talks to the viewer as he identifies the various failings of the restaurant with an amusing combination of incredulity and snark. This section of the episode is also entertaining because it offers a sweet build-up to the anticipated confrontation, where Ramsay turns his comments to the chefs, staff and owner, explaining all the things that are going so drastically wrong.

There is, of course, a fine line to this part of the show. If Ramsay isn’t terribly blunt in his critique, he can’t effect any meaningful change (and there can be no question that the restaurants in the show all desperately need some type of change). But if Ramsay is a complete raging asshole, he hits himself with a double-whammy — not only might he end up ostracizing the folks to the point that they quit the show or kick his ass, but he also might end up ostracizing the viewer to the point that they’re turned off to the show. In fact, before watching this show, I had only seen him on one or two episodes of “Hell’s Kitchen,” and while I love a grade-A asshole, there was something about his persona on the show that turned me off. Here on “Kitchen Nightmares,” however, Ramsay seems to have ratcheted things down a notch — yes, he is brutally honest, but it doesn’t feel like he’s generally being an intentionally overt asshole. Of course, the owners and chefs don’t usually see it this way, and his blunt criticisms are generally taken quite personally (which is, of course, entirely understandable), which leads to scenes of people cursing him out, storming off in tears, or even ignoring his later attempts to deal with him.

As the episode proceeds, however, everyone generally comes back around to Ramsay’s side and is ultimately willing to work with him and implement the suggested changes. These changes often include a simplification of the menu and a change in management style and business method, but can also include things like changing the restaurant’s name or theme as well. And at least in the four episodes I’ve seen so far, business seems to improve for the restaurants after Ramsay’s suggestions and changes are implemented, although the first night under these new suggestions rarely runs as smoothly or flawlessly as a restaurant should.

The final part of the show features Ramsay coming back to the spot about a month or so later to see how much they stuck with his suggestions, and whether things have continued to improve. Unsurprisingly, we end up seeing mixed results. The restaurants always seem to have improved from a business standpoint, making more money than they were before Gordon stopped with his TV cameras (or in same cases, turning a profit for the first time). But some of the chefs and owners have reverted to old habits, ignoring his advice and changes (for example, Ramsay was appalled when he returned to a little pub to find the 62-year-old owner again working in the kitchen, when Ramsay said that he should have nothing to do with the kitchen anymore on the account of the terrible sauces and ridiculous platings he was concocting). And this is actually a breath of fresh air for this type of reality show, that things aren’t always 100 percent sunny and rosy at the end, as they typically are with the makeover and fix-em-up reality shows.

I guess it shouldn’t be any real surprise that I like this show, considering that fact that I love sanctimonious and sarcastic assholes (being one myself) and that I’m a foodie. But I don’t think either of these things need to be true to enjoy this show. At the end of the day, it’s simply a well-edited and interesting non-competition reality show, free of the shoved-down-your-throat “heart” that most reality shows of its ilk have. So as the dog days wind down, if you’re looking for a simple show to kill some time with, and something that doesn’t take the time investment of a full-blown series, I totally recommend catching an episode. Which you can do on Thursday at 8 p.m. on BBC America (or at various other times during the week, as they air the hell out of their shows). (And yes, Fox’s new fall show “Kitchen Nightmares” is an Americanized version of the show, still featuring Gordon Ramsay, and while the show had originally been off my radar, I’m now quite excited about it.)

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He totally appreciates and applauds the fact that every other word out of Ramsay’s mouth is a vulgarity.

This Bleeping Kitchen is Bleeping Shit

"Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare" / The TV Whore
Aug. 7, 2007

TV | August 7, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

Gimme Some Pajiba, Baby!

Pajiba Love 08/07/07

The Pajiba Store


Privacy Policy