Kitchen Nightmares

Haven’t gotten enough of Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen? Good because he’s got more than one show. And if you think he’s full of cursing, arrogance, and intimidation while dealing with the chefs on Hell’s Kitchen, wait to you see what he does when he comes in to the failing restaurants of America. (Sounds like an organization.)

Ramsay is called into restaurants that are failing due to poor management, hot tempers, health code violations, and lack of hope. And some of the places are truly disgusting. By the time Chef Ramsay arrives, the owners have all but given up hope and on the verge of losing their restaurants and, in many cases, their homes.

One of the places had chefs that did not speak the same language as the rest of the staff and no one had checked the fridge in ages. Have you ever seen vegetables when they’ve been left so long that mold has had time to do more than grow a green layer? (Thanks to a neglectful roommate in college, I have. It turns into black, foul-smelling liquid. Cleaning it was…a challenge, to say the least.)

One of the problems with a number of the places is that they need a reality check. For some it’s a lazy, arrogant brother starting fights and abusing the restaurant. In others it’s the need for change (for example, in a town where there’s no steakhouse, think about opening a steakhouse) or the need to fire a free-loading manager. But Ramsay, never one to shy away from controversy, attacks those who are failing the restaurant while encouraging those who are working hard. More than once things come close to blows (they make actually come to blows further in the season, but so far I’ve only seen 5) but Ramsay isn’t willing to be intimidated.

While Ramsay is yelling and cursing, it’s clear that he really cares about each restaurant. And with his restaurant expertise (read: 11 successful restaurants worldwide and considered the best chef in the world by many), he knows what he’s doing.

With remodeling, staffing recommendations, new menus, new equipment, and pep talks, Ramsay turns each restaurant into the real successes they have the potential for. Sometimes he even changes the themes of the restaurant, creating a steakhouse, a health food restaurant, and other options out of other, more general places. There’s a degree to which the show feels like a way to prove, for any who may have doubted, that Ramsay can not only run a kitchen, but also cook, as he creates new dishes in nearly every episode that the restaurant staff tastes and proclaims “delicious!”

And the big question: Did he really turn these restaurants around? Mid-season one, they did a special episode where they revisited the restaurants that Ramsay remade to see how they were doing. According to one review, business has gone up 37% since Ramsay’s visit for Finn McCool’s, a pub in the Hamptons. One restaurant began turning a profit of nearly $1 million a year. Not every restaurant was a success though. One restaurant was too steeped in debt to make up and closed five months after his visit. With only one failure that was more due to the state of things before Ramsay arrived, its undeniable that he’s had a huge, positive impact on many places and he clearly knows what he’s talking about.

(One thing I don’t need is to see Ramsay without a shirt but it seems we need to see him put on his chef shirt every couple episodes.)

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