Of all popular British chefs, Gordon Ramsay is perhaps the best suited to modern day TV, despite the fact he doesn’t have Nigella Lawson’s sex appeal or Jaime Oliver’s childlike passion or Anthony Worrall Thompson’s…um…talent for shoplifting? I think the answer to Ramsay’s recent popularity is twofold; his passion is infectious and he swears so much that he’s practically turned the word cunt into a catchphrase. Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA is perhaps the main example of Ramsay’s popularity and one that I’ve watched with the aggressive vigor of a recovering heroin addict discovering cocaine.
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA is a ‘reality’ TV show that has Gordon Ramsay visit terrible restaurants, tell them why they are terrible and then help them stop being terrible. It almost always works.
I’ve recently found myself with a rather large surplus of time and I’ll be very honest and say that I spent about 70% of it watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, getting through 5 or 6 episodes a day like an insane conspiracy theorist who believes that the location of Jimmy Hoffa’s body can be found, hidden in code, within Ramsay’s violent swearing.
My research indicates he’s here.
About halfway through episode 28, I said to myself “hang about, this is the same bloody thing over and over and over again, I’ve wasted so much time!” I was then distracted by Gordon Ramsay’s over the top vomiting and forgot my complaint until episode 40, whereupon I decided that I probably ought to stop watching before my brain fell out of my ears. This brings me to arguably the biggest problem with the series and that is this incredibly obvious formula. I can recite it by memory; Restaurant is shit, Gordon goes to restaurant, Gordon eats food, Gordon swears, Gordon says restaurant is shit, Restaurant owners cry, Gordon comes up with a plan, restaurant owners don’t like plan, Gordon swears, restaurant owners go along with plan, restaurant gets new menu and new look, restaurant owners cry/get angry, Gordon swears/laughs, restaurant opens first night, something goes wrong, Gordon swears, restaurant does well, Gordon is happy, restaurant owners cry and say thank you, Gordon leaves.
Restaurant inevitably closing after failing to keep up with Gordon’s plan
Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule, like the infamous Amy’s Baking Company episode, but for the most part every episode follows that layout. Not that it isn’t enjoyable watching Gordon Ramsay swear and point out the same old problems in 50 different restaurants but it doesn’t take too long before you start getting bored of it. Another major issue is the really overdramatic voice over which proclaims ever single restaurant Gordon Ramsay visits to be the worst in the history of the show, that the food is the worst and that every single episode is the biggest challenge he’s ever faced. This sort of reaction is arguably warranted for a couple of the episodes but for the most part this hype is totally unjustified. That’s really the main difference between the American and British versions, except for the lack of censoring in the British version. The American series is so overthetop in places that it begins to get intolerable at around the same time as the repetitive formula. The problems don’t stop there though, the editing is atrociously deceptive. I remember one episode showing clips of a restaurant owner who had a serious heart problem with a voiceover saying something along the lines of “after the break, things get worse” intersected with a vehicle hidden in the dark with sirens blaring. Now, the implication was that the owner has a heart attack and that the sirens are from an ambulance, however, it was later revealed that Gordon had invite the local firefighters to dine at the restaurant. There are plenty of other examples of this highly manipulative editing, that might be tolerable if done well but these are so shoddily put together with little basis in reality that you just want to roll your eyes.
So very much like the Daily Mail then
That’s not to say that there aren’t some things I like about Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA. The premise is ok, I guess, but again, once you’ve seen 3 or 4 episodes you’ve pretty much seen them all. The people featured can be fun, usually ranging from frustratingly arrogant and argumentative to mindnumbingly incompetant, but again, once you’ve seen a few episodes you’ve seen them all. There are a few really good episodes. The Burger Kitchen episodes features one of the most interesting family relationships ever featured on the show and the Mangia Mangia episodes have some of the few, truly sympathetic people in the series. It says a lot that my favourite episodes tend to be the two parters, I think that’s where the format actually works best because you can drag that formula out a bit and add a bit more depth; for example, Ramsay’s bad relationship with his father comes up in Burger Kitchen and there’s some pretty serious drug talk in Mangia Mangia. There is, however, only one really good thing about the show. Gordon Ramsay. His passion is admirable, he clearly cares a great deal about the food industry and mentions it as his primary motive several times. His swearing never seems like a move to increase the shows popularity but rather genuine disgust at just how badly these people are fucking up and how they tend to see no real problem with serving terrible food to the public. Ramsay seems genuinely invested in helping these people and his passion is absolutely the best part of the show. He’s also pretty funny at times and his banter with waitresses reveal a very human side to Gordon Ramsay, something that is only really seen in Masterchef Junior (2013-present)
Aww, isn’t that-
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA is pretty poor. The narration is overthetop, the editing is misleading, the formula is repetative and the contestants mostly forgetable. Gordon Ramsay is that only strong positive in the entire series and, if I’m honest, he’s the main reason I kept watching. If you want to see a talented Scottish chef shouting at idiots then I recommend Kitchen Nightmares USA but be prepared for all the other crap that comes with it.