Those of us who flip around the television dial or, as I do, scan through Netflix, have probably had the chance to see him. He’s the angry, foul-mouthed chef who seems to delight in belittling wide-eyed, petrified victims also costumed as chefs. He’s Gordon Ramsay. His television shows are naturally about cooking but they also tend to be one long FCC-approved beep – and he seems to have a fixation about Hell: Hell’s Kitchen, Hotel Hell. At first blush, I thought he was yet another in a long line of pompous asses who take their abilities to heat things up in a skillet far too seriously to the point where they are allowed to project their contempt on others with impunity for money.
But I think I’m really starting to like him…and I feel like a lesser person for it.
Why did I ever start watching him? I was curious what he was really all about and if the verbal torture and apoplectic attitude bore any merit whatsoever. After all, somebody at Fox had to be convinced that he was worth putting on television, not that their standards are all that high. So I tuned in to Hell’s Kitchen this season to see why somebody would get this venomous in the kitchen. I know I wouldn’t want to know this kind of abusive behavior was going on in a restaurant where my food was being prepared. After watching a few episodes, I can begin to sympathize.
Reality television is hardly “reality” and it’s often difficult to separate what has been scripted – or, at least, pitched – from what is the narcissistic bravado of someone who has to have the “personality” to make it on a television program. What I have seen thus far on Hell’s Kitchen is that the contestants are ridiculous and hardly worthy of the head chef position in the Las Vegas restaurant that is the reward. There are too many mistakes made that call into question how much of it is genuine and how much is contrived. But Ramsay continues to entertain as the belligerent taskmaster overseeing a cadre of culinary clowns.
As is the case with many popular American television shows, they got their start elsewhere. I found a show on Netflix called Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and it was a British show and served undoubtably as the template for Hotel Hell. Ramsay comes in and in an explicative-ridden week, he helps turn a foundering restaurant into something that has a chance to survive. What he usually uncovers is that the people running the business have no clue how to do it properly. It is, I’m sorry to confess, an engaging, uncensored romp through the landscape of tough-love. The most shocking thing to me is why rather well-mannered people would allow the foul-mouthed abuse that pours from Ramsay’s mouth with barely a complaint.
Ramsay’s shows are irresistible and I don’t know if it’s the voyeurism of ineptitude or the schadenfreude that bothers me more. It’s not particularly surprising, as it becomes all too apparent, Ramsay’s favorite word in his Gatling gun of uncensored vileness. But why spoil the mystery? I’ll let you watch and find out the secret word and win the prize.