Friday 28 Oct 2016

Gordon Ramsay
Matt Seinberg

Watching any television show with Gordon Ramsay is like driving past a bad  accident. You really don’t watch to watch the misery; yet, you don’t want to miss anything “good” either. Any good accident is all about how much wreckage and blood you can see.

That said, either you love Gordon Ramsay or you hate him. There is no middle ground. It’s like broccoli: you like it or you hate it. For the record, I don’t like broccoli, though the rest of my family loves it.

Right now, Ramsay has three television series running on the Fox Network. The longest running is “Hell’s Kitchen” (HK), which started in May 2005. Then we got “Kitchen Nightmares” (KN), which started in September 2007. His latest show, “MasterChef” (MC), debuted in 2010 and his co-hosts are celebrity chefs Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich.

Each of these shows appeals to most people’s basic instincts of fear, failure and the chance to be a success. As well, the chance to win a big prize or have your restaurant made over is a good incentive to be embarrassed on international television.

On each of these three shows, I truly believe we see a different Gordon Ramsay. On HK, we see the true devil in Ramsey. For KN, we see a mean, but understanding and compassionate Ramsey. On “MC," Ramsay is almost friendly to all the contestants, but can still show his snide side when he truly doesn’t like something.

On "HK," the cast always changes, but the characters are mostly the same. What do I mean? Ok, here are a couple of examples. There’s always the slow, stupid, fat white guy, the fat, loudmouth black girl, a couple of good looking blondes, the freaky guy with tattoos and big ears, a fairly talented black male chef, the wise guy white guy, and a couple of ugly white girls. Don’t believe me? Go back over the seasons and you’ll see I’m right.

"HK" is like any other television show, there is a steady cast of characters that have roles to play. Although it’s a reality show, the producers pick performers qua chefs to fill those roles. It’s been too consistent for it not to be true.

My favorite Ramsay line is when he calls some female chef “a donkey” for something she did very wrong in the kitchen during dinner service. It’s usually at that point he screams at her “to get out!” Ramsay’s use of bleeped out foul language is quite entertaining. Does Fox really think the audience doesn’t know all the curse words that come spewing out of his mouth?

On "KM," Ramsey visits restaurants with problems. He tastes their food, inspects the premises and talks to the staff and owners. Sometimes the owner is so damn stubborn that Ramsay has to walk away in utter exasperation, only to return soon after and try to talk some sense into that owner.

The basis of the show format is Ramsay riding to the rescue and helping a failing restaurant succeed, by redecorating it overnight with what seems to be unlimited funds, providing a new menu, and often enlisting the help of a consultant chef to help them get through the re-launch period.

There’s much yelling, screaming and swearing by all of those involved to no end. Sometimes, it’s just too much to watch when the kitchen help and servers are in the middle, caught between the owners and Ramsay. Usually they are innocent by standers, but sometimes are the cause of the problems.

In the end, everybody hugs, kisses and ends up smiling because Ramsay gave them a fresh start. Allegedly, the producers fake some situations. The idea is to make Ramsay look good. Nothing confirmed, though, and Ramsay even won a couple of lawsuits, breaking those allegations.

It’s on "MC" that Ramsay is the most human. I think that comes from having to work with two co-hosts in Elliot and Bastianich. Elliot is the teddy bear chef that everyone wants to hug, while the contestants tremble in fear when they are around Bastianich. His cutting wit makes Ramsay look like an angel at times.

On "MC," the premise is that home cooks have a dream of being high-end, widely recognized chefs, even though they have no training, such as Cordon Bleu. This show provides that on-the-job training, while, at the same time, allowing contestants to vie for a huge monetary prize as well as the chance to author a cookbook.

To me, the most interesting part of the show is not the cooking, but the rivalries that ensue between certain contestants. In a way, it’s like wrestling. There’s always the bad person versus the bad person, but in this case, you never know who’s going to win.

Unbelievably, Ramsay is the stabilizing force that doesn’t let those rivalries get to out of hand. He’s not afraid to call someone out on international television for doing or saying something wrong. His co-hosts are more interested in the food than they are in the people; it shows week after week. They seem to have more opinions about the food than does Ramsay.

Like, love or hate Gordon Ramsay, he makes for good television and his ratings will keep him employed for many years to come. Hey, does he actually cook, anywhere anymore?

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

More by Matt Seinberg:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.

Please report typos or corrections
to the editor