My Current Obsession: Kitchen Nightmares

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This was originally going to be a regular blog post, but I’ve decided to make it part of a series of articles instead. These articles are called “My Current Obsession” and will focus on, well, my current obsession. It may be with a game, TV show, online feature, movie, etc. Today’s article will focus on the food reality show “Kitchen Nightmares”, which is hosted by famous chef Gordan Ramsay.

Seeing as I now work in a restaurant, albeit a fast food one, and have internet friends, my attention was brought to the buzz about the newest KN episode about Amy’s Baking Company. For those unaware, that episode has sparked plenty of viral news and negativity toward the owners, Amy and Samy. From watching it myself, I could see why. Not only did they want Ramsay there to sample their food and basically kiss their butts, but they also refused to accept his criticisms and advice. It’s a pretty big deal when the episode marked the first time Ramsay ever gave up on helping turn a restaurant around.

Anyway, with this episode, I was hooked and started working my way through the previous seasons, both with the US and UK iterations of the show. I do enjoy both, though they are completely different in tone. While both shows focus on Ramsay trying to help save failing restaurants, the UK version has more emphasis on him mentoring and training kitchen staff and also has him narrating throughout the episode. It’s presented kind of like a mini-documentary, which I thought was an interesting take and much more subdued than what I’ve seen of Hell’s Kitchen. The same can be said of the US version; however, it still retains the drama and quick edits of many US reality shows, which is both good and bad. I do like that there is variety, though, as Ramsay will speak with the owners and staff, have detailed sampling of the food, sort things out with the owners, change the decor and menu, etc.

Having only seen Ramsay in a few HK episodes, I was always under the impression he was a tough guy, maybe a little arrogant, who didn’t take crap from anyone. And while that’s still true in KN, you get to see a calmer, good-hearted side to him. He genuinely cares about seeing these restaurants and owners succeed. It was disheartening that he couldn’t help Amy’s Baking Company and you could see it in his expressions during the episode. He also shares a few personal bits about himself here and there, and overall I feel I have much more respect and admiration for him. He not only cares for the success of a business, but also quality of the food and the well-being of customers. There’s a lot more to him and watching Hell’s Kitchen alone doesn’t do him justice.

One thing I love about both versions of the show is finding out what happens after his visit. Each show (the US one starting this in Season 3) has a post-visit bit explaining whether the restaurant still is successful or has crumbled. There are also revisit episodes in both versions where Gordan himself returns to see if a restaurant is still up to standards. With some who went out of business, it’s heart-breaking because either it couldn’t be helped or you really wished they could’ve made it. With others, you can’t help but be glad if the standards continue to be awful.

I have now seen Ramsay in Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and the pilot to the brief hotel-based series called Hotel Hell. Between all three shows, I feel I have a better understanding of the man himself and why he’s so passionate (to the point of calling people donkeys) about his profession. Kitchen Nightmares is my favorite of the bunch because it feels like the best of both worlds: The crass, blunt, passionate Ramsay of HK mixed with the kind-hearted, determined, mentor Ramsay that both KN and HH have shown. And it’s always fun to root for a good restaurant to make it despite all the obstacles.

If you like cooking, Ramsay, reality shows, or all three, give Kitchen Nightmares a try. It’s the first TV show in a while I’ve checked out and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

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