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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cooking Shows: Kitchen Nightmares

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the first season of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I don't like Hell's Kitchen at all, though. Cooking competition shows like Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef are pretty unrealistic, designed to entertain, but might be accurate in the pressure felt by the cooking line on a busy Friday night service. Still, there's a lot of artifice involved. For a great story about the ultimate cooking competition (which most restaurant chefs disdain) check out Michael Ruhlman's The Soul of a Chef. The first section covers the Certified Master Chef exam, a grueling 8-day cooking test that has a 30% pass rate.

But back to Kitchen Nightmares. I didn't like Gordon Ramsay's schtick on Hell's Kitchen but I think it's well-suited for this show in which he goes to failing restaurants and tries to turn them around (the word is he's more toned down in the British version though).

The first couple episodes made me sort of afraid to ever go to a restaurant again after seeing the rotten food the places were serving and the bugs and broken coolers. The next few were more focused on the strife between the personalities and the resistance to change despite the obvious failings of the current menu.

What I find funniest is when the chefs at the restaurants balk at Ramsay's menu suggestions, claiming he's a fraud and they're much better chefs than him. Ramsay may come off as an ass but he's got three Michelin stars to his name and only 68 chefs in the world can claim that. Well, 67, since Thomas Keller has six stars.


Anonymous Mr. T said...

I've seen the british version of Kitchen Nightmares and it is indeed a LOT more toned down (its on BBC America regularly). The US version - although I am convinced its "real" having worked in restaurants myself - just really jacks up the BS to make things more entertaining. I agree with you that it does give you a nice manager's view perspective of the food industry however, having to deal with all the loonies who work in the food industry.

I admit to being a Top Chef fan. This year it was one of only 2-3 shows I watched on a regular and loyal basis. It is indeed entertainment, and you never really get a feel of how good any of the chef's are at actually cooking things.

To be honest I have yet to find a cooking show that I actually follow and learn from in the sense that I really use the techniques and items presented. The one exception is the Budget Health Nut series but I think that has been discontinued.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Swoof said...

Admit it, Mr. T. You watch Top Chef for Padma. I think that show is decent anyway. Having Tom Colicchio as a judge helps a lot.

I have adopted quite a few of the things I've learned from Alton Brown on Good Eats; cast iron-seared steak, brined turkey, poached fish, and a few more.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Beerorkid said...

I watch kitchen nightmares over the weekend afternoons (BBC). I have seen every episode multiple times but still love it.

My favorite thing is how he just makes simple stuff and it works.

Huge good eats fan over here.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Mr. T said...

I thought you might be interested in this as well - a "Hell's Kitchen" video game that was announced today:

"After executing the three phases of an order - preparation, cooking and service - Chef Gordon Ramsay will score each meal. As they progress through the game, players will be rewarded with access to recipes from Chef Ramsay's own repertoire."

8:35 PM  

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