Review: Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares 4.1

Gordon Ramsay in Spain

In the UK: Channel 4, 9pm, Tuesdays. Repeated Thursdays 9pm, 12.05am, More4

In the US: BBC America, probably in 2007.

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: 0

Major new characters: 0 – it’s all Gordon, all the time!

Format change percentage: 10% (for one episode)

Number of cahones: 2

Gordon Ramsay can sometimes be something of a self-parody. A former professional football player who runs a half-marathon every Sunday, he’s now a multi-millionaire celebrity chef, best known for bullying people, shouting, asking people where their balls are (now in Spanish, as well as English!) and swearing. He is almost a living, breathing, stereotype of masculinity. All he needs is a rusty white van, a proper haircut and a rottweiler and he’ll be able to set up a testosterone donation centre for anyone who CAN’T FIND A PAIR! (I imagine, if it were possible for him to do so, Ramsay would talk like that: in capitals and exclusively punctuated with exclamation marks. He would also be known only as Ramsay.)

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, now in its third series, gives Gordon a chance to use all four of the aforementioned talents in combination with his fifth, lesser known skill: helping people. Episode one gave him the chance to go to the Costa Del Sol to aid an ailing restaurant recover from a debt of €120,000. Said restaurant had found a niche on its particular part of the Costa: rather than copying all the other restaurants on the Costa and serving up sausages and chips to everyone (that really fills my very soul with despair. England, what has become of you?), the restaurant owner, Laurence Davey, had decided to serve Spanish food.

Was it still too adventurous for all those English people abroad? Or was the food just awful and liable to kill people, the service rubbish, and the floor itself covered in doggie excrement? Gordon was going to find out and tell Laurence how to fix it.

The trouble is, Gordon brought along his Ernest Hemingway guide to being a man…

As with Property Ladder, you often wonder why the various featured amateurs (and occasional professionals) actually bother calling in the expert. Have they not seen the show? Do they not know what’s going to happen? Were they really not planning on Gordon Ramsay coming in and insulting the size of their manhood?

Then when they get the advice, why do they ignore it? Surely the first thing they should all do, given they’re all the way past their eyeballs and up to somewhere on the top floor of their house in debt, is exactly what he says, to the letter. He’s a multi-millionaire, known throughout the world for his fine restaurants; they’re not. A simple couple of facts that should say something, no?

But, as per usual, Laurence, despite cooking everything on a barbecue or a grill, whether beast or fowl, vegetable or mineral, seemed almost impervious to Gordon’s advice. The restaurant’s trademark dish, king prawns with a chocolate sauce, was clearly devised by some Chinese torturer, intent on stamping out the human rights of his prisoner. Yet Laurence was convinced it would attract interest. Outside, sous chef Norm was busy making kebabs on a grill. But not in the normal way. First he would poach them. Then he’d leave them a day. Then he’d reheat them the next night. Does that scare you as much as it scares me? Still, Laurence was having none of Gordon’s criticisms. “F— you,” says Gordon and storms out, intent on never coming back.

It was only after someone broke into the restaurant and stole €4,000 that Laurence’s ego was at a sufficient enough ebb that Gordon was willing to come back to destroy him utterly and bend him to his will. So he did.

By throwing him into a bull-fighting ring.

It’s unconventional. I don’t know where he could have learned it in either London or Paris. Maybe he genuinely does bow down and pray at the foot of a Hemingway statue for inspiration every night. But it worked. Laurence was a new man after being tossed around the ring for an hour at the end of a couple of bull’s horns. He was ready to do whatever it would take to get the restaurant up and running, even if that meant using a frying pan instead of a grill.

Four weeks later and all is well. Takings are up three times on the previous year. People liked the food. The debt is being paid off. Brilliant. Well done, Gordon, who’s now all smiles and compliments because they’re actually turning out good food: there’s nothing Gordon likes more than excellence.

Regular viewers will no doubt be pleased that despite the one-off shift to a different country for this opening episode, everything about the show is the same as in the last series. Gordon still takes his top off whenever he can; the constant recaps of what’s already happened are still there; Gordon’s constant pessimistic asides are still constant. The only thing different is the show’s now sponsored by Gordon’s Gin. Some fine thinking went on there, didn’t it?

New viewers: if you can cope with Gordon, it’s actually quite an enlightening programme, where you learn about the things that can and will go wrong in restaurants, given half a chance. It’s also interesting to learn Gordon’s thinking about how restaurants should be run, so you can see how much of that is reflected in his own establishments. It might put you off eating out ever again, but how our food is made is frightening wherever you eat it. It’s also great fun, and never ceases to be entertaining.

Last point: They were taking the proverbial, weren’t they, when they used the theme to The Saint as the incidental music?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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