Kitchen Nightmares US

Peter is a big fan of Gordon Ramsey, and has followed his American TV show Hell’s Kitchen, as well as (via BBC America) his UK show, Kitchen Nightmares. So he was understandably delighted to find out Kitchen Nightmares was coming the US, complete with Gordon Ramsey as the kick-ass restaurant consultant.

But the first show was nothing but a pale imitation of the UK show, with some deus ex machina magic, and some highly dubious impromptu visits from “bill collectors.” Gordon Ramsey’s first American kitchen nightmare was an Italian restaurant run by a histronic Italian family on one end of Long Island. The restaurant’s major problem, as it was set up, was the co-owner who regularly embezzled the restaurant income to buy himself $3000 suits, $1000 teeth-whitening treatments, gym membership, an expensive watch, and a big fancy car, while also helping himself to free food for himself and his buddies. It was no surprise to hear one character assert that this guy “Peter” was a wanna-be actor whose goal in life was to be an Italian mafia movie or TV series. Meanwhile, most of the kitchen’s equipment, including most of the stoves, the burner, and the walk-in refrigerator were broken.

On the UK series, Gordon Ramsey excoriates the chef and the management, helps them figure out a new budget -friendly menu, and has them clean up the place. On this show, he was more like the feel-good fairy. He managed to get “Peter” into the kitchen and cooking, for a few minutes. Then the family goes away and when they come back Ramsey has bought the restaurant, and had installed, brand new top-of-the-line stoves and burners. My Peter (not embezzling restaurant owner “Peter”) told me that when Ramsey encountered the same sort of situation on the UK show, he made the embezzling owner sell his flashy car on eBay and use the funds to buy the new stove the kitchen needed. I guess in the US, you can keep your fancy car, diamond-encrusted watch, and gym membership as well as your restaurant: just call Gordon Ramsey and he’ll wave his magic wand and make it all well. So, did Ramsey at least get the rest of the management to fire “Peter?” No, that would be mean, wouldn’t it?  “Peter” pretended to be helpful to supply the image of a restaurant that had now been miraculously saved by Ramsey.

Peter and I knew a transformation like that won’t stick, so we were eager to see a staple feature of the UK show: a surprise visit by Ramsey a few months later. But, hey, no, that too might bum out us US viewers and destroy the illusion, so now we have to believe “Peter” will now miraculously become less selfish and flashy.

The “bill collectors” were also highly dubious. I think they, too, were staged, in order to give the impression of “mob” restaurant, or at least one in debt to the mafia in some form. The bill collectors always seemed to arrive at the exact same few moments cameras were scheduled to be filming, and there were no specific debts, just a “we have to settle something with Peter” whereupon Peter would fling himself at them screaming like the bad actor he is. If your restaurant were really in hock to the mob, your problems are a lot worse than a broken stove. But, hey, maybe you can tap Gordon Ramsey for another $100,000 to make that problem go away, without any personal consequences, too.

In short, the first episode was a disappointment. I hope the rest of the series gets better, or our disappointment will stretch to Ramsey himself.

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