Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's No Secret That Gordon Had A Real Nightmare on His Hands...

I finally got around to watching The Secret Garden in Moorpark, California being pilloried on Kitchen Nightmares.

"Who wants to sit and eat in front of that fat little bastard?", Gordon exclaims as he enters his latest restaurant rescue. No, he wasn't talking about the chef, he was talking about a little statue of a French chef in the dining room of the restaurant.

That wasn't the only immediately obvious problem. It took Gordon a few tries to find the correct entry door, which can't be a good thing for a restaurant. Gordon finds Michel the French owner/chef, who admits to being over three hundred thousand dollars in debt. He needs help, but not enough to shed his proud Gallic exterior. Gordon asks how long he's been running the restaurant and how long it has been quiet. He answers 7 years to both. That's not good, even I know that.

Chef Ramsey takes a seat in the dining room and cringes when he see paper doilies under the water glasses. He orders a salad with shrimp and strawberries. He's not really down with that combination to begin with and after a small taste, he kind of burps it up. Gross. How does he do that on command? (I guess any 14 year old boy could tell me.) The main course of Roquefort stuffed filet of beef fared no better. He said it was as tough as an old boot. AND it was served on a dirty, greasy CHIPPED plate.

Come on! You KNOW you're serving Gordon Ramsey! There are cameras there, for goodness sake, and you give him a chipped plate?!!. Can that possibly have been for real? The carrots were undercooked, perfect if you're rabbit, he says. And he describes the shoe string potatoes as nothing more than a "big ball of grease."

Chef Ramsey's take on Michel: "I'm trying to get inside your mind, so I can start breaking down how stupid you are." After which server Jane opines. "I don't think he likes Michel." Ya think??!

Gordon goes to inspect the kitchen. The drip trays under the burners are full to bursting with oil. The walk-in fridge is a disgusting nightmare. There's mold that he keeps fingering (gloveless). He says this place can't stay open. Gagging, when he finds the old food and maggots sickening, he runs out and gets to the bathroom just in time. Not too strong a stomach, eh, Chef?

When confronted by the horror of his kitchen, Michel acknowledges NOTHING and his first reaction is to disregard all of Gordon's advice, before finally going along with his suggestions. The entire staff spends the rest of the day cleaning. Gordon remarks, "It's good to see Michel scrubbing. He's beginning to show some skills in the kitchen."

It's time for the dinner service. Gordon watches to see what's going wrong (There's nothing right, actually.) A bowl of soup takes 25 minutes to be served, because it has to be cooked. HUH? Whah?! It's not possible that he's sooo clueless that he can't even have the soup made before the evening service. Gordon thinks Michel's complete denial of his shortcomings are worse than if he were a crappy chef...

As a bit of shock therapy, Gordon boards the place up and posts signs that say CLOSED. When Michel sees that, he's really po'ed. He doesn't want any bad publicity associated with his restaurant. He probably should have thought of that before he allowed the maggots and mold to be filmed and shown on primetime television.

Next Gordon overhauls the menu. He gets rid of all the crusted stuff. Jane says GR is brilliant. The restaurant opens for the night. They have 4 new special dishes that they're supposed to be pushing. It goes very well. Everyone is ordering the specials. Then orders start to come in too quickly and, soon, there is chaos in the kitchen and anger in the dining room. Tempers flare and Jane is tired of being yelled at by pompous Michel. She walks out.

It seems to me that there are two problems in the kitchen this evening. Number One is that Michel, who often seems like a cartoon cariature of an agitated French chef, refuses to delegate tasks to his perfectly capable sous-chef Devon. Things are getting backed up and he's not using all available hands to get the food out.

The Number Two problem is Gordon's fault, I think. How can you give an entire restaurant staff a completely new menu at 1 pm and expect them to cook and serve it perfectly at 6 pm?! That's one of the things I don't get about this show. I know they want it to seem like this whole thing happens in the course of a week, but if that is true, no wonder they faltered mightily in the heat of the dinner rush.

Gordon didn't seem to give them all the tools they needed to cope with a new menu and the much bigger than usual crowd. What if he had brought in his own staff and they had run the restaurant for a night with the others observing? THEN they would have actually learned example, rather than by screaming or being screamed at.

Michel's communication skills were the problem according to Gordon. Michel explodes and says the kitchen is closed. The customers are fuming and the dinner service ends in disaster. You know the more I watch this, the more I wonder how anyone leaves ANY restaurant fed and not dying of food poisoning...

The next day the extreme kitchen makeover team takes over and transforms the restaurant. Except not really...usually the restaurants DO look amazing and they really improve things. I didn't think the quaint Frenchified interior was so bad. The new look IS uncluttered, but kinda boring. Michel doesn't love it either.

Dinner time again. the restaurant is packed, after word gets out that Gordon is in town. Miss California is in the house, as is an entire busload of winery tourists. The food is going ok, until Michel learns there is a food critic in the house. He gets nervous. He's shown preparing Gordon's tuna recipe. He oversalts it, and goes out to the critic. She can't even eat it and sends it back.

Michel attributes the problem to Gordon's new menu and he and Gordon start screaming at each other. Frankly, I'm not sure what's going on, because it's impossible to understand them. Every other word is being bleeped out. Gordon walks out in a rage.

Michel continues to hate on Gordon's new menu and insists on making one of his old favorites - the dish that Gordon pronounced as leather-like at the beginning. He plates the Roquefort stuffed filet and is about to have it served, when Gordon decides it's not fair to the rest of the staff to bail and he comes back in. He reasons with Michel, and Jane throws the old plate in the garbage.

Somehow they come up with a decent entrée, which the food critic laps up. Peace is restored in a matter of minutes. Yeah, right...There probably was a catering truck in the back, serving all the disgruntled customers. Michel realizes the error of his ways, at least while Gordon is in the house and Jane is promoted to manager.

It all seemed to end well, except that when the chef is doing those talk-to-the-camera interviews after the whole thing is over, he's sitting in front of that old fat chef statue that they got rid of. I guess he brought everything back in when Gordon left. I also checked his current menu online. While there were no strawberries in the salads, there WERE some of the old dishes, including a bunch of crusted dishes. Let's just hope he's no longer serving mold with them.

I've decided why this show is so watchable. It's really all about Gordon's hair and his three hundred dollar (could it be more?) haircut. It's really a dynamic head of hair - going every which way, very modern, very choppy and the color is gorgeous. He must use more gel than a pastry chef uses butter, but it's worth it.

I don't hate Gordon anymore, he clearly knows what he's doing. But I still believe that you can kill more flies in the kitchen with kindness than you can by shrieking at the staff.

AFTERWORD: Relevant to Emiline's comment are two articles I found. It's hard to believe that the show is THAT staged, but it's equally hard to believe that nothing goes on to move the action forward in a more dramatic way. Check these out:

'Reality' TV show is deceiving

Restaurant, owners skewered on TV series "Kitchen Nightmares"


Emiline said...

Ew. Maggots make me sick to the stomach. Gordon, too, apparently. I like that show, but I never get to watch it.
I wonder how much is staged? It IS on FOX.

Sue said...

I's not on at a convenient time...You're right it IS fox... there probably really is no Gordon Ramsey...

Tracy said...

Those articles are interesting. It's hard to know whether the restaurant is trying to save face.

Have you looked at the original "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" on BBC? The series is nowhere near as overblown as the Fox series.

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,
I agree. It's hard to know where the hype ends and the truth starts.

I've seen one or two of the English ones. The people are much more quaint and not as ridiculously bad as the people here.

Kathy said...

I know Michele and he is as arrogant as they show him on the show; so that was real. Wouldn't you clean your house/kitchen/pantry if you know tv cameras and hot Gordon Ramsey are coming? Come on!
I ate at The Secret Garden once 2 years ago. The decor was overwhelming and the food pretentious and not very good.
Sue, The BBC show is way diferent and the Chefs and stuff seem more willing to learn and do the work. I love Gordon even when he is evil. The hair is perfect as you said and every time he changes to his Chef's jacket I pause the Tivo like a million times to see the perfect arms and chest :) He's hot!