Home > Bitchin' Kitchen > My Problem with the F Word

My Problem with the F Word

British television, apart from a few isolated islands of brilliance, is slipping slowly into a sticky quagmire of something worse than mediocrity.  The F Word, starring the King of Cussing, Gawdon Ramsay seems to be leading the charge.

Gordon Ramsay

Gawdon. Thanks to Barfblog for the pic

This season of the F Word is concentrating on “The Best Local Restaurant as voted by you, the viewers”.  Well, no, it is not.  All we did was vote to create a short list. Then Gawdon and his buddies go and eat at these restaurants and select the ones they think are the best. We watch a programme where the competing restaurants hope that the “customers” will “pay” for the food they are served and the winning restarant each week gets a tacky plastic “F”. The winner goes through to the semi finals. Whoopee.

Last night, three semi finalists were made to jump through hoops, the first being “Mystery Diners” who appeared at the restaurants and judged them on on the food and the service. First to fall were the two lovely sisters who own Manchester’s Sweet Mandarin Chinese restaurant.

The survivors of this first Round, Lasan, an Indian restaurant in Birmingham and Santa Maria Del Sur, an Argentinian restaurant were then made to cook for a busload of 30 guests at each of their own restaurants. No problem there.  This would show us just how well they would rise to the occasion. The busload first had lunch in Birmingham at Lasan and, I detected that there were a couple of problems. The first problem was that not all of the guests were entirely happy – it seemed that some ate only a tiny bit of the food. And then there was the intruder in the kitchen. This interfering arse Gawdon first of all made an issue out of the restaurant’s ordering system. Apparently it wasn’t up to standard. Clearly, according to Gawdon, orders would be messed up. All hell would break loose and there would be wailing, gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts as guests received the wrong food. But they didn’t. And, if the public’s original voting for the restaurant is to be believed, there hasn’t been a problem with the system. Bad service doth not an F Word finalist make. So, once again, Gawdon was needlessly bullying. Cringe.

But He wasn’t. How silly of me. Gawdon was not bullying. No sir! He was blowing a six degree rise in global temperatures up his own backside to show us all how clever he is. Whatever, I was left with the distinct impression that Lasan had, by Gawdon’s standards, and his personal remarks about the chef’s ego, blown it. Woe were they.

The Bus full of bloated guests then travelled down to London, to Battersea/Clapham to Santa Maria Del Sur. For the full duration of the clip it seemed that Gawdon could find nothing wrong. Eventually he did spot something: The service was far too efficient. This, despite his attempts to ‘manage’ the chef and his lovely assistant.  The diners were also effusive in their praise. One diner who looked very knowledgeable about these things, told Gawdon that he’d just eaten the best piece of steak he’d ever had. Praise indeed.  Santa Maria Del Sur were well in the lead.

For the final “test”, the restaurants had to cook for the Great and the Good of the London cuisine scene at Gawdon’s flagship restaurant in Chelsea. And therein lies the first of several problems:  What is the purpose of making a good restaurant serve food in someone else’s restaurant? Oh wait! It is to blow smoke up Gawdon’s arse and to showcase his restaurant. I almost forgot that this show is not about the UK’s best restaurants, it is about Gawdon.

Of course, it being Gawdon’s restaurant, he sipped greedily at his bottle of bullyjuice. Once again, it was the poor guy from Lasan who seemed to harvest the most flack. His dishes were too complicated, too fussy.  And, according to Gawdon, he was a smartarse whose ego was constantly getting in the way.  Not so. The only ego I could detect was Gawdon’s ( I, unlike Gawdon, am grown up enough to tell the difference between confidence and egoism). The Lasan chef was trying to cook a complex and exacting dish whilst enduring an almost unending stream of personal remarks, criticism and relentless questioning of his every move. The poor bloke was in tears.

The Santa Maria Del Sur bloke fared better. Gawdon seemed to half admire the simplicity of his dish. He also seemed to half sneer at it as being too simple (How often do we hear Gawdon berating Kitchen Nightmares chefs about keeping things simple?).  But it seemed that the customers loved it (The way it was edited, the Lasan dish seemed to be too spicy for some of the diners). It was obvious to me then, that the clear winner by a country mile, would be Santa Maria Del Sur.

But it wasn’t.

My lovely lady Anna, can do an excellent “WTF???” expression which in moments of real WTF-ness is accompanied by an equally expressive hand gesture. I copied her with my own version. Together we WTF-ed until we both needed to have a calming down moment. Lasan, despite all the bullying, the criticism, the personal remarks and the interference, won.

Was it the editing that mistakenly made Lasan look bad? Was it the fact that the chef cried? Was it that the Producer told Gawdon his bullying was causing damage to a certain viewership demographic? Were there diners’ votes that we missed? You tell me!

What makes a good restaurant (and this is what the show claims to be about) is the restaurant itself. It is a full package. Everything from the decor to the waiting staff to the music and the food makes up the package. Having the chefs cook outside of their comfort zone makes NO difference to the restaurant itself. Cooking something they either do or don’t cook in one of Gawdon’s restaurants makes no difference either. Some may argue that by having the competing chefs cook in the same kitchen the playing field is levelled. Rubbish. In business, the playing field is decidedly bumpy. Competing businesses strive to be unique. They don’t want to compete on a level playing field. They create unique selling propositions to make themselves different.  They create a whole out of the sum of their parts. Their parts, not Gawdon’s

Make no mistake, all the finalists in the F word have benefited tremendously form the kudos of appearing on the programme. I’m willing to bet that they are all booked up weeks in advance. Good for them, they deserve it.  It is us viewers who have been ripped off. We’ve been watching a competition that started out as democratic and has ended up autocratic. Do the commissioning editors not see how we might feel a bit cheated?  And while we’re on the subject, do the commissioning Editors not feel that perhaps Gawdon has reached his Zenith? That perhaps he needs to be allowed to go and rescue his crumbling empire of failing restaurants?

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  1. Paul A Murphy
    January 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Indeed, agreed, Paul. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the competition never even started off as democratic: I mean, how empirically can a tv show weigh up two different types of cuisine, really? It’s almost like penalising a Cox’s Pippin for not tasting enough like Porterhouse Steak. And as you rightly pointed out, these quirky, interesting and atmospheric establishments rely on the individuality and memorability of their tasty cuisine to ensure success — not shoehorning them into pigeonholes of generic ‘Cordon Gordon’, to mix my metaphors.

    Television always seems to be feeding an ever-increasing public demand for gameshow formats and as a consequence, competitive elements get forced into the most spurious shows as if weighing one thing against another is the only way people can engage with the show’s subject matter. And that’s to say nothing of Ramsay’s charisma-free presentation or his by-now self-parodying need to be ornery, contrary and objectionable.

    In fact, you’ve got me monologuing now! What was ever wrong with a simple “Food & Drink” format, where, say, the egregious Gawdon might just visit some decent restaurants, maybe show the viewer at home how to do a typical dish they specialise in and cuss away to his heart’s content as he goes? Show and tell, let the viewer make their own minds up. Keeps it simple if nothing else!
    Mind you, as you said, there’d be no way for GR to advertise his own restaurants/latest book/massive ego in a show like that…

    I’ll stop now.

  2. umamimum
    January 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Bring back Fanny Cradock, the Galloping Gourmet and Jeni Barnet ……… Do you think Gary Rhodes ever regrets performing as his hero Gary Glitter during his stage shows back in the 90’s?

  3. January 6, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I’m relieved to hear that it wasn’t just mois who thought I must have accidentally dozed off somewhere in the show, thereby missing something relevant – not only did the result make no sense, after all that went before, but Gawdy didn’t even attempt to explain how he’d come to his decision. You’re right, WTF!!! And that’s another thing…..the endless stream of F-ing is frankly illustrating a severe drought in the vocabulary department at best and galloping laziness and lack of imagination at worst.

    • January 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Gawdon’s swearing seems to have been tamed a little. And quite right too. I have no problem with sweary people as long as they cuss appropriately. What if my mother, who remains delicate and fragrant despite her tattooed forearms, steel-capped teeth and years of experience working on oil rigs, was to start effing and blinding when cooking the Sunday lunch? I thank God that my dear old Dad is a bit deaf.

  4. Tine Ros
    January 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Excellent article/comment Paul. I have never understood the joy of watching someone who is beyond arrogance and respect for others. I certainly do not understand how people will put up with being treated so rudely just because he is f..ing Gawdon!

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