8-14-2006 Gordon Ramsay

IffinĎ you strongly object to foul language, this is definitely not the post for you. Donít say I didnít warn you.

Iíve been blogging since December 2000. As a matter of fact, my feeble efforts actually preceded the creation of the very word used to describe what I do. When I first ran across that word--blog--I read the internet story just to learn what they were referring to. And I remember thinking that was pretty close to what I had been doing.

Anywho, for as long as Iíve been blogging, I have also made many, many mentions of the fact that I do not watch much television at all. You know, the video advertising box. For me, itís but a vast cesspool of uninteresting filler that I consider to be beneath me. Kind of like chicken croquettes. Basically, it sucks.

Yes, I enjoy my NASCAR, Atlanta Bravesí games, the New York football Giants, local and cable news and an occasional movie, but thatís about it. Well, the History and Military channels get me to sit up and pay attention on most days. Iíd rather read, or rumble the foundation loose by way of the nasty stereo components. Unfortunately, Wifey is addicted to the dreaded video advertising box, as are most Americans. She sits out there watching inane reality shows, and I sit in here reading insane conspiracy theories posted at left-leaning blogs. And it has annoyed her for some time. She got the mistaken impression at some point that I didnít want to spend any time with her. But, the truth of the matter was, I simply could not get interested in the utter slop that passes as television programming.

The worst of the worst, the reality shows, seemed to be her favorites. But upon closer inspection, it became obvious to me that the television networks offer very little other than those repulsive reality shows. Hell, Iíd much prefer to listen to The Bee Gees sing their embarrassing disco claptrap rather than engage in some reality show that has absolutely nothing to do with reality, but thatís my hang-up. Whatever. Who cares? No biggie.

Turns out, a funny thing happened on the way to the refrigerator. Not real quick like, mind you. She kept hammering on me to watch this one particular reality show, but it never, ever occurred to me to listen to her. For whatever reason, I finally lowered myself and sat in front of her television filled with skepticism and fully expecting to be out of there in a big, big hurry. I was wrong.

And I think the only reason I even bothered to actually check out this show in the first place was because the setting was a hustling and bustling commercial kitchen. Revisiting my former life, as a teenager I was trained in the best kitchen in all of NEPA some years back. That would be the kitchen at Percy A. Brown & Co.: Foods of Distinction. During my very late teen years, I absolutely thrived in the extremely high-volume, always pressure-packed kitchens at various Franklinís locations. At that point, I loved cooking and I loved making sure everyone brave enough to enter those kitchens fully understood that I was a Jolly Green Giant flanked by mere boys. In my mind, there were those that could hang with the big boys, and there were those who could not. And if you could not hang with the big boys, you would receive a steady diet of my insulting theatrics and tons of verbal abuse. The deal was, you either got much stronger in that kitchen, or you quit. And I could really care less which option you chose. The end-all result of all of my shenanigans was that lots of the phony brave quit, and the cooks that could ultimately rise to an insult and profanity-laced challenge got much stronger. They didnít necessarily like me, but they did respect the fact that the kitchen would never go under as long as I was in it. Management hated losing new cooks over and over again, but they rarely chastised me, because they knew I was their rare ace in the hole they could depend on when things got totally crazy. Thatís not bragging, thatís simply the way it was.

But, being that I had never even heard of prophylactics, there did come that fateful day when Wifey announced that we were pregnant. 20-years-old and pregnant? No, I didnít freak out, or run away to a hippie commune. I applied for a management position, which paid much more than cooking and included health benefits and suchlike. Despite all my shortcomings, I knew the way to go was to climb the ladder. I was thoroughly happy while toiling away in those hot kitchens, but maturity called out to me. I did get promoted, I did make more money and I did the right thing, but I didnít answer maturityís call for many years. I managed restaurants for almost 11 years, but decided a career change was in order when the chain was bought out by a vastly larger chain being managed by complete idiots. Hoddog and ice cream buffoons.

With all of that gibberish having been said, what sort of reality-based television program could actually get me to reconsidering my unbending boycott of television in the first place?

Why, Chef Ramsay could. I actually sat down in front of her imported television and watched an episode of Chef Ramsayís Hellís Kitchen on the local FOX station. And that was that. I was hooked. Done in, by of all things, the worldís most foul-mouthed chef. Plainly stated, this guy reminds me of me during that former life of mine. Either do it and do it right, or get the fu>k out of MY kitchen you bleeping bleep bleeper!!! Go wash some dishes, bleeper!!! Iíll cover your bleeping station as well as mine, and the bleeping sh*t will get served even bleeping faster!!! Bleep!!!

Now, this guy is a world-renowned chef and probably as good as they get. So Iím not suggesting for a nanosecond that my rusty skills are as finely-tuned as his are. But, as far as his style is concerned, he and I are practically blood brothers. I think this guy stole a page out of my book, or maybe strong cooks just get overly abusive as if by rote. Got me on all of that.

After being hired at Franklinís, I remember getting a raise like every other month. The general manager at that Kidder Street store knew he had a rising star on his hands and meant to keep him on the schedule. I was happy. But I remember sitting in the office once with both him and his immediate underling only to hear them wholeheartedly agree that I tossed the most vulgar profanities around the kitchen at a rate previously unrecorded in all of human history. That I did. If a cook couldnít cut it under pressure, the profanities flowed, and quite loudly. If a waitress stayed in the pass-thru window itching for a fight with one of my guys, she either ended up running away in tears, or vigorously complaining to the nearest manager. None of that stuff mattered to me. All that mattered to me was getting through the shift without the kitchen either falling seriously behind, or collapsing altogether. I was a total asshole for sure, but really good at what I was being paid to do: Ensure that the customers were pleased and would be back for more.

Very many of my former co-workers have insulted me behind my back over the years since, but no one has ever dared to say that they could perform under extreme pressure any better than me. I always likened cooking during the busiest day parts to going into battle. And if you canít capably cover my flank, youíre going to get the lot of us killed. And under the heat of battle, ugly incidents can and do happen. Friendly fire incidents, so to speak. Whatever. All that ever mattered to me was winning that intense daily battle. I am not embarrassed about anything I said or did way back when, and I offer no apologies.

If I caused you to quit on the spot, that was probably the best thing for all involved. If I made you cry at some pointÖtough. Nobody makes any money and nobody collects any tips if the kitchen practically crashes every time the restaurant gets overly, insanely busy. If you want to hang with the big boys, then hang. And if you canít, Dennyís is always hiring. See ya. In this pressure-packed environment, itís really best for everyone involved if only the truly strong survive. Straight up, can you produce tasty, eye-appealing foodstuffs in a timely manner with a great-looking garnish to boot in a timely manner or not? If not, you are therefore targeted for abuse until you either get with the program, or go crying to the managers. Thereís the way it ought to be, and then thereís the way it is. This is MY kitchen!!!

So, long story shortÖChef Ramsay reminds me of a much younger version of me. It turns out, he has 2 television shows making the broadcast rounds in Britain, one of which is Ramsayís Kitchen Nightmares and Ramsayís Boiling Point. If youíve never waged a single battle in a consistently busy kitchen, you might not appreciate any of this, but fret not. If you can tolerate the profanities and such, thereís no doubt that Chef Gordon Ramsay is entertaining.

So, believe it or not, I am watching some television again. Go figure.

Now, onto the videos from Chef Ramsayís shows. This clip, from Hellís Kitchen, is very sanitized compared to what will immediately follow it.

Not too bad, heh?

Okay, so try this clip from Ramsayís Kitchen Nightmares.

This clip, from Ramsayís Boiling Point, is definitely not for those who object to profanity.

Chef Ramsay mixes it up--literally--with Jay Leno. (No cursing)

Sorry. I guess it had to take something well over the top to get me to watching television again. But, if youíre interested at all, the 2-hour season finale of Hellís Kitchen is on the local FOX affiliate later tonight, so you already know what Iíll be up to.

Pass the microwaved popcorn.

If you canít stand the heatÖget out of the kitchen.

Been there, done that.