Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare is a TV dream

If anyone can sort out a failing restaurant, Gordon Ramsay can. And it makes for great telly

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Well, it’s not because there aren’t enough sightings of Gordon Ramsay on television. There was a time, not so long ago, when the former Rangers footballer seemed more ubiquitous than Santa at Christmas. And, Gordon, I say that in the spirit of light-heartedness – please don’t hit me.

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See, there’s one of the points. Ramsay’s a hard-looking bloke, which makes for palpable tension. He’s powerfully built – we know that because for some reason he changes into his chef top at the start of each programme, when surely he has a changing room at home – he sneers brilliantly, and his head, gorgeous and blonde as it is, looks like a topographic version of anger.

He’s a perfectionist, he’s single-minded, his vocabulary veers towards the profane and he suffers fools about as gladly as a recently disturbed gorilla. How best to employ those, er, qualities?

When the producers lined him up, they knew what they were doing. They didn’t pitch Ramsay’s Kitchen Loveliness or Ramsay’s Kitchen – Let’s All Sing Some Happy Songs in It. No, they got straight to the point. Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. (Ramsay’s @&%*! Kitchen Nightmares would have been better, but you can’t swear in titles, only during the programme itself, presumably in case British children learn to read.)

Let’s find a restaurant that’s in dire straits, where incompetence is rife, where packet sauces and outmoded ingredients are culinarily destroyed as a matter of course, shove Gordon through the door, wind him up and watch him go.

And how.

Surely everyone remembers that hapless “head chef” Tim who fed him rancid scallops, and Ramsay vomited them up out back. The look on Tim’s face. Beetroot shame mingling with bewilderment and dented pride. Witnessing it was like being back at school, witnessing a classmate getting a severe rollicking. And actually starting to worry that you might be next!

You can hear it coming through Ramsay’s tone. It goes from soothing (“Right, let’s see what you can do”) to cajoling (“That lamb should be ready by now”) to frustrated (“Oh, come on!”) to ballistic (lots of rude words with perhaps “trout”, “gravy” and “stupid” in-between). Ramsay tells it like it is. (Gary Rhodes, on the other hand, tells it like he’s being dunked in treacle.)

Which would be all very well. Cookery + business + fireworks = great television. But there’s more to the show than that – because Ramsay patently cares. He genuinely wants to guide these people out of schtook. He’s passionate about food. He’s passionate about success.

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He may also be passionate about money and celebrity. But you can tell him that.