The "C" Word
Next week we can say goodbye to The F Word, which, even by today's standards, is a rather nasty show. In today's Britain we can't get enough of TV programmes dominated with conceited bullies like Simon Cowell and the absolutely loaded but totally uncreative hectors on The Dragon's Den. In the TV cookery world (and regrettably this flourishing world is not facing impending doom from too many gas emissions) Gordon Ramsey is the poster boy for sadism. Over the last few years he has mugged for the camera while browbeating chefs younger than him, coming out with awful, rehearsed one-liners and swearing like a true grown up.
In the F Word we get a good look at what new chefs can expect when entering his kitchen for the first time. If they are nervous than it's perfectly justified; Ramsey oversees a true hell's kitchen full of sweat and testosterone, a masculine world where young chefs can look forward to being called "big boy" (oh dear...) in the brief intervals when they are not getting clobbered. And they shouldn't expect to learn anything. While Ramsey may tell the camera that he is offering a young chef the chance to work in his kitchen (the implication being that he is really rather noble and wants to bring out the best in these young saps), he clearly has no intention of developing their culinary skills, certainly not while the film is rolling. He waves away any young chefs that want to ask him a question, clarify matters or actually learn something, telling them to shut up, and bawls at the ones that don't ask questions, don't learn his methodology and fuck things up. It's a lose-lose situation for anybody who hasn't cooked the recipe beforehand (and bear in mind that these are very obscure and pretentious recipes that a prize-winning 100 year-old martian who has travelled the universe and back while also running a three-Michelin Star restaurant might not be familiar with). Instead they should telepathically know exactly how Big-boy Ramsey wants things done beforehand. Last week he gave one poor lady this precise treatment, telling her to shut up when she wanted a detail of the new recipe made clear. She was visibly shaken and later accidentally served raw bacon, resulting in her being kicked out of the kitchen. It was obvious that she was concentrating so much on not offending Big-boy that more important matters slipped her mind. Yesterday he tried to encourage one of his strapping chefs. "Come on big-boy", he said, "bend those bones". Coming from an ex-footballer who retired early through injury,that is exceptionally stupid advice.
All this creates a very nasty contrast with his other side: Gordon the obsequious schmoozer, who leaves the kitchen now and then (well, quite a lot actually) to gush all other his wealthy guests, especially the celebrities. Many a time he will plonk himself down at a table with a bunch of young ladies and start talking about the food in laborious detail, babbling on about the texture, the essence, the hidden ingredients, how it slide dow the throat, how it slides out the arse. I certainly wouldn't want my night out ruined by some control-freak tit who wants to sit at my table and talk about food. That to me sounds like a miserable evening out. If I want to talk about food, I'll go to a seminar on chicken. Fuck OFF and let us eat. (Actually, a good idea for those who do enjoy prattling on about food, when The F Word comes out on special edition, deluxe, sneezeproof DVD, go to the "extra features and deleted scenes" option that they all have. While Hollywood movies have tiresome documentaries showing how the stunts were done - ["obviously we couldn't ACTUALLY shoot this scene on Mars, so we used a blue-screen" duh!] - The F Word might just treat you to an in focus, blow-by-blow account of how Gordon makes his desserts. Just think: "Gordon Ramsey; Behind the Flan"). It's just as excruciating watching Ramsey talk normally as watching him shout abuse. At normal volume he strains like he's taking a shit, his face curlig up and his eyes bulging in their sockets.
One thing is for sure, this show isn't really done with a cookery-loving audience in mind. Every week he shows us a recipe, without really telling us how to make it. Sure, all chefs have their presenting styles, from Delia Smith overly cautiously spelling everything out to Jamie Oliver liberally dumping his ingredients in a pan. Gordon's technique is to list the ingredients in a gravelly voice, without ever giving us measurements or timings. One monologue on yesterday's show (he was cooking 'Sea Bass with Pepper Sauce') went: "Salt. Basil. White wine vinegar. Reduce" What? For how long, how much? Another went: "Score. Salt. Thyme. Olive oil". He is not so much teaching us how to cook as narrating a competition in his thick head where various ingredients compete to find out which is hardest. He never told us how long to cook our sea bass for, which is handy because I'm still working on the beef wellington I started last month. It's turned grey. Is it ready yet?
And would you want it anyway, this pretentious slop? As I mentioned earlier, this is not food you eat. You might photograph it or paint an oil painting of it. Gordon often looks like he wants to have sex with it (clue: don't kill the animal beforehand Big-boy). It wont feed you. Gordon's fetish for decoratig his meals is most clearly seen in the weekly competition he has with a celebrity guest. Both prepare a dessert, like chocolate brownies or fig tart. There is a recuuring theme with this part of the show: Gordon welcomes the guest (schmoozing), Gordon and guest start recipe, Gordon adds lots of extra shit (nuts in a chocolate brownie? you TWAT), Gordon tells guest they will lose, panel of tasters eat both and declare the guest to be the winner because it tastes like food and not like an antique, Gordon throws a strop and declares that the panel don't know what real food is. The food in his restaurant is even worse. Gordon probably insists that he is adventurous and sophisticated. pah! Strictly for his benefit, here are some ingredients he should try for the next series. Just to help:
The poison dart frog, belonging to the family of Dendrobatidae. They receive their name from the toxin pumiliotoxin found in their skin (cook the skin Gordon). The most poisonous variety is Phyllobates terribilis, also kown as the golden poison dart frog, presumably because it is covered in a crisp, tasty batter. You can separate the poison by roasting them over a fire (don't bother with that part Gordon). And if a fellow chef is pissing him off, Gordon can use the poison on his arrows (you do carry arrows, don't you Big-boy?)
Sulphuric acid. Discovered in the 9th century by Persian physician and alchemist Ibn Zakariya al-Razi, this would be an intersting addition to any meal. While killjoys might point out that this kills (the famous rhyme goes: "Johnny was a chemist's son, but Johnny is no more. What Johnny thought was H2O was H2SO4") people and causes acid rain, real men drink it with their Guiness.
Platypus. The only venomous mammal, this wont kill you, but it will uspset the tummy, forcing you to throw up that shitty appetiser you were served, which sounds nice, but translates from the French as: goat's balls doused in whale semen.
Lithium. One of my favourite alakli metals (behind Sodium, of course), this will turn crimson when you cook it. It can be used to combat mania and depression. So eat up you miserable bastard.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Gordon is also a bit of a sadist to animals, and if I can get serious for a bit, the events on yesterday's show were absolutely disgraceful. In the preceding weeks Gordon has been growing his Chrsitmas dinner. He has kept a pen of Turkeys in his garden, named them after other chefs he didn't like and let his kids play with them. Every week he paraded them in front of the camera, boasting about how they would end up in his stomach, joking about how they be slaughtered. Yesterday he went through with it, showing their deaths in a mobile slaugher unit in his garden. As he walked them to their deaths he continued to brag, almost as if he was proud in having had the fortune to be born higher up in the food chain.
Now, eating an animal is one thing. Most of us do it. And while we do so, we generally don't fantasize about how it was killed. That's a fetish. It's worse than playing with your food and it implies that Ramsey is a rather small and insecure man who needs to dominate to stop feeling like a retard.
And just like Jamie Oliver has his school meals campaign, so Ramsey has his. To get women back into the kitchen. Apparently too few women know how to cook, not too few people, too few women. That's very Victorian of him. Perhaps I may suggest a campaign to make more children seen and not heard, or one to get more black people back on slave galleys. Get with the times you megalomaniac wingnut.
So, in conclusion, I hate Gordon Ramsey. How mature of me. But seriously, a culture that encourages more of this nasty behaviour is not one I want to prolong. Assholes like Ramsey need cutting down to size. Some may claim he is like that because he is so driven and focussed, a perfectionist. Perhaps, but he is a very selective perfectionist. People skills, communication and tolerance are arts too.