Maybe Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares should have been called He Knew He Was Right. Gordon certainly shares the arrogance of Louis Trevelyan in the BBC1 period drama, and this was nowhere better illustrated when Neil, the owner of the struggling Glasshouse restaurant, confronted the master chef over the quality of his food. While Louis fought to preserve his honour and integrity over what he saw as he wife’s flirty behaviour, Gordon raged to preserve his honour and the integrity of his Caesar salads after Neil had accused them of being ”too big”.
This criticism touched a raw nerve for Ramsay. When he returned months later to check on how his advice had been put into practice, almost the first thing he mentioned was Neil’s damning assessment of the Caesar salads. That he should be so neurotic to what others think of his food contrasted sharply to the condemnation he was prepared to dish out to resident head chef Richard. After observing the kitchen in action during a particularly disastrous Saturday evening, Gordon identified Richard’s poor man management skills for the inefficient running of the kitchen as well as low staff morale as the primary reason for Neil being so much in debt.
But part of the attraction of this series is to watch Gordon fly off the handle and when he doesn’t, it’s the same sense of disappointment as going to watch a John McEnroe match where he doesn’t smash up his racket. But Gordon does seem too self-aware of his own image. Even when he swears during the dressings down, the profanities seem laboured as though he is just matching quotas agreed with the production team to keep viewing figures high.
While his advice and expertise are often sound, his driving ambition seems to be to promote the Gordon Ramsay brand. And it’s not just his ego he is insistent on boosting. For no good reason we see Gordon change into his chef’s uniform with his middle-aged stomach held in and his bronzed chest puffed out, as he forges his image as a culinary Sir John Harvey-Jones.
Also after outlining the problems of the Glasshouse, he conceitedly confides: “At least he’s had the sense to call me in to help.” But any problems the Glasshouse had could have been partially resolved by even a casual observer who would have noted the low morale in the kitchen and that Richard’s ineptitude was the root cause.
But despite all of this, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares succeeds because of this artificial, dramatic set up, which has echoes of The Incredible Hulk crossed with Othello. Gordon naturally assumes the mutable role of the nomadic, dangerously capricious Dr David Banner. The kitchen staff are the raw recruits who have the seeds of potential that need to be fertilised by roving Ramsay, while Richard is a chubby Iago figure but who causes misery through his inherent incompetence rather than destructive duplicity.