Monday, February 9, 2009

What a nightmare!

This weekend's planned trip to finally have a taste of Ryo's Noodles was somewhat hampered by car troubles on the part of my dining companion so I consoled myself with a marathon of Kitchen Nightmares USA Season 2.

I've never been as much of a fan of the US version of this show, though on an otherwise empty Saturday afternoon it's certainly entertaining enough for me to have sat through several episodes. The original UK version focussed primarily on what Ramsay seems to believe are fundamental issues with the British restaurant industry; processed foods, poor quality meats, lack of sourcing local suppliers, line cook shortcuts and a lack of relevant marketing ploys. This makes for excellent foodie tv; we see local regional specials, a variety of ways to sell food to niche markets and a genuine change of attitude of chefs and restauranteurs lacking insight or allowing arrogance to rule the business; every episode has a different focus.

The US show does what America seems to like doing to its food; packages it, processes it and makes it predictable. For some things a formula is comforting and induces reliability, in this case it takes the fundamental flavour of the show and dulls it to the point of lacking palatability. Menu reimagining, supplier changes and food quality are still present but completely dominated by an engineered focus on food hygeine standards, front of house makeovers and personal problems, personal problems, personal problems. If I want to watch interpersonal dramas I'll tune into chat shows, I don't want it interfering in my food television, and really I don't care about a father/son relationship as much as I care about the food they create. At times the drama is escalated to the point of embarrassment, and Ramsay seems to present himself as a charicature of his own personality, much of the earnestness we see of him in the F Word and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is completely lost to this overbearing boogie man of US TV.

The show's Wikipedia entry includes the following quote from a critic that I can do nothing but wholly agree with:

"Whereas the British Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is fundamentally a food show — it has interesting things to show you about how a restaurant runs and a kitchen works, the wonders of local markets and what you can make from them if you're Gordon Ramsay or willing to follow his instructions — the Fox edition emphasizes mishap, argument and emotional breakdown almost to the exclusion of cuisine" - Robert Lloyd

I know our American counterparts have far more sensitive ears and polite language than our brash Aussie selves however I have to say the constant *BEEP* of the censorship is madenning. One could comment that Gordon Ramsay could tone down his language for the American show however a leopard does not change its spots and I can't say that I find the concept likely. In Australia and the UK there are different laws governing watershed programming as well as shows aired on cable networks that allow parental controls and accordingly this kind of censorship is unnecessary however it is obvious that the censorship of the American version is included in editing rather than at airing as it is intact when I have seen the show on Free to Air in Australia. Intriguingly Hell's Kitchen, Ramsay's US reality competition show, does not suffer the same fate despite being produced for the same US network; one can view it on Australian TV with expletives intact.

During the recent "Food Fight" week on Channel 4 in the UK a number of food related specials were created including a special episode from Ramsay called the Great British Nightmare, in addition to a new Jamie Oliver special and more.

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