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The idea for this blog is to blog about everything I think about food and food culture. I'll tell you what I like to eat, where I like to eat it and if I thought it was good or if I thought it was crap. My thoughts about food could go anywhere. Hey if you don't like it go blog at

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Impossible: Kitchen Nightmares without Gordon Ramsay or all the cool swearing

In general I'm a fan of the Food Network.  It has probably been one of the biggest factors in spurring my interest in food and food culture over the last 3 years.  It has been both entertaining and educational.  There are several of the Food Network Nighttime programs which I enjoy, but I'm going to discuss those at another time.  There seems to be a trend with the new shows on the network that seems troubling.

Food Network's strategy for new shows seems to be just to blatantly copycat other networks' food programming.  First there was Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin in response to Travel Channel's much more successful Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.  The same goes with the shows Food Feuds (Food Wars) and Outrageous Food/Meat and Potatoes (Man vs Food).  I realize that a lot of our entertainment these days is usually a ripoff or an adaptation of something else that was at some point an original idea so I can't really say I'm surprised.  However, the Food Network's newest program, Restaurant Impossible, may be the worst offender yet.

The show's host, Chef Robert Irvine, made a name for himself by hosting the show Dinner Impossible on the Food Network and otherwise distorting his resume accomplishments.  The show's basic premise is that Chef Robert will come in and help a struggling restaurant which is allegedly getting ready to go out of business.  Sound familiar yet?  If so it's because it's a direct ripoff of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.  The only difference being that Restaurant Impossible supposedly is only working on a budget of  $10,000 (so what?) and the host is a more nerdy looking yet more buff looking Englishman instead of a Scot.  All the same tropes are there.  The bad food and decor of the restaurant.  The incompetent restaurant management.  The lackadaisical wait staff.  The dirty kitchen.  Gone is the charm and fire of Ramsay which is the only thing that made the show work in the first place.  Gordon Ramsay, regardless of what you may think of him as a person, knows his stuff when it comes to the restaurant business.  He has the Michelin stars to prove it.  Robert Irvine has been a semi-successful Food Network personality, and he can probably make a hell of a meal for 1000 people in 9 hrs with food he found in a dorm room.  But I see no real evidence he has ever been an successful restaurateur. 

I'm not saying that either show is without flaws.  Both shows, Kitchen Nightmares especially, seem to over do the family drama and possibly stage some of the situations.  That's fine.  I know  reality TV well enough to not take everything I see at face value.  What I am saying though is how shameful it is of the Food Network to pass of a sub par carbon copy of a less than stellar show and expect us to lap it up as something new and awesome.  Food Network can do better (see Chopped and pretty much anything on Cooking Channel).  However, if they continue down this path I'm afraid I'll be asking them to hand in their chef's jacket and telling them to piss off sooner rather than later.


Charley29 said...

this is cool

Anonymous said...

One slight inaccuracy. If you look at the post makeover record, Gordon Ramsey has a less than a 10% success rate. 90% of the restaurants he helped shut down. By contrast, Restaurant Impossible treatment has resulted in 45 surviving restaurants out of 61. That would suggest that despite the hype, Irving and not Ramsey knows what he's doing for *-more modest establishments.

xero spacious said...

Not really. It 100% depends on the owners of the scripted restaurant to make their restaurant a success when the respective chef leaves.

vicky said...

The main difference for me is the way Gordon Ramsay belittles the staff (usually the chef) of the restaurant in question, to such an extent that some walk off telling him to "f**k off" (the last programme I watched). I'd probably do a lot worse! He really seems to like making people feel small and worthless. Then, of course, Big Gordie can build them up again. But it doesn't work -- you can see it on some of their faces. They're thinking whether to accept the advice from the ghastly little s**t or make a big gesture and walk away. Robert Irvine, for all his face-pulling peculiarities, seems to be able, like Gordon, to tell chefs and owners that their food is "c**p" but he does it a way that gets people motivated to get up to speed and succeed. Not sure how he does it. I have studied both programmes to find the answer, but it still eludes me.