On days where I’ve got nothing better to do, I’ve taken to slumping in the kitchen, elbows on the counter, dribbling ash over the keyboard and watching back to back episodes of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and other variants. It’s been going on for a while now and there are a lot available, so there’s no realistic hope of an imminent escape. I don’t know what makes them such compelling viewing, such more-ish curdled chicken soup for the sickened soul – they’re all the same. Gordon turns up at a restaurant and orders a selection of dishes. Cut to a bolshy chef swaggering around in the kitchen, declaring their food is the best available this side of heaven. Cut to Gordon, face like a chipped brieze block, poking something around on his plate with an expression of snarling revulsion.
“Grandma’s Meatballs? Grandpa’s meaty balls, more like.” (I made that one up myself – but you’re welcome to use it, Gordon)
“Looks like a dog’s shat on my plate.”
And so on. Dish after dish gets sent back to an increasingly outraged chef. After sending back the entire menu – and quite possible having been noisily sick in the toilet – Gordon asks to meet the chef, fixes them with a steely gaze and begins his stock in trade attack therapy programme; “You’re a fucking joke,” “Your food’s shit” and so on, the culinary equivalent of R.L.Ermey’s Sgt Hartman. The chef will flounce off. “Fucking unbelievable” Gordon will say.
Next, having changed into gleaming whites, Gordon returns to sabotage the dinner service, hopping around bellowing at everyone in the kitchen til their composure and sanity is completely shattered and they end up sending out raw chicken and cooked salad in their terrified confusion. Gordon stalks into the walk-in fridge at this point and discovers a dead badger, a bucket of maggots and sacks of something that look like they’ve come from John Wayne Gacy’s basement. He storms into the restaurant and tells the horrified customers they’ve probably all got cholera and to go home and wait to die. People cry. Ambulances are called. “Fuck me,” says Gordon, “Fuck me.”
Gordon then assembles the traumatised staff who sit around shaking with thousand yard stares as he tells them that this is the worst thing he’s ever witnessed in his fucking life. They cry. They shiver. But now, having been entirely broken down into their rawest, most basic quivering molecules, Gordon can begin reassembling them.
The next day, after a change of decor and menu, they rise again, like a cross between a phoenix and a souffle. Gordon is encouraging. He bathes their shattered psyches with his undeniable charisma and they are uplifted. They hit a few snags during the service, but with a few kindly “You’re a fucking idiot”s from Chef Ramsay, make it through to closing time without having poisoned anyone. Everyone is teary and grateful. Gordon tells them he believes in them. He is leaving now, but warns them not to get complacent, not to let him down. He strides off into the night. The staff, reeling with complex post traumatic stress disorder, are all in love with Gordon and stand bereft in the street, watching the hero walking out of their lives. “Don’t go, Shane.” There are tears in everyone’s eyes – mine included. It’s fucking brilliant.