F Off

by Quinn

Now, I don’t like Gordon Ramsey at the best of times; not particularly. If he thinks that the best way to motivate his staff is to bully, intimidate and verbally abuse them then that is a matter for him; but I don’t personally find it entertaining, amusing or admirable. The thing is, on the occasions when I have watched Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares I have seen moments where he has shown a genuine skill for inspiring respect and building confidence in others; but I suppose such scenes don’t feature in the trailers for the show because they don’t make good telly. Certainly, that positive aspect of his personality doesn’t seem to get a mention when I hear his fans discuss him; it is the effing and jeffing side of Ramsey that people seem to like, which Ramsey himself seems proud of, and which I just don’t understand. I suppose Ramsey would say that his job is a very stressful one; but so is mine, and at my work we simply couldn’t get the job done if my colleagues and I showed such disrespect towards each other. Anyone can lose their temper in the heat of the moment, including me, but afterwards I would hope to apologise, rather than revel in my rudeness. I suppose it comes down to the paradox where some people reckon that you need to bollock people occasionally to get things done…but no one says they appreciate a good bollocking to get themselves going.

Anyway, there is another side to Ramsey that I am not keen on and that is his amazing hypocrisy. It centres on his disdain for “celebrity chefs” such as Anthony Worrall Thompson. Fair enough, you may think, but this is pretty rich coming from someone who has appeared in Ramsey’s Boiling Point, Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen, and has enjoyed numerous appearances on Jonathan Ross, The Friday Night Project, various “Top 100 whatever” programmes and who even had his own calendar out last year. His appearances on other people’s shows are especially weird, as away from the kitchen he shows himself to be a real dullard. On his first appearance on Jonathan Ross he revealed he had nothing remotely interesting to say; when he was a guest the following series he tried to be more engaging by playing to type and swearing a lot for no good reason, and to little effect.

Well the hypocrisy has really been cranked up with his new series The F Word (F for food), which I saw a repeat of yesterday on More4 (incidentally the best new TV channel we have seen for some time, and probably the best we will see for a while; I’m not placing much faith in Sky3 or ITV4). His new programme begins with credits showing him looking mean and moody, the theme tune bashing out a pounding and dramatic beat, the screen is filled with a close up of his scar ridden face; then we see him stripping off his “civvy clothes” as he strides purposefully down a corridor. A long shot reveals his topless frame before the camera is focussed close in again on his fixed, firm expression (did you forget how serious and mean he is?) and then we watch as he changes into his chef’s gear before storming through the doors at the end of the corridor. Cut to a swish restaurant full of eager diners, a long spiral staircase with Ramsey at the summit; the crowd goes wild, cheering and applauding the arrival of their hero. Ramsey skips down the stairs, basking in glory, milking the applause. And this is a man who hates celebrity chefs?

To be honest, that was enough for me and I had to switch over; and I’m glad I did. Over on BBC2 Bill Oddie’s Autumnwatch was in full swing and it featured the most amazing sight of starlings flocking in huge numbers; it really had to be seen to be believed. If it’s ever on again then watch it; a sky almost black with birds that swirl in unison, looking like a school of sardines that go squeezing and twirling into all manner of bizarre shapes in the sky before tumbling down like the steady flow of a waterfall onto a reed bed. Amazing.

But when that finished I flicked through the channels and there didn’t appear much else on so I gave The F Word another go, and it wasn’t too bad actually. Giles Coren’s look at how donner kebabs were made in a factory was quite interesting, and while it proved what a fatty and unhealthy product it is, at least the meat used looked to be of a decent quality, free of lips, lugs and spinal cord. It was also amusing when Ramsey challenged comedian Al Murray to see who could make the best bread and butter pudding. Ramsey was tedious, referring to Murray’s dish as a stale egg sandwich; not once but about 18 times as he clearly didn’t have the imagination to think of another insult. But then, when it came to a blind taste test, the judges’ unanimous verdict was that Murray’s pud was better than Ramsey’s soggy effort. Ha ha.

I don’t think I will bother watching The F Word again. Like Ramsey I don’t have an interest in celebrity, which is why I was puzzled when he was seen schmoozing with guests Martine McCutcheon and Sun columnist Jane Moore (Martine wasn’t too keen on the bread and butter pudding, she said, because she doesn’t like raisons; although when she later revealed that she doesn’t eat dairy or bread it became clear the dish was probably her idea of hell). His campaign to get women cooking again seemed a weak attempt to hang onto Jamie Oliver’s coat tails by being a cook with a cause, and there was a ludicrous part of the show where he picked the people for the blind tasting panel. Each guest was blindfolded and had to taste a variety of foods; those who correctly judged which food was which were considered the people with the finest palettes and joined the panel. The problem lay with the foods the guests were tested on; if you have never eaten salmon caviar before, or mozzarella with basil, then you are unlikely to be able to tell what they taste like; it doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion or cannot tell good food from bad. This is another thing that gets on my tits about Ramsey, that he likes to portray himself as a no nonsense, down to earth man of the people; yet all the while he can be as snobbish and pretentious about food as anybody and charges prices at his restaurants that only a small sector of the population can routinely afford.

In all, though, for me The F Word suffers by comparison with Full On Food, of which it seems a poor imitation. Full On Food was a cracking programme which, like The F Word, was a cookery magazine show with a studio audience; it had some fascinating and informative items from the resident presenters (I particularly remember a moving film from a vegetarian food critic trying meat for the first time in ten years) and even featured a minor celebrity cooking a dish in the studio each week. If you haven’t heard of Full On Food then it may be because unlike The F Word it didn’t also feature a minor celebrity audience, minor celebrity presenter and minor celebrity chef; something you would think that Gordon Ramsey himself would approve of.