i: now first of all I accept entirely that RamsayRageTM is TV SHTICK first, and core belief possibly never. Unreliable Grapevine insists that he is (n person and off camera) much more affable and helpful and likeable person, who merely turns on the spittle-flecked beetroot-faced swearage for required ratings and drama (and since here I am watching and responding, why would he not?)
ii: but second, I find it interests me greatly WHERE and WHEN and HOW he chooses to be seen as enraged…
iii: this interest was lit up a week or so back by the ep of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES USA set at a place called Park’s Edge, run by two chaps called Richard (amiable, ineffective, front-of-house) and Jorge (bolshy, defensive, head chef straight out of culinary school). GR operatically “lost it” twice, once at Jorge, and once at a lowly tattooed frycook called Matt. The second confrontation was really odd — actually inexplicable within the standard (and simple) KNUSA narrative trajectory (and no attempt was made to step outside this narrative)
iv: the standard trajectory being this:
— A: GR arrives and samples the food and ambience of failing eatery
— B: GR identifies technical problems, in menu, service standards, attitude and decor
— C: we watch an evening’s service w/new menu
— D: which sees a good start followed by HILARIOUS CALAMITY (usually personality-based)
— E: there is an explosive reorganisation of priorities (at some point this generally includes total revamp of decor, presumably on KNUSA’s operational expenses)
–F: and we iris out at second (humbled and grateful) attempt to pursue GR masterplan
v: The current series (5) appears to have added a somewhat unsustainable wrinkle, in which the LOWLY STAFF are invited to spill their feelings en masse when senior management are not present, only to discover senior management have in fact been watching on concealed closed-circuit videocameras (unsustainable bcz “only to discover” will be pre-empted in series 6, if anyone involved actually watched series 5)
vi: by this somewhat manipulative means, hard-to-handle bosses are confronted with their own titanic arseyness, as expressed by their long-suffering staff (or, if arseyness quotient high enough, by the treacherous and disloyal nobodies that they now regret employing): hence EXEMPLARY CATHARTIC MOMENT
vii: in the Park’s Edge ep it was actually a rather startling catharsis, in that both bosses — the dreamily conflict-averse one and the heated and difficult semi-trained one — both folded totally, took their lumps, wept openly, apologised fulsomely, promised to mend their ways — and IMMEDIATELY DID SO. Of course the context is absurd and somewhat meretriciously confected: nevertheless this was actually a rather moving moment. Richard in particular contrasts how he thinks of himself — as a kindly man — with how he now sees he has mistreated his staff (who knew and saw all the problems, and felt unable to intervene).
viii: so (as per standard trajectory) new menu and new decor SORTED. Let’s so how they run with their new ball…
ix: … and the answer is extremely well. Which breaks with the standard trajectory (which requires the new regime bed in quite badly at first). Everyone is up to the mark except for lowly frycook Matt, who bucks the reboot in (incomprehensibly) truculent fashion. HE DOESN’T WANT TO FRY CHICKEN; FRIED CHICKEN IS NOT HIGH-LEVEL DINING; the new menu (feat.fried chicken) OFFENDS EMBARRASSES AND AMUSES HIM.
x: upshot = classic GR explosion, aimed (somewhat unclassically) at a junior staffer, and exit the staffer. Matt the Frycook: how fucking dare you? You’re fired. Revert — somewhat uneasily this time — to hurrahs all round with the restaurant saved…
Analysis: Let’s quickly revisit GR’s primary shtick. Recall: he reserves his endless crappy comeback zingers (“Shellfish? Smellfish moar laik“) for anything unusual or out-of-step or dated: the last is the most telling, as anything no longer fashionable is always HIDEOUS and RIDICULOUS (ditto dated menu tropes). Unfresh look of a place isn’t quite as serious a crime as unfresh food, in GR world: it’s still a crime (but a silly one, relatively speaking).
On the whole for GR, the key to acceptable success is (1) not being TOO different, yet (2) not being too the same. Like many media mavericks, GR is aggressively conformist and conservative in his primary kneejerk instincts: his main bullymode is knocking in the nail that sticks out (and snickering at it). Unlike many media mavericks, he grounds his perspective in genuine expertise: he remains a top chef for a reason (indeed, a cluster of reasons). In KNUSA he strikes at bad restaurant practice from the angle of the enraged punter, and the aggression (on the whole) works for us: we identify with the other punters, suffering terrible food and terrible service, and appreciate the overthrow of both. And it’s always flattering when the apparent villains wake up and agree with us: they always wanted to make us happy, and suddenly (courtesy GR’s temporary redfaced tutelage) they see more clearly how — win win win.
As a nail, Matt the Frycook stuck at quite a different angle. We couldn’t grasp his “issue” at all. He was cast out as a troublemaker, a bolshy problem-bringer: his actual sin — tho this is guesswork, as editing and “candid offstage interviewing” didn’t allow us near his perspective — was to mimic the Ramsay-role too too accurately. To challenge and deride the wonky hierarchy from the perspective of an imagine punter (a punter who disdained fried chicken). But two mocking mavericks — the beginnings of an actual democratic politics of cultural taste, perhaps? — is clearly one too many. Matt had to go, at maximum speed and with aggressive force.