Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kitchen Nightmares: "Dillon's"

Illustration for article titled Kitchen Nightmares: "Dillon's"
Illustration for article titled Kitchen Nightmares: "Dillon's"

So here we are in week two, and we've already come to the infamous lawsuit episode! For those who don't obsessively follow the entertainment news, a few months back, Martin Hyde, a former manager of Dillon's restaurant in Manhattan–an eatery he describes on the show as "an American-Irish restaurant with an Indian-ness connected to it"–sued to stop this episode from airing, claiming that the producers faked a lot of the footage, and that Ramsay himself unfairly made Hyde look like a prat.

And boy does he! Ramsay starts snapping at Hyde almost as soon as he arrives, and rather than backing away from skewering Hyde in the wake of the lawsuit, the producers give it to him with both barrels, taking every opportunity to stick in an insert shot of Hyde chattering on his cel phone while the kitchen is in crisis, or leaning against a wall doing nothing, or resting on a bench before service while the waitresses stroke his hair. ("It's a natural thing," he coos.)

Was Kitchen Nightmares unfair to Hyde? Probably a little. Maybe a lot. But it's hard to buy his claim that the production staged the scenes where they found rotten food, ramshackle furnishings and a basement full of vermin. (If anything, I'm betting there's hardly a restaurant basement in New York that's not crawling with roaches and rats.) It would be one thing if Ramsay had just stuck one bad burger in front of the camera, but he produces bin after bin of spoiled meat and moldy veg. And it's the restaurant staff itself that provides plate after plate of greyish food to Ramsay when he first comes through their door. That can't all be explained away as "creative editing." (And for what it's worth, the restaurant itself isn't part of the lawsuit; just the now-fired manager.)

That said, aside from the bad meat/insect fear horror-show, and the slow-building showdown between Dr. Ramsay and Mr. Hyde, everything about this episode was distressingly pro forma. Once again, this wasn't a case of Ramsay swooping in and showing hard-working, well-meaning businessmen how to simplify and improve; it was a wholesale revamp, including a new name (Purnima), new décor (modern Indian instead of sheets of formless muslin), and, most egregiously, a new executive chef.

It's the last bit that galls me. On the British version, even when the chef of the week sucked, Ramsay taught him or her some simple tricks and explained that even if they couldn't become a culinary genius in a week, they could at least learn to cook well enough to satisfy their customers. (It's like the opposite of the Ratatouille philosophy.) Here, Ramsay hands Purnima an already successful Indian chef–Vikas Khanna–to design a new menu and take control of the kitchen. Then he rushes out the door, muttering, "My job is done here," when he really didn't do anything but yell for an hour.

The yelling is still fun, though. The yelling is still fun.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

-The lengthy set-up of the first episode has been cut down considerably, thank goodness. This episode gets down to business pretty much straight away. Also, Ramsay took his shirt off this week!

-The segment where Ramsay takes the Dillon's management team on a tour of his own restaurant looked suspiciously like an advertisement. Don't want flies buzzing around your table and month-old tomatoes? Come down to Gordon Ramsay's London, where we clean the refrigerators twice daily!

-According to what I've read, the customers on Kitchen Nightmares aren't actors, but have been recruited, and are probably being paid a small stipend–or at least provided a free meal. Either way, it's hard to feel bad for their long wait times and cold food.

-Line of the week, after the line cook gets so emotional about Khanna's shellfish dish that he hugs Ramsay: "Oh, he's giving me a cuddle…It's only a scallop, we haven't lost our children!"