I've recently been indulging in a new reality-TV guilty pleasure, but it's British, so I think that's OK. At least, the fancy accents make everything seem real classy, despite all the yelling and cursing.
"Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" stars noted Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay, who junk-TV connoisseurs will recognize from the execrable “Hell’s Kitchen” (more on that fiasco another time).
In “Kitchen Nightmares,” a British import replayed on BBC America a dozen times a week, Ramsay makes week-long visits to struggling restaurants around his home island where he confronts owners and chefs about their ill-conceived menus or unrealistic ambitions. The star chef suggests changes, argues with the owners, curses at the cooks, adds some entrees to the menu, and by the end of the week the reborn eatery is filled with paying diners.
The kitchen arguments and clashing egos are pretty typical reality fare. But what makes the show fascinating to me is that, seen through my foreign eyes, it’s an unintentional travelogue. Recent episodes visited a roadside inn in Lancashire, where Ramsay expounded on the differences between gastropub menus and true English pub grub; and a white-tablecloth joint in Inverness, where the chef tried to make French haute cuisine palatable for Scottish Highlanders. Delicious! The whole thing makes me want to eat my way across Britain.
An Americanized version of “Kitchen Nightmares” is slated to premiere on Fox on September 19. Hopefully they won’t Fox it up too much. But even so, I can’t imagine that Ramsay’s take on American eateries will be as interesting as his tour of Britain.
"Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" Thursdays, 8 p.m., BBC America Grade: B