Look Out Gordon, I’m Gunnin’ For Ya.

September 4, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Tonight Fox premiered season two of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey.  For those not familiar with the premis, Chef Ramsey, one of the most respected chefs in the world, goes into a restaurant that is failing, indentifies the problems then shows the owners a series of changes to help turn their business around.  I am a big fan of the original BBC version of this show, but the American version has never really captured my heart.

I guess the main reason is because Ramsey is too over the top with his profanity-laced tirades.  I don’t mind the profanity, mind you, I am a chef and during a rush I can drop f-bombs with the best of them.  No, my problem is that the profanity seems forced – staged.  Ramsey himself has said that the producers of the Fox Kitchen Nightmares have focused more on the screaming than the genuine story.  To me, of all of the reality TV poluting our airwaves KM is one of the few that tells a story and after all, isn’t that what television is about?  Story telling.

I also look at it as a tutorial.  Recently I took over the kitchen at Mars Hill Cafe which was doing bubkiss for business.  Part of the problem was that the old menu had a lot of ingredients that were used in only one recipe.  There were some dishes that took too long to prepare – Mars Hill is a lunch-only cafe so you really can’t do recipes that take 20 minutes.  So I restructured to menu to make it fast and to consolidate ingredients.  For example: I added a Tuscan wrap that uses pesto mayo; I also changed the pasta salad so  it uses the pesto mayo as well.

I also loaded my menu with bold flavors.  The aforementioned Tuscan wrap not only has the herbacious pesto mayo but also bright and tart sundried tomatoes and salty feta cheese.  I revamped the existing Santa Fe wrap which was made with sauteed onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes with grilled chicken and a mix of cheddar and pepper jack cheeses.  The veggies are now seasoned with a custom blend of chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic salt.  The previously unseasoned chicken now gets kissed with garlic salt as well.  We made the move from mild cheddar to sharp.  I also added side sauces like a fresh salsa rojo, key lime-cilantro sour cream and a horseraddish sauce that is permiated with fresh cushed garlic.  Gone is the nasty Thousand Island Dressing on the Rueben and in its place tangy yellow mustard.

The result?  My first week there we had a day when we only had five tables come in.  We’ve gone on a wait every day this week.  Sales are up roughly 400% since I took over in mid July.

Clearly, I can’t take all the credit, our GM Joe Langley has worked wonders getting the local media to notice us.  One TV station did a story on our goal of giving all our profits to charity.  The local newspaper also did a story on us.  Another TV station has had me on doing cooking demonstrations.  Joe made all of that happen.

Our other staff members have worked really hard, too.  It helps to go to work everyday knowing that you are making a real difference.

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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."


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