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TV Review: Gordon Ramsay Cookalong Live

December 16, 2009

By Monsieur Anton

You may remember not long ago we were discussing the top TV chefs of all time.  In that post, Gusteau ranked Gordon Ramsay number six.   I, on the other hand didn’t even mention the man, the reason being that you never even get a chance to see him cook on television.  Sure, you see him yell at, and berate others.  He often swears on TV so much, the bleeping sounds more like an avant-garde ring tone than a cooking show.  Since he didn’t cook, I have always considered him more a reality show personality, than a chef.  That is until Fox in its infinite wisdom decided to air a special presentation of Gordon Ramsay Cookalong Live, an American version of one of the foul-mouthed chef’s British shows. 

We finally get to see Chef Ramsay cook!  We know he has the chops.  He has the Michelin stars to prove it.  So he’s expanded his universe to being a multi-media, international sensation at the cost of his restaurant empire.  All that matters to us is we get to see him actually cook!  So, will I have to alter my all time TV chefs rankings?  Not!  This show was difficult to watch, and even more difficult to glean some culinary knowledge from.  Let’s cook along with Gordon shall we?

Fox spent some bucks on the set, with massive video walls and a live studio audience.  Ramsay shows up casually dressed.  No chef’s whites here.  This is home cooking, and Gordon’s going to show us everyone can do it.  To prove his point he’s got a trio of celebrities on hand, comic Cedric the Entertainer, actress Alyson Hannigan and country singer LeAnn Rimes.  Additionally, via video we are joined by Whoopi Goldberg and her daughter.  More video amateur cooks join us through the huge video walls including a featured pair of Marine wives whose husbands are in Afghanistan.  With the celebrities and plain old folk this is beginning to resemble The Rachael Ray Show meets Emeril Live.  Where is the house band?

Finally we get down to cooking!  The appetizer will be Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Chile Peppers and Tomatoes.  Simple enough and Cedric will step up to the plate to be the featured celeb on this course with Alyson and LeAnn cooking off to the side.  Basically what we are getting here is the standard talk show celebrity cooking segment, awkward banter (some off-color) and all, and after a few minutes everyone has pasta!  Was the video feature of Ramsay going through Cedric’s fridge and finding junk food hidden really necessary?  Ramsay is only funny when he’s yelling at some poor schlub.  This was just painful to watch.  We don’t want charming Gordon.  We want bad boy Gordon.  Don’t get away from what made you a star my man.

Next up to the spotlight is How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan.  You can tell she’s the current big name among the trio as she gets the main course Steak Diane.  More awkward banter and Hannigan looks stressed.  See Miss Hollywood Star?  How does it feel to be in the weeds?  She asks Gordon to hold her hair back, and I thought she was going to puke from being on this show, but no, she just didn’t want to catch her hair on fire when flambéing the Steak Diane.  The British chef is talking a mile a minute rushing to get things done.  If I didn’t know better, I would assume Ramsay had snorted a couple of lines before the show, he was that manic.  That might explain why his plate looked so abysmal.  The potatoes had no color to them, and it looked rushed.  Ramsay would have screamed and cursed any chef on Hell’s Kitchen who would try to pass off that plate to a customer.

This segment was interrupted with a man in the street interview where Ramsay asks people if they know what Steak Diane is.  As I was thinking how “Jaywalking” of Gordon, surprise, surprise, Gordon runs into Mr. Big Chin himself for a dud of a comedy bit that would make Jay’s low rated prime time show seem successful. 

Last up is dessert, and a quick Tiramisu with LeAnn Rimes. Steak Diane?  Tiramisu? Hello 1985 called and they want their menu back.  We are treated to more uneasy cooking accompanied by even more uncomfortable chit chat and inappropriate sexual innuendo.  LeAnn spills something on herself and Gordon goes to wipe it off.  Did he just touch her breasts?  You might think the British Bad Boy was back if he didn’t do it with all the clumsiness of a pre-adolescent boy.  Tiramisu is done, but not before we are subjected to another pre-recorded segment with young children.

Great lengths were taken to make Gordon Ramsay appear charming, but is that the Gordon we really want to see?  Did anybody learn anything about cooking on this show?  There was no explaining of ingredients or technique.  At one point, LeAnn Rimes’ butter was burning and Ramsay told her to add some olive oil to it.  A good tip, but we were not told why you add oil to burning butter.  Also, no instruction was given about how thin the steaks should be rolled out to, or how long to cook them to get to their desired temperature. 

This show tried to do too much, and as a result did nothing.  It wasn’t instructional, nor was it funny.  What little charm the participants had been nullified by the break neck pace.  Slow the show down.  Limit it to just one celebrity guest and let them talk about their food memories and preferences.  Give the guest a chance to interact with Ramsay, and not try to keep up with him.  How sad is it that an often irritating, untrained cook like Rachael Ray can relate to both the food and guests better than a famed award-winning chef?

As for Ramsay, get rid of the inane pre-recorded segments.  All they accomplish is to take up time you can be using to cook and impart knowledge, as well as be charming rather than frenzied.  We watch cooking shows to learn and be entertained, not as an endurance test.  You can be charming.  Ramsay does have likeability to him.  We’ve seen it before in the non kitchen reward segments of Hell’s Kitchen or in his heart to hearts with his subjects on Kitchen Nightmares, but that is no reason not to spice it up sometimes with that intense chef personae that made him what he is.  Look Gordon, with your restaurant business tanking, you may need television to fall back on, so work on your skills.  Until then, I feel vindicated leaving him off my top ten TV chefs list.

Chef Gusteau says: Yes, eating my words earlier went down hard and rough…just like this show.  The big question behind all of it was “What type of show do you want to be?” You certainly can’t be a cooking show while trying to dig up dirt on Ms. Rimes’ driving record.  Not appropriate or funny.  Funny would have been Rimes coming back at him with “Hey Gordon, how does it feel to sell all of your interests in your flagship restaurants, and your favorite Lamborghini, while still having the nerve to pay yourself an annual salary of $7 million?”  Isn’t rule one don’t make your guests feel uncomfortable?  Clearly he has it in for this young singer.  Did you all catch when Gordon rushed over to her while she was trying to slice a vanilla bean?  Rule number two, set up others to succeed! Why on earth are you asking someone who admittedly never cooks to use a razor-sharp knife to slice the length of a vanilla bean!!  Just a minor slip and she loses a finger!  Only more awful than that would be Rimes asking Ramsay to hit a high “E.”  You get the point.  And then came the fondling.  Gordon mysteriously “back splashed” on Rimes, and then proceeded to wipe his hand and the tiny, grimy, side towel it was holding, across Rimes’ crotch, and then her breasts.  To which she responded, “What kind of cooking show is this?”  Great question indeed.  Gordon’s wife may ask the same.

Back to the show.  I love the concept, to a point.  I love the idea of publicizing the menu and all the ingredients needed to prepare the meal.  The show dies at that point.  No one cares about, nor was able to see, any of the cooks from New Mexico, Texas, California and so on.  If I want to see that many states at once, I’ll watch commercials of ATT and Verizon arguing over coverage areas.  And Whoopi?  I guess that was kind of funny…except Gordon kept interrupting her while she was saying something funny.  Gordon was trying too much.  He wanted to cook, entertain, tell jokes (remember the “band camp” reference to Alyson and the fat jokes to Cedric?) get dirt on guests, read TV monitors and grope his guests.   Final result? Show sucked.  His food looked horrible.  When the show demonstrated the sample plates from the menu, the colors were great, the plating perfect, and the food looked delicious.  Gordon’s plates?  His pasta was lopsided and hanging over the bowl, devoid of any herbs.  His steak was improperly seared and had no color.  As Anton noted, and I am amazed he picked up on this, the potatoes had no color on them at all, indicating improper sautéing (for those of you wishing to learn more about sautéing, check out our culinary term archives).  And dessert? Hard to say as it was basically a flavored whipped cream on soggy biscuits.  I do love the look on the guests’ faces as they saw Gordon use his same spoon to taste each of their desserts!  I guess they weren’t going to eat them, right?  Sanitation 101 Gordon!  I am also sure no one flinched when he said LeAnn’s tasted the best…please Gordon, enough already.

If Gordon were to stick to the menu and work with all three guests (or just have 1!) at the same time (so he’s not sprinting across the stage to see Cedric drinking from the wine bottle), and slowly, methodically, go through each dish and its preparation, then you have a great show.  Instead, we all saw Gordon stressed, running around aimlessly, and cooking like an amateur.  Gordon has clearly lost the formula for managing restaurants across the globe.  Equally as certain is his inability to properly define what type of show is best for him.  He was the executive producer for the show, so no one to blame but himself on this one.

And for those of you thinking I was cooking along with Ramsay and wondering about the results….I kicked the Brit’s ass!  But then, I wasn’t busy trying to grope people in my kitchen! 

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 9:09 pm

    Another great post. I did not watch this show. As a matter of fact I have never seen any of Ramsay’s shows. After reading your review I am not sure if it makes me want to stay away or tune in next episode to watch the train wreck.

  2. December 17, 2009 9:09 pm

    PS You guys are quickly becoming my favorite blog!

  3. December 17, 2009 9:16 pm

    Thanks! I’ve been enjoying your blog too!

    http://www.livetocookathome.com/

    Monsieur Anton

  4. December 17, 2009 10:15 pm

    You mean this is a regular series?!? I tuned in for a half-a-second and was almost immediately compelled to tune away. The funny thing about Ramsay is that I really do enjoy the stuff he does for the BBC. He’s much more level-headed and likable. I’m not sure who told him he needed to yell at everyone for an American audience to like him.

  5. December 18, 2009 3:41 pm

    As far as I know Tom, this was a one off project, although I’m sure they were tetsing the waters for a new series, or semi-regular feature. I enjoy his BBC stuff too, especialy The F Word, but if he did that in the States it would be relugated to the Food Network. The screaming and swearing makes for entertaining network television.

  6. December 24, 2009 5:03 pm

    I love the blog, thank you so much buddy!

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