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Recap and Review: Kitchen Nightmares Bazzini’s

February 7, 2010

by Monsieur Anton

At the Pass continues to follow the adventures of our boy Gordon Ramsay.  We plan to review and recap his televisions series Kitchen Nightmares.  Why?  Because it’s fun!  Ramsay is nothing if not entertaining, and watching the train wreck restaurants he helps each week makes us feel superior.

Have you ever seen a person who has been doing a job so long, without seeing any progress that they a have been beaten down to the point that it is less painful to go through the motions.  Take that person and give them additional duties they are ill equipped to handle, and ladies and gentlemen, meet Paul owner/chef of Bazzini’s in Ridgewood, New Jersey.  A former chef who worked in some high end Manhattan kitchens, he has opened his own place without realizing all the extra duties that go along with ownership.

Before we move on, a note about that last sentence.  I said a former chef for a reason.  Perhaps unlike any job this side of professional artist, being a chef requires a passion for what you do.  Once you lose that passion, you are no longer a chef.  You are a cook.  There is nothing wrong with being a cook.  A good line cook is worth their weight in gold, but they are not the creator of the cuisine, the one with the vision, the leader.  They are not a chef, and neither is Paul.  The passion long gone, faced with handling the many tasks of operating a restaurant he is like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs.

When making lunch for Ramsay, it’s clear that Paul has lost the vision and pride it takes to be a chef.  When a Michelin star chef tells you to go back and cook for him and with no other customers or distractions to worry about, and the best you can send out overcooked chicken, bland pasta and a risotto so goopy it sticks to the plate when the plate is spun upside down?  It’s time to hang up the toque my man.

The one saving grace of the meal was the dessert, made by the pastry chef Sharyn.  Sharyn is a brassy lass with a talent for producing wonderful desserts and a monster crush on the visiting British chef.  When Gordon says that she made love to the carrot cake, she was ready to ravish Gordo right then and there.

It’s time to fill in the rest of the cast.  Leslie is Paul’s long suffering wife who frets about the loss of her husband’s passion, and the dire financial condition of the restaurant.  Alex is the kind of lifer server who is always quick with a quip and relatively unfazed by the chaos around him.  If the joint goes down, he’ll move on to his next job at one of the 60 eateries in the four block radius.  And then there is Al, the sous chef.  We don’t know what to think of Al, since he never speaks.

During the first dinner service we get to see just what a deer in the headlights Paul really is.  As tickets flow to the rail, Paul just gets overwhelmed.  Last week on Kitchen Nightmares we a saw an inexperienced 21 year old woman put her head down and plow through the tickets.  Tonight we saw a chef, supposedly hardened by years in the Manhattan culinary world give up.  What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the first orders was for crab cakes.  It was at this point I could just picture Chef Gusteau jump out of his seat.  Crab cakes are a matter of pride for Gusteau, and I’m sure when he saw Paul’s crabcakes pre-made and pre-seared the day before he wanted to throw his shoe through the TV screen.  As diners (and I use the term loosely because they are not getting any food) complain about the hour wait for their orders, our erstwhile “former” chef just ruminates that “they just don’t know what he goes through.”  Of course they don’t!  And they don’t care, nor should they.  They just want the food they ordered.

At this point the bodacious baker Sharyn utters the line of the evening about Paul, “If he were a woman he’d have PMS 24/7.”  Perhaps fearing a PMS challenged chef, or weary from fending off Sharyn’s advances, Gordon pulls out a trick from his other show Hell’s Kitchen and shuts down dinner service.

The next day Gordon arrives and in his best Tony Robbins imitation seeks to motivate Paul.  He challenges him to cook him a great dish in 15 minutes.  Harkening back to a day when he actually had some pride, Paul decides to make fresh pasta, and it couldn’t have been easy with his wife hovering over him counting down the minutes.  We don’t get this many time updates on Iron Chef. Well despite the nagging wife, the pasta is delicious.  Seems Paul has a passion for pasta.

Having finally tasted a good dish from Paul, Gordon springs a surprise on him.  They are going to open for lunch.  Paul and Gordon will be in the kitchen with Leslie and much to her chagrin Sharyn handling the front of the house.  Sharyn complains that she has never served before, and does not know what to do on the floor, and atop that she doesn’t even care about the front of the house.  Typical back of the house attitude!  Despite it all, the lunch goes well, and we are led to believe there may be some hope for Bazzini’s.

Once a  newly made over, more modern and trendy restaurant is unveiled thanks to Ramsay’s little miracle worker stage hands it’s now time to see the new menu that is roughly half the size of the previous one.  This is all the better to help the focus challenged “chef” get the food out to the guests, and pasta is king here.  Hopefully the emphasis on pasta will help Paul focus and find his passion, but don’t bet on it.

As dinner service begins, it is clear that Paul has an issue with multi-tasking.  He is unable to work more than one ticket at a time.  Do you know what they call a chef who can’t work more than one ticket at a time?  Unemployed.  Paul is in the weeds and when he needs help, he turns to his trust sous chef the mute Al.  Has anybody seen Al?  He seems to have bolted without saying a word, which is àpropos since he’s barely spoken the whole episode.  So long.  See ya Al.  We hardly knew ya.

Alas, the show must go on, and with the help of Gordon and Sharyn, Paul manages to work his way through the tickets, serving all the guests.  Gordon finally thinks that with the pasta Bazzini’s now has an identity.  Now if only they had a chef that could handle pressure.  The troubling thing is that we have never seen Paul get through a dinner service without Ramsay’s help.  Unless he wants to replace Al with the world’s most expensive sous chef, he’s in for a world of hurt.

Things look even bleaker for Bazzini’s when we find out during the post-mortem, that while Paul hired a strong sous chef without Michelin stars, Sharyn, the one talented member of the kitchen tired of the menopausal chef and left to start her own baking business.  Gordon’s still not sure about Paul, but I am.  He ceased to be a chef long ago.

Chef Gusteau:  What a tough episode to watch.  You can’t help but feel for Chef Paul.  He is beaten down, but feels the pressure to do well and really wants to.  He cares, but doesn’t seem to have the tenacity to do more than care and stress.  I agree with Anton, the man just doesn’t have it anymore.  While you can say that through the drama of TV and choreographed footage, Chef Paul always looked frazzled, there were other indications that things weren’t right.  Did you notice that when the orders came in, Paul spent more time shuffling the tickets at the pass than cooking?  To me that looked like desperate and nervous fidgeting.  I can’t imagine he even was reading what was on the tickets.  As a cook, when stress hits you hard, your mind begins racing while your body/hands are doing things completely unrelated.  His hands may have been “organizing” his tickets, but his mind was thinking “oh my god, where do I begin; what am I doing?”  As we say in the industry, he was ass deep in the weeds.

I remember when I began cooking on the line.  I was on pantry station for the first time and responsible for salads and cold appetizers.  When the tickets started flying in, I recall the instant sense of panic and the feeling of drowning.  But I remembered the lesson I learned from culinary school.  When that sense of panic hits, the first thing you need to do is slow down!  Counterintuitive right?  Not really.  By taking that quick pause, you get your hands and mind back in sync.  From that point, I started looking at only 3-4 tickets at a time.  What were the similarities?  Could I make one really large order of a particular salad to satisfy the orders on several tickets at once?  Absolutely.  It takes about as long to make a dish for one order as it does a multiple number of orders.  In fact, that’s what Ramsay was telling Paul about the pasta orders when the panic occurred.  Paul was focused on the pasta orders for a 4-top, and Ramsay was telling him to mentally group it with the next ticket which was a 2-top ordering the same pasta.  Make one big batch and knock off pasta for 6 tickets.  Then Ramsay stepped in.  It was actually fun to watch him move fast and actually cook.  He spent more time cooking than reading tickets, which is the key when the food needs to get to the tables.  At that point, though, Paul assumed the role of a cook, and Ramsay was clearly the chef.

I believe there are only two scenarios in which Paul will succeed in this restaurant.  I have completely ruled out his ability to bounce back and assume the role of a chef again.  Therefore, either he hires a sous chef that is better than him who also has the ability to gently boss him around (making him the cook), or Paul needs to hire a chef and a sous chef to do all the work while he runs the pass and quality control.  Paul doesn’t seem to be able to make the connection from tickets to food to proper flow and timing…which is how a kitchen functions.

Final prediction…that weasel of a sous chef Al will never work in a restaurant again.  Imagine the nerve you must have to walk out in the middle of service, during TV taping, with Ramsay in the kitchen!  Every chef in the country will know that Al is the dumbass that walked out on his chef and Ramsay.  Even sex-starved Sharyn wouldn’t hire him to be her bitch, which says it all right there.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Audra permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:03 am

    Hi there! I loved the episode. I normally dont’ watch but my brother Al was the sous chef. There is a lot of back story to it. It wasnt right that some stations had described Al as an incompitent sous chef. He is in fact a very good cook. He has worked for many places and is no stranger to a very busy kitchen. I could tell Al was getting really mad and under the circumstances (the real story) I don’t blame him one bit for walking. Heck even after the show Sharon left too.

    I do agree the former chef has lost all of his drive and it has come out in the food. Was kind of sad.

  2. Audra permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:36 am

    “Final prediction…that weasel of a sous chef Al will never work in a restaurant again. Imagine the nerve you must have to walk out in the middle of service, during TV taping, with Ramsay in the kitchen! Every chef in the country will know that Al is the dumbass that walked out on his chef and Ramsay. Even sex-starved Sharyn wouldn’t hire him to be her bitch, which says it all right there.”

    Forgot to reply to this:
    Once again Al is no weasel. Remeber this is TV you can’t believe everything you see. I will leave it at that. Oh and yes Al has worked and continues to work for a few very well known resturaunts. His friends, family, and bosses know what he is capable of and that is why he has a job.

    • February 10, 2010 6:57 am

      Hi Audra! We definitely left the opening for the drama and choreography of TV…they certainly painted Al in a definite shady way. Any chance you are allowed to tell us more about what the behind the scenes were? Now you have me wondering if the producers went so far as to pay Al to leave at that point to increase the drama of the show and give Ramsay a chance to show off. Or maybe the circus that was going on was so artificial that you’d have to be insane to stay? Crazy stuff I am sure. Thanks for tuning in! Chef Gusteau.

  3. February 10, 2010 5:10 pm

    wow, crazy stuff and typical why most restaurant fail to meet customers expectations. However, i do see just how hard it actually is.

    BTW, what happened to Sharon? Did she start her own pastry store/shop? Anyone know?

  4. Bob Nguyen permalink
    April 30, 2010 10:09 pm

    Yep. Sharyn’s website is http://www.simplyhomemadedesserts.com/

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