A few notes on all the Gordon Ramsay shows I’ve watched

It’s Friday morning, I’m taking the day off for some personal matters and later on attending the Erie County Fair, and right now I’m sipping coffee and thinking, “What’s a quickie topic I can write a post about?” And last night we watched two new episodes of Gordon Ramsay shows on Hulu, so…let’s talk about Gordon Ramsay’s teevee shows!

Obviously the man is all over teevee the last bunch of years, and I’m not complaining. We find him addictively watchable and have only actively disliked one of his shows. Here are a few thoughts on each show of his that we’ve watched!

(Unless indicated otherwise, all of these refer to the US versions. I’ve seen sporadic UK versions of these same shows, and the flavor and demeanor is often completely different; the “shouting and cursing” Ramsay image is really a carefully constructed on for the US market, and that aspect of his personality is really on display only on one show, for the most part.)

Hell’s Kitchen

Obviously it starts here. The new season kicks off in a month, and we’ll be there. I’ll be honest: this show has lost some of its luster for me as it has settled so seriously into routine that I wonder if it just films itself nowadays. You can feel every beat coming as the seasons go on, and the contestants are nearly indistinguishable until you finally get to the last five or so. But yeah, we’ll keep watching. It’s comfort food at this point. If you want full-on Gordon Ramsay screaming at people and swearing constantly, though, this is your go-to; he’s calmed down a bit in the recent seasons, but there were times in the first few years that he would go so wildly upset that his voice would crack. (Here’s an entire video of such moments! My favorite of all time is at 3:19. Language non-bleeped!)


The current season is unfolding right now. There’s also a sense of “same old, same old” here as well, but MasterChef really does try to put some new twists on things every year, which is nice. This year’s notion is separating the chefs into teams representing four regions of the United States. How’s that going? It’s OK. The most interesting facet is that the chef who wins the competition in each episode also saves their entire regional team from elimination, so some people who have cooked utter calamities of dishes (a dude who seasoned his churros with salt instead of sugar stands out) survive on that basis. MasterChef is more fun when it stays in the kitchen than during the “team challenges”, which end up feeling annoyingly like Hell’s Kitchen, and the show’s constant babbling about “elevating” dishes and patting itself on the back with stuff like “This is the greatest cooking competition on the planet!” gets irritating. And yet, every summer, we watch.

Kitchen Nightmares

Ramsay tours restaurants that are failing for one reason or another or multiple, and tries to put them back on track. Watch for family drama and tours of kitchens that really make you wonder what that particular restaurant’s local health department is doing with its time. This series has been off the air for a while, but I’ve read that it’s being revived.

24 Hours to Hell and Back

It’s Kitchen Nightmares, reduced down to a single 24-hour time period as Ramsay diagnoses a train-wreck of a restaurant, his team descends upon it to make it better, and they all leave. I liked this one, actually, a bit more than Nightmares.

Hotel Hell

It’s Kitchen Nightmares, but now the concept is applied to a hotel. I didn’t care for this one much. Ramsay’s most interesting dealing with food. His knowledge of the hospitality industry is likely considerable, but this show felt like padding the empire to me. I don’t miss it.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

This was Ramsay’s answer to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown: travelogue shows that featured Ramsay exploring local culture and food customs. It’s a good show and beautifully shot, and the food stuff is very interesting. Obviously Bourdain was the king of this kind of show, but Uncharted is really good on its own; for all Ramsay’s “I know everything about food!” bravado, he is fascinated by learning new things and seeing new aspects of the world. Of all the “food travelogue” shows out there, this ranks for me just behind the two Bourdain series and Somebody Feed Phil (which is pure joy and I need to blog about it all by itself sometime).

The F Word

This is the one we didn’t like. We watched no more than two episodes of the single season it ran. Its format was something of a jumbled mess and it felt more like a blend of advertising and actual content than many of the other shows (which, let’s be honest, are always partially advertising).

Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars

This one is currently airing alongside MasterChef, and it’s kind of an odd duck of a show. Ramsay has a dozen or so entrepreneurs from food-related businesses in a competition through various challenges, and the winner is to receive a sizeable investment from Ramsay himself for their business. So the show focuses as much on business skill and acumen as on food; it kind of feels like a less skeevy version of The Apprentice, with Gordon Ramsay running things instead of that creepy New York City real estate guy (I wonder whatever became of him?). The contestants are all kind of weird–one dude, a long-haired hippie type, wore an earring in the shape of a four-inch-long spoon–and the show is shot in a garishly over-exposed way, which is kind of off-putting. I don’t know if this one’s going to have any staying power.

Next Level Chef

Now this one is interesting. It’s had two seasons already and the third is apparently on the way. When it first showed up I thought the concept was really weird, but…the show has some staying power! It’s a cooking competition in which Gordon Ramsay, Richard Blais, and Nyesha Arrington each mentor a team of home cooks through a competition with various challenges on a cooking set divided into three levels. The top level is a state-of-the-art kitchen, the middle one is a perfectly good but not great kitchen, and the bottom kitchen has crappy equipment and tools. Ingredients descend through each level via a platform from which the contestants get to pick stuff for thirty seconds each, so by the time the platform gets to the bottom kitchen, those cooks have to use the less-desired ingredients as well as using less-than-good equipment to cook. The whole concept is pretty gonzo, but the show has a fun kind of energy to it. My complaint with this show is a weird one: they make the cooks all dress in the same outfit! What’s that about?

Looking through Ramsay’s filmography, it appears that for all our Ramsay-watching over the years, we’ve only seen about half of what he’s done! Sheesh, that guy is everywhere. And we keep tuning in.

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2 Responses to A few notes on all the Gordon Ramsay shows I’ve watched

  1. Roger says:

    I don’t watch most reality shows for the reasons you stated. “Same old, same old.” Food Stars irritates me on general principle. Next Level Chef looked WEIRD in the teases.

    So if I were to watch any of these, it’d be Uncharted. I should also see Somebody Feed Phil; I love the backstory of its creation, with Ray Romano pushing Phil to do it.,

    • NEXT LEVEL CHEF is really watchable once you grok the concept, and it’s gast-paced and actually fun.

      I cannot recommend SOMEBODY FEED PHIL highly enough. It’s beautifully shot, it’s funny…and it’s good-natured, which is ALWAYS in short supply these days!

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