Amy’s Baking Company causes Gordon Ramsay to quit, Kitchen Nightmares to win

Gordon Ramsay has threatened to quit and walk away from Kitchen Nightmares so often that it no longer has any weight. So last night’s episode–which was surprisingly good for a series that has been predictably mediocre for so long–had to work overtime to convince us that he actually did walk away from Amy’s Baking Company and its extraordinarily delusional owners.

The hour ended with footage of crew members removing equipment, as if to say, Look! He’s really leaving! We’re not just over-exaggerating like usual! It’s real this time! Before the episode actually ended, Ramsay said, “Well, it’s finally happened. After almost 100 Kitchen Nightmares, I’ve met two owners who I could not help. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it’s because they are incapable of listening.”

This episode of Kitchen Nightmares was different from its opening scenes, when the normal b-roll footage (that gets reused and reused) of a pre-Ramsay service turned into a near-fight and a crew member had to step in between a crazed owner and a customer.

For once, it didn’t feel like anyone was playing to the cameras. And in fact, the customer who almost got into a fight with the owner was a fan of the show who, understandably, first thought the drama was fake until he realized these owners were for real with their craziness.

I have no doubt that the show features real restaurants with truly delusional owners, it’s just that the makeover process and the reality of their situation is obscured by the producers’ need to force more and more drama, either through what happens on location or through post production.

At long last, the show found two people whose delusion about their restaurant was up to the level of drama Fox wants. The owners’ behavior far predates production, which took place last December; here, for example, is the response Amy wrote to a negative Yelp review that Ramsay referenced.

Unsurprisingly, they don’t seem to have learned: Last night, the owners wrote on Facebook that they “do not feel the need to make any excuses for our behavior,” but then said they don’t steal tips but instead pay their servers higher hourly wages. Okay.

I wish every episode was like this, even though it wasn’t exactly similar to the incredible Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, on which Ramsay actually seemed engaged in the process and actually worked alongside chefs and owners to help improve their restaurants. Yes, he screamed and yelled sometimes, but he was clearly actually trying to help. (Watch old episodes because they’re entertaining, but also to see the contrast.)

In its Fox incarnation, the show has become an ineptly edited, awful shadow of its former self. All Ramsay seems to do is walk in and pour television gasoline all over hot spots that the producers have pointed out or set up. The editing is so manipulative that the credits include a disclaimer about how footage is presented out of order; for a show to confess relatively standard practice in its credits tells you how blatantly manipulative the editing must be.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some editing shenanigans here, and Ramsay was obviously briefed about everything he was encountering so his “discoveries” felt as inauthentic as always. But there was something great in this episode, and I hope the producers and network recognize it.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.