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Gordon Ramsay's New Show Is the Nadir of His Deeply Weird Craft

'24 Hours to Hell and Back' is textbook Ramsay: shouting, swearing and a great deal of rotting meat.

by Lauren O'Neill
23 August 2018, 8:30am

All screenshots via Channel 4 

Gordon Ramsay, OBE and fucking madhead, is a television chef who, as we know, has never made a normal television food show in his entire natural life. Despite the fact he's probably one of the country's finest culinary minds (his restaurants hold a total of 16 Michelin stars between them), there have been no gentle "Gordon Cooks Puglia" or sedate "Christmas with Gordon"-type programmes; instead, he found fame in a fly-on-the-wall documentary called Boiling Point (title says it all, dunnit?) in the late 1990s, and has been screaming on the telly ever since.

Ramsay is the hotheaded chef stereotype made flesh. His fame is based on yelling, swearing, burying his face into his elbow when presented with rotting food (all the time??), and that one meme screenshotted from a Hell’s Kitchen parody where he calls a woman an "idiot sandwich". Should you mistreat a side of beef in his kitchen, he will murder you with his many high quality knives, and if Channel 4's very flame-heavy marketing for most of his projects is to be believed, when you get to Hell there is fire, brimstone and Gordon Ramsay hollering "FUCK ME" over an incorrectly cooked chicken breast.

As the years have gone by, the big vein in his forehead has protruded more worryingly and his persona has pushed on into caricature. His television shows have followed. His real boom period came in the mid-2000s, when we got both the original Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – which, in essence, saw him visiting people’s businesses and telling them their livelihoods weren’t worth shit on his shoe, for our entertainment – and the best iteration of his competition show Hell’s Kitchen (the celebrity one, with Abi Titmuss). Since then, he’s been a comfortingly longstanding, if unsettlingly furious, TV presence.

Pivotally, though, in the late-2000s, Ramsay went to America, and there he found his home. He is an extreme man, it could reasonably be said, and he had finally been transferred to an environment that could meet him halfway. While Britain had cowered at his wrath, the US rose up to meet him, bringing its walk-in freezers full of year-old tacos with it. There, Ramsay made versions of both Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and he has recently returned for a new series, currently airing on Channel 4: Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.

24 Hours to Hell and Back has the exact same premise as Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – Gordon brings a dying restaurant back from near-bankruptcy by giving it the kiss of life via shouting, going red and showing the chef how to make fresh linguine – but squashes the process into a single day. "Why?" I hear you ask. "I have absolutely no clue," I respond. Essentially, as I see it, the only discernible goal for this even-more-anxiety-inducing-than-normal format is to achieve the total nadir of Gordon Ramsay’s unique, bizarre craft. And, as an interested party, I’ve broken the show down into little chunks to explain how each part contributes to this important accomplishment. No, I can’t believe they pay me for this either.

PROSTHETICS

Coming out of the gate enormous. 24 Hours to Hell and Back begins with Gordon visiting the restaurant he’s going to be fixing, but not in the usual Kitchen Nightmares style. Nope, here he’s wearing a disguise, which… I’m pretty sure includes prosthetic face-pieces. This is quite weird considering that this intricate ruse (imagine I rolled the "r" in "ruse", please, it’s funnier) flies in direct opposition to the time-sensitive premise of the rest of the programme, so the only explanation for the prosthetics is this: Ramsay wanted them, he’s an artist, and he threatened to do GBH on the one producer who raised an eyebrow at the idea.

MASSIVE CLOCK

Once it’s been established that Gordon Ramsay is doing up this restaurant (nobody else seems to really have any choice), everyone is actually informed, and a massive clock is unveiled. Why is the clock so big? Erm, would you ask Dali that? Has a man ever reached his creative peak with a normal sized clock? Grow up.

DISGUSTING KITCHEN BIT I.E. THE BAFTA MOMENT

Whenever I watch this bit of a Gordon Ramsay show I feel like I am having a religious experience. I will never bore of him roaring "FUCKING SHIT" at buckets of stale, weeping vegetables as though they have killed his family; watching him gag while holding rotting lamb adds years onto my life (though obviously while his reactions are the height of western comic achievement, it goes without saying that the waste involved is disgusting and I do actually think that Gordon shaming them on TV and pointing out how much money they’re losing helps people learn their lessons). This part is exactly the same as Kitchen Nightmares, and so it bloody should be. Award worthy.

EMOTIONAL CHAT IN THE OFFICE

Next comes the part where the owner’s crying about the business shitting money and Gordon’s brow, normally on a good 40 percent Furrowed, is folded over itself like laundry, clocking in at a smooth 100 percent. He is telling the owner Hard Truths about how they need to Take Control of the Business, and they are crying even more, though his presence now has brought life back to their eyes, reanimated by a hope that their Italian fusion bar-restaurant might have legs after all. Gordon says things like Step Up to the Plate and Prove Yourself, and it’s very heartwarming, or at least it would be if the time constraints didn’t mean that this scene probably had to be shot in under 12 minutes, making his performative concerned face even funnier.

EVERYONE HAS TO STAY UP ALL NIGHT LEARNING RECIPES??

You know the bit in Kitchen Nightmares where Ramsay designs a new menu and helps the existing chefs familiarise themselves with it? Gone, mate. Here, the cooks are bundled out into a trailer (the trailer is called "Hell on Wheels") in the dead of night and taught how to make the updated dishes by… someone who works for Gordon Ramsay. The man himself is obviously nowhere to be seen after a short introduction, surely kipping in a downy bed in a hotel up the road. Smart and really unnecessarily dramatic (they could just as easily do this when, you know, the sun is up).

COMPULSORY "OOER I DUNNO IF WE’LL GET IT DONE IN TIME" DISCUSSION WITH THE INTERIOR DESIGNER

The time constraints gives this the sort of fun panic vibe of a 60 Minute Makeover-type show on top of all of the other general noise that is happening (like, if you’re on a hangover, get Come Dine with Me on and do not come near this programme, lest your poor head explode). We all, obviously, know that the restaurant is going to be ready in time, but this is Gordon Ramsay, a man who eats suspense for a snack between meals, so it’s important to amp it up in this, the most full realisation of his vision.

FIRST "SERVICE" WHERE SOMEONE INTEGRAL FUCKS UP

The decorating (clearly) gets done, and local luminaries are invited to the restaurant to experience its new look and feel, as in Kitchen Nightmares. This is a hugely important moment in the story arc of the programme, because it’s where there’s a bit of a wobble: the shy chef loses control of his kitchen; the wait staff aren’t putting their orders through properly. At this point someone significant to the operation has a crisis of confidence, and, you’ve guessed it, only one man can save them. Gordon takes this person to one side and looks at them meaningfully, they cry, he hugs them, they Get Back Out There and do their literal day job, buoyed by the knowledge that they are also doing his bidding. Very heartwarming, and if we’re talking Ultimate Ramsay, it’s absolutely textbook.

THE RESTAURANT IS SAVED!

Gordon has not only kept the business from meltdown, but done it in one Earth day! He is carried on a tall chef’s shoulders! A woman sobs and says he has changed her life! He is given a key to the city! Nobody talks about the fact that there might be a worry about longevity of success considering he’s spent so little time mentoring the owners and employees! Brilliant! His peak has been scaled!

@hiyalauren