Kitchen Nightmares: Finn McCool's
RFT editorial intern Jeanette Kozlowski is a big fan of bad-boy British chef Gordon Ramsay. Each week she'll recap the latest episode of Ramsay's new FOX series Kitchen Nightmares.
There's really not much to say about this week's heartwarming episode. I mean, we're in New York again at another dying restaurant, yada yada yada. So, I'm going make this brief.
Buddy, a retired police officer of 20 years, has put everything (read: his retirement fund) into Finn McCool's, a family-owned Irish pub in the Hamptons. Bar manager and son Jason and his wife, Melissa, worry about Buddy and "his health," while resident leprechaun, Brian, who also happens to be Buddy's son and head chef, could give a shit.
At first glance, Ramsay calls the place "a theme park, not a restaurant," then witnesses plenty of bickering and finger pointing -- most of which is aimed at Brian. When Ramsay orders his traditional first meal, he inquires about the clams. Are they fresh? "Honestly, they are frozen," Melissa says. This situation mirrors last week's: a shortcut chef adding more menu items than he can handle -- most coming straight from the freezer aisle.
Before cooking for the highly critical chef, Brain understandably slams a beer. The first course of spring rolls are "very strange, bizarre" looking. Ramsay asks if the item is popular, and Melissa tells him, "Yes." Ramsay retorts, "Yeah, if half the customers were drunk." The roasted salmon arrives and immediately he notes the balsamic drizzle, which covers the fish like a thick layer chocolate syrup on a sundae. This is yet another quality seen all to often -- remember the offensive parsley drizzler at Seascape? According to Ramsay, the use of too many sauces and other distractions is "always a sign of an insecure chef." Next up is shepherd's pie: "It's just a big bowl of grease!" This dish makes Ramsay dash to the restroom, and the camera focuses on the door as sounds of choking or puking or choking on puke echo through the halls.
Nobody seems shocked by Ramsay's reaction to the food. Well, nobody except the insulted chef.
A good way to gage a restaurant's performance is to ask the locals, or in this case, the local firemen. When Ramsay addresses the topic of Finn McCool's, one guy says "A lot of fried food, maybe a little too much." Enough said.
Ramsay does the standard kitchen investigation to expose typical poor cleaning habits. A montage of grit, grime and grilled chicken appears to be the same old, same old, though he does find "one clean thing" in the kitchen -- his own book, Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy. Obviously chef Brian hasn't read it.
When Ramsay demands a cleaner kitchen, Brian goes on the offensive and Jason doesn't want to clean his brother's mess. But once the star chef is on his knees scrubbing right along with the others, the boys find a new respect for him.
At tonight's dinner service, the firemen appear to critique Brian's no-so-hot grub. Forced to confront the unfavorable reviews face to face, Brian bashes the men and undermines their opinion because they are just, you know, volunteer firefighters. Sorry, Bri, but you don't need to be a classically trained chef to know when food is awful.
The most shocking moment of the evening comes when the elderly sous-chef drops an uncooked chicken wing on the floor. Without hesitation, he plucks it up from near his feet and plops it back in the fryer. Ramsay witnesses the series of events. He screams at the chef, but the man cannot hear. "It's gonna....it's gonna....the fryer's gonna take anything off the floor and clean it -- sterilize it," he explains to the fuming chef. And when the sous-chef tells Buddy about what he did, all the color drains from Buddy's face. FOX edited it so that the camera keeps flashing back to some dude happily gnawing away on a chicken wing during the debacle. Knowing FOX, I bet the footage wasn't even from the same night.
An ill-informed sous-chef isn't all owner Buddy needs to worry about. He discloses to Ramsay he's losing about twenty grand a month. Buddy hasn't cashed his own check -- ever. Nevertheless all his employees remain well paid. He says over and over that if the arrogant chef wasn't his son, he would have fired him eons ago.
Ramsay teaches Brian how to make a proper shepherd's pie and then feeds his pie to the staff along with Brian's crap. When everyone fawns over Ramsay and tells Brian his pie is sick, he becomes "tremendously pissed off." He then flees the scene and doesn't return to cook for dinner service. When Buddy takes over for Brian, this leads to semi-disaster: A customer is served a burger without (gasp!) a bun top. "No wonder Brian's a cranky bitch," says chef Buddy.
After the family realized that running a kitchen can be a daunting task, they are happy when Brian returns. The design team does their thing, tears are shed, etc. A new menu of contemporary pub food is unveiled and includes a Guinness pub burger, Ramsay's shepherd's pie and fireman's chicken.
At the grand reopening, too many people arrive and some, like the fire chief, leave before they can be seated. One fireman jokes, "They're a little overcrowded for the fire code." A local food critic, who looks like a seventeen-year-old, freaks everyone out with her pre-dinner complaints. In the end she snidely remarks, "I think it was actually worth the wait."
In the end, it's Brian who lets the tears flow. Tears of joy, of course. Aw, family group hug, everyone!
Two months later, the shepherd's pie is the talk of the town. Buddy cashed his first paycheck. And we all reach for a Kleenex.
Although this episode was the most endearing, it didn't give me too much material to work with. I like the real disasters!
Lesson learned: Beware: There's a chance another sous-chef out there believes in the sterilization magic of the fryer.
Next week: We're back on the left coast for some fine dining at Lela's in Pomona, California. The preview touts the chef as being "fresh from the hood" and the bus boy having "sticky fingers." With FOX's editing, it's sure to be an instant classic.