Gordon Ramsay is an expert at taking misbehaving cooks to the woodshed. Now, in a new blog post from master chef Jacques Pepin, Ramsay gets a taste of his own medicine.
“In the last few years, there have been a flurry of new TV cooking shows, so-called ‘reality’ shows, that portray the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light, and I believe it is a disservice to our trade and to young people who want to go into this business,” Pepin writes on the Daily Meal website.
“The worst offenders insult and humiliate their crew, cursing and swearing, with every other word a bleeped expletive. The crew, often unkempt and untidy, look at the chef defiantly and seem to be terrorized and belligerent at the same time.”
Pepin has spent more than 60 years in professional kitchens and is regarded as one of the elder statesmen in the restaurant world. His influence is widely felt, through his many cooking shows and, in particular, his collaborations with his longtime friend, the late Julia Child.
He has always been careful to be polite and not to be critical. Until now Pepin has always been more of a friendly grandfather than a stern uncle. But in his essay, which doesn't mention Ramsay by name but does reference his show, the gloves come off.
“In these reality shows, the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food. There is disarray and pandemonium in these kitchens, as well as in the dining rooms,” he writes. “No one seems to agree on anything, and there are ongoing clashes between the employees, without much evidence of what makes a kitchen work.
“For the good of his or her restaurant, the chef should be a role model, an educator who probes and advises his cooks, rather than embarrasses them publicly. A good kitchen is quiet most of the time. It is disciplined, well structured, and clean.
“People who cook there are dedicated and work together. Teamwork is extremely important, as all parts of the kitchen have to work on many of the same dishes. This requires them to work as one unit, like in a symphony when all the parts come together at the end. It is not exciting or dramatic enough for TV.
“The cruel rivalry and conflict depicted in 'Hell’s Kitchen' may be good for ratings, but it is unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade. In my opinion, nothing good enough to eat can be concocted under such conditions.”