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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kitchen Nightmares: "The Olde Stone Mill"

Illustration for article titled iKitchen Nightmares/i: The Olde Stone Mill
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Illustration for article titled iKitchen Nightmares/i: The Olde Stone Mill

We here at the Club had a brief discussion this week about whether to remove Kitchen Nightmares from the TV blog rotation. Reasons for removal: It's basically the same show week after week, we've got a glut of shows we're covering midweek, and I'm about to add another regular show to my docket. (Friday night can't come soon enough!) Reasons for keeping: Well, it's not like I'm not going to watch Gordon Ramsay give incompetent buffoons what-for every week. And when I'm done alternately cackling with glee and tearing my hair out over KN's intractable formula, I may as well talk it over with you good people.

And this is a good week to talk over, because again–like last week–we're edging closer to the KN ideal. This wasn't Ramsay The Raging, ripping on a lazy manager or a chef serving spoiled pesto. This was Ramsay The Concerned, trying to get The Olde Stone Mill's owner Dean to understand that his restaurant is failing because he's offering a mediocre product, served with indifference, not because of bad luck or a customer base made up of, as his chef calls them, "a lot of the blue heads."

Yet when Ramsay suggests that Dean fill a market need and convert The Olde Stone Mill to a steakhouse, the owner argues that "change is a sign of weakness." This despite the fact that he's had dinner services recently with no customers. This despite the fact that his chef keeps pumping out plate after plate of gray-hued, mushy food, served in bizarre containers. (Shrimp deep-fried in phyllo dough then wedged into a cocktail! Over-dressed salad crammed into a funnel then dumped onto a plate in a conical shape! Scraggly calamari in a giant margarita glass!) This despite slow-footed waiters who chew gum and don't know whether the crab in the crab cakes is fresh or not.

On some level, I can understand Dean's obstinacy. I'm sure Ramsay spent at most half-a-day with him before he started picking him apart psychologically, saying that the owner is afraid of failure and more concerned with looking good than doing right. And unbeknownst to Dean, Ramsay was backed this week by a snippy narrator, dropping lines like, "Dean's willingness to send out substandard risotto typifies…." At the same time, there was something irritatingly state-of-our-nation-today about Dean's stay-the-course attitude, as though he expected Ramsay to vroom in on his motorcycle and announce that Dean's doing everything right, and that it's the gutless citizens of Tuckahoe to blame for The Olde Stone Mill's dropping approval ratings.

So yeah, I definitely savored the clash this week between the "it's not me it's you" Dean and the "shove your ego up your arse and go save your business" Ramsay. Even though the makeover-and-menu-replacement stuff was predictable, this episode generated real drama from Dean telling Ramsay over and over that despite his Michelin stars and multiple award-winning restaurants, he couldn't possibly know what he's talking about. My favorite moment in that regard: Ramsay tells Dean to stop hovering over customers asking them if they're enjoying their meals, and when the incredulous Dean says that he can't believe Ramsay wouldn't listen to customer feedback, Ramsay replies, "I listen to the phone every morning, telling me the restaurant's fully booked."

Ka-pow! Advantage: Ramsay.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

-Bizarre non-compliment of the week: "[Ramsay's] Michelin stars are like World Series rings. He's got them."

-What is Ramsay's obsession with crab cakes? Has there been a week where he didn't start his test meal with an order of crappy crab cakes?

-I liked Ramsay's imagined imitation of Olde Stone Mill regulars annoyed by his menu changes: "What, you're not serving my salad in a funnel?"

-As a former waiter, I was happy to see a restaurant with an electronic ticket system for a change. Electronic tickets are time-stamped and clearly labeled: No way to mess them up, right? Unless the ticket printer conks out, which is what happened in the middle of The Olde Stone Mill's first night as a steakhouse. (Did the staff pull it together after everything started to go south? When have they not on this show?)

-Unexplained Gordon Ramsay community outreach activity of the week: Sack races!

-Next week, we finally get hear the line I've been waiting for since it was teased in the first episode: "I've never, ever, ever…met anyone I've believed in…as little as you." Man, I'm so glad I'm still blogging this show.


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