TV on DVD: Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares: Complete Series One (U.K. Version; 2004)

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Guess Who Isn't Coming to Dinner...

Although he's been bestowed with an incredible twelve Michelin stars-- I'll tell you one thing for certain-- Chef Gordon Ramsay will never be allowed near my humble kitchen.

The world renowned f-bomb dropping culinary master would have a field day amidst my collection of frozen entrees, packaged dinners, prepared foods, and a wide array of takeout menus from restaurants that have probably never even heard of Michelin... aside from the fact that there's a tire by the same name.

While I'm definitely not a foodie, I do love food and Ramsay is his own one-man restaurant version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, if-- you know-- you were dealing with an ego-maniacal straight guy who re-engineers menus and kitchens instead of introducing a man to couture and better dating etiquette.

Upon first glance-- the easiest comparison of the man unable to suffer fools and completely unfamiliar with the idea of a "filter" that prevents your mouth from saying the exact thing you're thinking at any given moment would probably be to compare Ramsay to American Idol's fellow U.K. nightmare judge Simon Cowell. However, that's too one-dimensional, for the major difference is--while Cowell simply wants to hear himself talk-- Ramsay's confrontations are done with the best of intentions.

Like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, he's unafraid of metrosexual beauty products like Ty Pennington's admiration for hair gel and way too prone to going shirtless with little prompting (changing countless times in front of the camera) but unlike Pennington's show that exploits people for ratings, Ramsay wants to get in the dirt, brave food poisoning, cockroaches, ugly purple buildings, and chefs who can't even get the bread right to try and up the chances a restaurant will survive in a market that finds two thirds of all culinary establishments closing within their first year.

Bringing the original U.K. series to American audiences in the show that launched Ramsay long before he became part of Fox's Hell's Kitchen, this BBC reality-based, award-winning series contains the four episodes that comprised the first season along with the Kitchen Nightmares Revisited follow-up episodes which finds him returning to the scene of the (hopefully) former culinary disasters.

While the show's recurring theme and its title refers to the nightmare kitchens Ramsay inserts himself into including Silsden, West Yorkshire's Bonapartes, Ambleside, The Lake District's The Glass House, Abergavenny, Wales' The Walnut Tree and Esher, Surrey's Moore Place-- Ramsay proves within moments to those he comes into contact with that he can be a kitchen's worst nightmare himself.

Delivering profanity laced soliloquies and insults worthy of Mamet-- to say Gordon Ramsay puts things bluntly would be an understatement as in the first episode he takes on a naive twenty-one year old chef who not only has no idea how to make a proper omelet but can't even taste whether or not his food is burnt and nearly makes the lad cry within seconds.

Revealing the need for communication between the head chef and management but also-- as in his visit to The Walnut Tree-- realizing that a stubborn owner who's way too involved in the dealings of the kitchen can be disastrous, Ramsay offers advice and tries to bully everyone into self-confidence. He does so by changing menus to suit the talents of those involved, adjusting to the needs of the community as he takes to the streets to poll passersby about the location, arguing about the importance of establishing a theme for the place, treating the customer as the most important part of the restaurant, and also ensuring that it's aesthetically appealing.

From dealing with severe health code violations of rotted food left in a fridge that can contaminate everything else to poaching two staff members of The Glass House when he finds some he likes to helping hire in a brand new chef to help save a restaurant that will lose its forty year old Michelin star and trying to turn a stuck in the '70s purple eyesore of a golf club dining room into a friendly, American styled word-of-mouth cafe-- we're consistently amazed by Ramsay's ability to address each and every problem that comes his way.

For, he moves effortlessly from one nightmare to the next as he rearranges plants to ensure customers find the dining room better and even puts his beloved name on the line by trying to prove two young chef's worth by pretending he cooked some meals so that their stubborn boss will understand how talented his workers are.

While his manner is brash and I can't imagine anyone wanting to be on the receiving end of one of his profanity fueled tirades that usually goes along the line of "are you truly bloody stupid?"-- the hyper, always moving man (who gives off the impression that he'd be unable to sit still for more than a second) spends the entire week in full force trying to rescue a restaurant to the point that halfway through the series, I began wondering what his blood pressure must be like.

Much like an athlete, Ramsay's modus operandi seems to assume that for chefs much like athletes-- they play better when they're angry so he gets them on the defensive very quickly so they'll prove him wrong and step up their game. And while more often than not, it works-- one thing he seems unable to comprehend is that some individuals simply don't work that way and they either close down or become so focused on the negative that they're unable to handle the pressure.

While of course, pressure and quickness is a job requirement in juggling a multitude of tasks while running a kitchen-- not everyone can adjust to Ramsay's speed limit and road rules and we understandably witness some crashes and burns as he continually must have the last word and never allow himself be made to look the fool.

Amazingly impressive and intuitive when it comes to knowing just how exactly to make a restaurant work as Ramsay's business sense and savvy rivals his culinary expertise-- while he proves he can be quite the kitchen nightmare himself, he constantly reminds us it's for the greater good by trying to up the playing field and help struggling business owners avoid bankruptcy, lawsuits, and losing the homes they've sold in pursuit of their dreams.

In a crisp digital transfer from Acorn Media, the set which also contains subtitles for the deaf and/or hearing impaired so that you can savor each and every f-bomb or count them if one was so inclined (as he seems to use it as a filler word, the way some people say "like" or "um")-- the quality of the 2-disc set is astounding.

However, a major drawback that Ramsay would've never stood for himself is the overly confusing menus which models itself on the frequently confusing menus of Blu-ray discs by dividing each disc into a top menu and sub-menu for the Nightmares and Nightmares Revisited episodes so that you have to jump back and forth between them and furthermore, go to another place altogether to watch only the footage of his return.

A bit of a challenge to get the hang of and it's sure to frustrate viewers unaccustomed to this style of menu as it even took me a few minutes to master (and I review scores of discs every month)-- despite the confusing set-up, the quality of the work is undiminished as it's terrific fun and highly engrossing, whether or not you can manage to cook an omelet yourself.

Although, I must say I'd hesitate to view it right before venturing off to work or into polite society just in case you've been so compelled and passively digesting his foul language that you slip into f-bombs yourself as casually as Ramsay tries to pull a Matthew McConaughey and nonchalantly change his shirt at least once or twice in any given episode.