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FOOD INDUSTRY

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Lessons for Professional Chef's (and Restaurateurs) from Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

In Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, the acclaimed Michelin three-star rated chef goes to failing restaurants and helps them to become successful. He uses a combination of harsh criticism, common sense and knowledge of how restaurants work to help the struggling restaurateurs.

The episodes all follow a simple formula: Ramsay goes to the restaurant for lunch, orders a few items from the menu, tastes them, then offers his judgment on their quality. He inspects the kitchen and offers a judgment on that too. After this, he observes a dinner service to see what the restaurant is like when it is relatively busy and then gets to work trying to revive the business. In most cases, the impending failure of the restaurant is ultimately due to mismanagement on the part of the restaurant owner. Ramsay constantly berates restaurateurs for not properly supervising their staff or monitoring the quality of the food that comes from their kitchen. The next to be blamed is usually the head chef. In all cases, the failure to consistently produce good food is seen as the main reason for the restaurant’s problems.

The problems that the professional chefs on Kitchen Nightmares fall into are usually all very similar to each other. They all involve indifference about the food that their kitchen puts out. They start to cook and freeze food ahead of time because it is easier. This is a common problem on the show. In the kitchen-inspection segments of the show, he walks into to freezer after freezer and finds stockpiled frozen pre-cooked dishes in plastic bags and hotel pans, sometimes dated and organized, sometimes not. These frozen dishes are meant to be microwaved when a customer orders them, thus reducing service time. In some of the featured restaurants, chefs simply stop taking inventory and have no idea how much food they have on hand. The food rots in the coolers and then gets buried under new orders.

Another bad habit the chefs on the show exhibit is the tendency to not clean their kitchens or inspect them for cleanliness. They delegate responsibility for menial tasks to sous chefs and other underlings rather than supervise the cleaning themselves, and in the end it never gets done. In most episodes, Ramsay points out accumulations of filth, rat droppings and rotten food in storage coolers that head chefs chefs claim not to have known about.

The most consistent message of the show, one that Ramsay preaches in all the episodes, is that when chefs stop caring about their work, the quality suffers. Of course, this goes for all areas of work. The key, therefore, to any successful enterprise, is for the leaders to be engaged and interested.