Send in Rambo Ramsay - Tune in, switch off

13th February 2009 at 00:00

For food lovers and people watchers, the return of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in a double two-hour feast was a taster's delight. As in the best formula-driven programmes, there is an anticipated plot. First our hero, the rugged Gordon Ramsay with a face like a lunar landscape, rides into town to clean up local kitchens. His target? The recycled, reheated and revolting food served up in restaurants that don't deserve the name.

So Mick Martin's bistro in Okehampton is caught out serving up vacuum-sealed, shelf-stored lamb shanks bought in from the Cash and Carry. Mick has clearly never watched Ramsay in action or he'd have avoided serving him the duck a l'orange made with orange squash. Meanwhile, in Sheffield, Justin's Spanish place is more tasteless than tapas, more gloop than gastronomy.

All this is just for starters. Next it's on to the main course, which the viewer knows will be heavily spiced and served with lashings of vitriolic sauce. This is the "Gordon as Shrink" phase, but without the psychiatrist's chair. Instead, he goes into destruct mode, exposing the tensions and deep emotions in kitchen relationships. You can't learn this from a recipe book. His kitchen skewer probes deep into what makes these people tick. Message: you can only turn around a failing business if you make individuals face up to their shortcomings.

It's brilliant television and at this point you may have to turn down the volume because the noise from the box reminds me of those playground fights you wonder how you will ever break up. To Justin's list of "things I've done right", Ramsay screams: "It's lost you the fucking business. It's gone."

Yes, there are more F-words in this programme than I'd care to count. In fact, the F-word is sprinkled like pepper on every sentence.

Fresh, fresh, FRESH. That's the mission: fresh produce or die. And we see Justin's partner stroking the so-fresh-it's-still-alive, so-local-it-lives-just-round-the-corner deer that will soon become his hit venison pie.

Would Ramsay's approach work in school? I'd love to introduce him to that awkward Year 9 group that have given up on us. Go on, Gordon, tell 'em how it is. What's that? You think teachers have got the recipe wrong? We need to chuck out boil-in-the bag lesson plans? But surely in schools it's always the children's fault, isn't it?

I also stumbled this week across the repeats on ITV4 of one of my old favourites, Auf Wiedersehen Pet. It's German jobs for Geordie workers who can match the local output brick for brick on a building site. All those flying planks and dropping hammers have me covering my eyes waiting for the accident to happen till I remember this isn't Holby City.

The actors look so young - Timothy Spall could be auditioning for the school play, while Kevin Whately has that worried air even though we're decades (1983) before his gruelling Inspector Morse years. All that suffering before he finally gets to have his own series in Lewis. You never know, at this rate they might even choose him for the next Dr Who after the next Dr Who. Or is that a part for Ramsay one day?

Ray Tarleton is principal at South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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