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An Open Letter to Gordon Ramsay - Page 2

post #31 of 72
Top Chef, i think, is a good reality TV show... By that I mean that it seems, from what of it I've seen, that it's pretty even handed, and the judges criticisms, though straight to the point and sometimes harsh, are constructive. They're not just a bunch of expletives strung together, coupled with finger pointing. Long story short, I appreciate the civility.
I haven't really watched The Next Food Network Star, so I won't comment on that one.
post #32 of 72
With few exceptions, the contestants on the Next FoodNetwork Star are so hapless they make me feel sorry for them. What makes the show surreal is that man of the actual "Stars" who evaluate the contestants are just as hapless.

Top Chef has a lot of strong cooks. Each season seems to get stronger. The three finalists this year were all very good.

post #33 of 72
What's your take on the potty-mouthed contestants? There are an awful lot of expletives deleted ...

post #34 of 72
There is no question in my mind that Ramsay knows his onions. However having taught in a culinary school I can tell you that his approach would surely break down the morale of the student. You must give them confidence and a can do attitude. Alas if he pulled some of his nonsense off in a commercial kitchen he would be in front of the labor board on all kinds of charges of harassment, as would his employer, or would be stabbed buy another employee.
post #35 of 72
I'll give a little more slack to the contestants, but not much. When part of the contest is showing that you can be both an efficient leader as well as a good team player (sorry, I can't think of a less cliche way of putting that), I think it's important to show that you can express yourself in a way that befits an adult in a professional environment.
post #36 of 72
Not to put too fine a point on it, but most pinche cooks in most pinche restaurant kitchens use a LOT of pinche profanity.

post #37 of 72
point taken :)
post #38 of 72
I agree with you 100%. In fact in my opinion the 2 that are capable of running any commercial kitchen are Mario and Emeril. The rest of them do well as actors and actresses and entertainers.
post #39 of 72
I'm not quite sure I know how to break this to you, but Ramsay worked his way up the brigade system and probably got his "gunnery sergeant" attitude from Marco Pierre White. He got two Michelin stars in his first head chef job at Aubergine, and three Michelin stars in his subsquent job, the eponymous (wait for it) Gordon Ramsay. When I say chef, I mean "chef" as in actually in the kitchen full time just like you. Also, FWIW, his personnel are by and large fanatically loyal. Not that there aren't some notable exceptions.

I enjoy a lot of what you have to offer in your posts, especially when you write about event and other large-group cooking. You're really well grounded in the basics and have a huge collection of great tricks to go with them. But I wonder where you get the "in front of the labor board on all kinds of charges of harassment, as would his employer," stuff. In what jurisdiction do you believe this would happen. Under what statutes? No offense, but the quasi-legal stuff that you bring up -- usually in the context of tort liability -- is consistently and wildly off the mark.

OTOH, "stabbed by an employee" makes perfect sense.

post #40 of 72

Ping Pong

We can hit this ball back and forth all day long, but what it seems to boil down to is preference: some of us think it's OK for a chef to scream and rant and treat people like crap, while others don't...I happen to fall into the latter category. We like to think of our selves as professionals, but how professional are we when we stamp our feet like little babies (and what kind of example are we setting). I don't care how good of a cook a person is, if he/she screams all the time they've lost my vote. I'm referring to the type that do this consistently, like GR, because I know this is the real world and our jobs are difficult and everyone loses their temper every now and then. But I really can't believe that a person that has these tantrums all the time is having any fun at all. I cook for a living because I love it...I don't want to be pissed off at work all the time.
post #41 of 72
I can't speak for other countries, but in Australia Ed's comments would be spot on because there is legislation that addresses workplace bullying. Ramsay's behaviour would, in theory, see him done many times over.

The key word is "in theory", because it is up to the person/s involved to lodge a complaint. Imagine what might happen to your life at work if you called out your bullying boss :eek:
post #42 of 72
Ahh, but I can speak for the US of A -- where we don't have "labor boards" in the sense that Ed seems to have meant.

I can also speak for the UK to the extent that the real Gordon Ramsay ran his real restaurants, and whatever trouble his @$$holiness got him into, he seems to have got out of it without undue bother. In fact, he's been involved in two rather famous legal actions which have nothing to do with his treatment of employees. In the first, an English newspaper, the Evening Standard, reported that Ramsay faked bad conditions at one restaurant featured in Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Ramsay sued in the UK for Libel and won. In the second, he was sued in the US for Defamation by a restaurant which appeared in the American version of the same show and the case was tossed for lack of merit. If there were Labor Board Complaints or any other Causes of Action which stuck, they don't seem to be publicized.

I'd love to read Oz's statutory scheme barring workplace bullying. Would you be so kind as to link me to a site?

As one attorney to another, I find it hard to believe that if Oz has the anti-bullying legislation it doesn't have legislation to protect the employee from retribution (including dismissal) for seeking the law's protection. Even in the US, we do that much. While I can't speak for every US jurisdiction, it's pretty much universal in Labor statutes as well as civil law that an employer can't punish an employee for her efforts to enforce her rights. As a practical matter this usually means the employee receives significant compensation, including back pay, after employment is terminated.

post #43 of 72
I think I remember hearing about something called osha and also something called a union.
post #44 of 72
OSHA is "Occupational Safety and Health Administration" and has nothing to do with nasty bosses. They're the people who want you to put up the little piso mojado signs.

Unions are somewhat limited in terms of what they can do, too. Moreover, only a small percentage of American kitchens are union; and in Florida (Chef Buchannan writes from Florida) -- a right to work state -- fewer still.

post #45 of 72
Sure, who wouldn't! :D It depends what state you are in as to the piece(s) of legislation and also on the nature of the bullying as to whether a federal Act applies. Ramsay is looking at opening a restaurant in Melbourne, so I'll use Victoria as an example.

The piece of state legislation that would cover Ramsay-esque behavior is the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (a section deals with protecting the mental health of employees). Depending on the type of bullying, an employee may also have recourse under the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (state law, even something as basic as repeatedly abusing a cook by calling him a "fat lazy bastard" could trigger this Act) and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (federal law, unfair dismissal as a result of bullying).

Grabbing a 120lb commis chefs by his neck and hurling him across the kitchen would also be actionable under criminal law (made for great viewing on Boiling Point, though :D).

Complaints would be heard by a commission ("labour board") or Magistrate's Court, depending on their nature.

Employees are protected from *unlawful* types of retribution. Workplace bullying is a pretty touchy area and there's alot of issues in play, such as:

1. Bullying claims that don't involve physical abuse are difficult to investigate;

2. The employer can still engage in legal forms of retribution ("So you think I bully you? Alright...the walk-in needs cleaning and the 130lb bags of flour need moving from here to there...").

3. Australian culture. Anyone who couldn't handle Ramsay's behaviour would be seen as soft....and you don't ever, ever "tell on people". Only sooks and women would cry to the law about how chef called them a nasty name ;)
post #46 of 72
Amen to that!
What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang
What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang
post #47 of 72
Here in Florida I have both read about and worked in places thet were sued by employees for all kinds of nonsense. Including but not limited to sexual harrassment, foul language, sueing the employer because he or she was hit by another employee you name it. In fact in one large country club they brought in a specialist speaker to address all of staff after they were sued and lost. Yes here in Florida they are fast to sue maybe because wages are low and the work place is dictated by employer , as it is a "right to work state". This means employer can tell you at the end of any given day after working for 20 years that your finished, no reason no explanation.
post #48 of 72
So what you're saying is that you've heard that several employers were sued in civil court for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent failure to supervise. At one of your workplaces, as a consequence of a lost suit, a speaker explained to the employees either (a) the employees had some rights and should feel free to make complaints if those rights were violated; and/or (b) that employees should not to engage in practices so offensive to other employees that they would result in liability to the employer. Notice, there's nothing in there about "the labor board." Labor board actions are limited to administrative law infractions, statutory breaches, and payroll disputes.

What I was complaining about was not that there are never consequences for employer misconduct, but that your description was so inexact as to be meaningless. Imagine if you asked me for the recipe for "Hungarian Goulash," and I said, "First, you steal a chicken," and just left it at that. Well, actually that's slightly different because all true middle-European recipes begin poultry theft. Oh the heck with it, I was just cranky.

As to the last statement: Yes. "Right to work" means the employer has almost all the rights. The good thing though is that the employee doesn't have to give $1500 a year to a union so he can earn $5,000 more, have some job security and get another $3000 in benefits. At one time or another I've been a member of the Teamsters (Coca-Cola truck, piano mover); Automotive Machinist and Aerospace Engineers (think tank); SAG, EQUITY (bad actor); IATSE, NABET (other film and TV things, mostly gripping); and the ABA (lawyer) -- and never regretted any of them.

You know, if I learned one thing important enough to pass on from all of the various jobs and careers I've had it's this: Pianos are heavy.

post #49 of 72

Just Wondering?

Hey Bordelaise [sic],

You've mentioned all the various teamsters you've belonged to and made reference to being an attorney...do you or have you ever cooked for a living? Just wondering...it's a lot different than you see on TV.
post #50 of 72



Thanks for correcting me and knocking me down a few rungs...I deserve it. As I said earlier I was just wondering...and BDL, I apologize about the "different than TV" crack...didn't really mean anything by it.
post #51 of 72
Old -- Thanks.

Cuisinier -- It was a valid question even if you asked it in a crummy way at first. About that, everyone screws up -- it's how you handle it that counts. Nice catch.

Yes, I've had some pro experience. Starting in the early seventies, while pursuing my graduate degree (first in math, but switched to philosophy), I cooked for two years at the Blue Fox in San Francisco, less than two years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, cooked for a caterer who owned a Barbecue/Soul-Food place in Oakland called Willie Walker's, and started a small catering outfit in Los Angeles called Predominantly French.

During my Bay Area years I also worked in the hospitality industry as a fill-in bartender at The Anchor Inn, and a full-time bouncer at The Anchor Inn, Jerry's Stop Sign, and Mandrake's.

Since then, from time to time I've taught cooking classes. Mostly just for the heck of it or to satisfy so called "friends" who wouldn't stop nagging. Nag, nag, nag.

To fill in a little: The Blue Fox was a very old fashioned brigade system. I started there as a commis and was promoted to saute.

Not long after I moved to Los Angeles I got a job as a "Studio Grip." However, work was irregular and sort of seasonal at first, so I started Predominantly French. I closed PF down after a few years because I was making so much more money as a grip, had started a family, etc., etc.
In those days, Predominantly French was "catering." Now, you'd probably call it "personal cheffing."

I'm semi-retired from law now and am currently working on a technique oriented cook-book.

What's your experience?

post #52 of 72
I wasn't trying to take ya down any rungs there cuisiner. Just speaking what little mind i have left. :beer:

We definitely all have feathers here and they do get ruffled from time to time but that wasn't the gist.

Welcome to the forums and I look forward to talking to and hearing from you in the future;):D
post #53 of 72
Boar d laze, you sound like my husband. He’s a PhD with all of his degrees in philosophy and is now in academics. Yet the list of things he’s done over the years for extra income is kinda crazy. Besides the odd jobs like working the overnight shift in a ketchup factory, running a drive in movie projector and harvesting asparagus, he has wrestled alligators, rode the rodeo and ran a resort in the Everglades.

My favorite story is when he was at LaSalle University in the mid 1960’s he answered an add in the paper for a job that paid $50 for a day’s work, a significant sum for the time. Turns out an up and coming boxer was looking for a sparring partner. My husband was a big strong college football player so he figured it wouldn’t be a problem. The boxer? A guy named Joe Frazier. He laughs now when he describes the experience. He says it is the only time he has ever earned $50 in thirty seconds and his last thought before losing consciousness was “I didn’t think a wall of bricks could move that fast.”

But what he has done for the vast majority of his adult life actually might shed a little light on the current discussion on Chef Ramsey’s “management strategies” . While my dear husband’s career as an athlete didn’t work out thanks to some pretty yucky injuries , he has always been in athletics, in administration and coaching on the collegiate level. He’s worked off and on with the Bowden family almost as long as I’ve been alive. We met when he was an Assistant Athletic Director at Auburn University. War Eagle!
His current position is in the field of Sports Academics and his institution works closely with the US and International Olympic committees as well as the NFL and other professional sports organizations.

I bounced my theories on Ramsey off of my dear one and in his professional opinion he agreed. We all know that Ramsey is a great chef and business man, but do we forget that this career path was second to playing professional soccer?
The man, for how ever brief a time, played where the air is rare for athletes. Now we in the US don’t get all hot and bothered over soccer but the rest of the world does. When Ramsey rants, I see pure coach. That is how the majority of big time coaches whip their teams into line. I’m sure that the other notorious chef taught him a few things as well, but I’m thinking he picked up the habits on a football (what the rest of the world calls soccer) field.
He is such a typical example of a coach that anything with Gordon Ramsey is the only cooking show my husband is willing to watch with me. My dh has even taken to pointing out how some of what Ramsey is doing is classic and proven coaching techniques. So its no wonder the man inspires loyalty. That is what coaches do.
post #54 of 72
Jonah, you have absolutely nailed it there. :cool:

The problem with 'reality TV' is that it contains no...er, well 'reality' really. :lol:
post #55 of 72
Chef Ramsey is one of those public figures that seems to inspire the amateur psychologist in us all. Bully, failed jock bitter at how that turned out and angry at the world, passionate perfectionist, dedicated father and husband, electra complex with MPW subbing for Daddy, and on and on. You'll never get the measure of a man from from controlled, edited and, yes, scripted television. Its a mug's game to try.

As for the potty mouth thing, well, I have one too. Not proud, not ashamed, its the vernacular. Most people don't find this upsetting or offensive because they understand that I might as well be saying "Boy Howdy" or "Great Ceasar's Ghost" (actually, I've got to make a point of using that more) for all the weight behind those words.

As for H's Kitchen vs. Top Chef:

TC certainly seems to have an air of respectability about it, mainly due to the caliber of the contestants. That said I find a few things really grating about the show. Firstly the shear amount of product placement is mind boggling. Its the TV (or film) equivalent of rim garnishing with parsley (curly). Crash, cheap, ugly and pandering.

The tone of the program also seems so...middle management. Its very cold and aloof. Some call it respectful. I guess so, but only in the way that getting fired from a job by a nameless HR official who you've just met is.

Finally, the stunt challenge thing. H's Kitchen will have amateurs trying to do something basic like breaking down chickens (badly). Top Chef features accomplished cooks using product from vending machines. As an intellectual exercise, fine. But really its like watching an olympic track team have to run in clown shoes. In the dark.

At any rate I'll retreat to the "this sort of conversation is healthy and helps to raise issues to the public that blah, blah, blah" type of post-script. If Ramsey is to have a lasting negative impact on the food world I fear it might be this: the Fried Egg garnish. I mean, in a couple of years are quail eggs going to be the new foam?

post #56 of 72
I believe Ramsay's had fried quail eggs on his scallops every since the first season, along with Wellingtons, fish, scallops, risotto, and some sort of lobster spaghetti dish. If anybody is to copy they should've done it long ago :).
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #57 of 72
I don't think he should change the menu until he has a crew capable of doing it right
post #58 of 72
I'm not just talking about the show's menu with quail egg thing. Check out his cookbooks and various demos I've seen.

post #59 of 72
agree, hands down

I have a feeling it is more to do with ratings...
What people fail to realize, whether they aspire to be him or are just watching that lame show is that trying to run a kitchen successfully like that is just not feasible. When under pressure the job can be stressful enough and the last thing a cook wants is some "satan" spawn yelling at the top of their lungs telling them how inadequate they are performing.

sadly, i have heard of some cooks working under GR type conditions.
and hats off to anybody who does.
post #60 of 72

The real world..

Let me begin by saying....I am not a professional chef. However, I did work in a restaurant kitchen (expediting,serving) to put myself through college. One time, a sous chef held a knife to my neck because I relayed a request from a customer who wanted something special that was not on the menu. Nothing was ever done about this incident. Another time, a cook who drained a bottle of scotch each day at work ,threatened to kill me when I did not provide him an answer fast enough. These incidents, as well as many others, convinced me that the world of professional cooking was not for me. I suspect that Gordon Ramsay (who, lets face it, is rather rarefied in his talents and accomplishments) is showing the viewing audience that working in a prof. kitchen is not for wimps but instead, is only for those with exceptionally thick skins and stamina for enduring criticism, abuse, lack of appreciation, sociopathic co-workers, long hours and slave labor. While some of his antics are undoubtedly exaggerated for the benefits of viewers, I'm sure he did not reach his level of accomplishment by timidly abiding by Miss Manner's dictates. This being said, I have met mild mannered, soft spoken chefs... who ran very successful kitchens without resorting to screaming and yelling. But the stereotype of the temperamental chef does have its roots in reality; they do exist. And I have rarely seen a work environment more conducive to abuse by bullying than a hot , understaffed, isolated kitchen. Maybe things have changed (this was over ten years ago) ......
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