RFT editorial intern Jeanette Kozlowski is a big fan of bad-boy British chef Gordon Ramsay. Each week she'll recap the latest episode of Ramsay's new FOX series Kitchen Nightmares.
Remember chlorofluorocarbons? Better know as CFCs, they are the chemicals that almost destroyed the ozone layer. Well, the tool who runs a pizza joint named Sebastian's is Fake Chef Franchise or FCF -- and he's attempting to destroy the fine-dining zone in Burbank, California.
Indeed Chef Ramsay's "toughest challenge yet" turns out to be an actor-turned-pizzeria owner with enough frozen food in his kitchen to fill a Super Wal-Mart. He claims to be able to "cook anything," but Ramsay soon realizes the only thing Sebastian can serve up is a whole lotta bullshit.
DAY ONE From the start, the thing that's obviously wrong with this place is the menu. There's a gazillion dishes along with snapshots of them plastered to it. The so-called main attraction is a rather obscure "20 gourmet flavor combinations" concept. I'm not even sure what "20 gourmet flavor combinations" really means, except it sure sounds like something that would go down inside the soul-sucking universe of an Applebee's. Sebastian truly believes his menu is unique. However, an airborne version of Ebola also would be unique, but it would not be, by any stretch of the imagination, considered a good thing.
Sebastian, who I'll refer to as FCF from this point forward, is losing money on his pizzeria ninety percent of the time. Although it's not his money -- it's his wife's. She invested $300,000 in FCF, and all he's accomplished to do is collect a stockroom full of the cheapest products (frozen pizza dough??!!) to ward off potential customers. What's sad is he doesn't see the harm in it.
When chef Gordon Ramsay enters the scene, FCF swoons and equates him to a Robert De Niro in the food world. That adulation for Ramsay evaporates in about three minutes when Ramsay glances at the menu and gives out a bit of advice: "If you come across a menu with photographs, get the fuck out of there!"
His first meal consists of calamari that makes Ramsay ask a waitress for "a sick bag," watery, soggy Popeye pizza and an under-seasoned New York strip steak that "looks like dog food." Worst of all, FCF straight up lies to Ramsay about the freshness of the food. To top that, he calls his mommy and daddy during the meal for reassurance, but his parents won't give him the brutal honesty he so desperately needs.
Ramsay, of course, sucker punches him with brutal words: "In my mind, I am hoping that you can act because you cannot cook." FCF is so utterly delusional he tells chef Ramsay his place could become a successful franchise with its "unique" menu. Ramsay utters to the camera: "This guy is seriously off his trolly!"
During dinner service, waitresses stumble over the ridiculously complicated menu concept while explaining it to customers (who seem equally confused). Ramsay catches FCF red-handed -- popping towers of frozen goods in the microwave! Even I could cook a better meal than this fool, and my specialties include ice cubes and Morning Star chicken nuggets.
By the end of the evening, FCF comps about $300 of food because some poor lady almost choked on the hair found in her salad. Disgusting.
DAY TWO OK, so we're half way through the show, and it's only day two! Ramsay really rips into FCF about all his frozen food, calls him a fake chef (hence his cleverly crafted nickname!) and cannot fathom the fact Sebastian's uses frozen pizza dough. FCF says they cannot afford to make it from scratch. Uh, do you know what's in pizza dough? Basically, it's water, flour, yeast and sugar. Well, water is free, so scratch that one off the list. Sugar is like, what, $1.25 a pound? Yeast might be sort of expensive. And salt, once upon a time, was worth more than its weight in gold, but now people literally throw it away (i.e. salt packets that come with any fast food meal). With the exception of flour, when you walk into a restaurant, they give you it all on the table for free. They're condiments not commodities!
Then Ramsay makes an unintentional yet hilarious double-entendre when he tells the kitchen staff they are all "going to become great tossers." He, of course, means pizza-dough tossers, not the other thing.
DAY THREE Once again FOX pulls the bullshit chicanery with the overnight makeover handouts. Actually it doesn't even look much different: They merely replaced ugly leather seats with ugly wicker chairs. The best part is the giant badass mixer that's gifted to the pizzeria. Say sayonara to unsavory frozen dough because this expensive piece of equipment will churn out homemade dough in no time.
The new menu looks absolutely delish! The pizzas, which are all cooked to order on wood-burning ovens, include margherita, salami and vegetarian, and the entrées include a grilled New York steak and wood-burning oven cooked chicken. Ramsay drolly asks, "Are you upset that there are no photographs on the menu?"
DAY FOUR Did day four even exist? If so, I completely missed it.
DAY FIVE The re-launch coincidentally falls on the same night of Academy Awards. A fully booked Sebastian's has rolled out its own version of the red carpet. And then FCF has a psychotic break, reverts to the old menu midway through dinner service and, oh man, I've never seen Ramsay so unbelievably pissed! FCF gets all up in Ramsay's face (and then Ramsay does the same) almost like those paternity test-crazed guests on the The Maury Povich Show. FCF even calls the famous chef a "loser" to his face. At this point, it's all too much for me to handle -- I'm collapsed on the floor convulsing with laughter.
And what next? Only with FOX's genius editing does it go from tragedy to triumph in less than like 30 seconds. Am I really to believe Sebastian went out, had a good cry, realized that Ramsay was a hundred percent right, returned to his crew and everybody rallied together like in some Disney movie? The people who fall for this shoddy editing job shouldn't even be allowed to dine in one of Ramsay's restaurants -- they're only allowed to eat Sonic's fried Mac & Cheese Snacks.
Lesson learned: Never trust a restaurant in California run by a "part-time actor" and staffed by struggling actors/models. If they don't really want to be there, you shouldn't either.
Next week: Watch Irish brothers at Finn McCool's (Is that based on a real name?!) duke it out over the family pub. And guess where it's located? NEW YORK!
Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.